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The Imperial Wife


The Imperial Wife

When Tanya Kagan Vandermotter, a professional Russian art specialist at a prestigious Manhattan auction house, is interviewed for a feature in the Financial Times, she's pleased that the exposure may help secure the future of her department. A sagging economy and a market flooded with forgeries have made Russian art a hard sell compared to other more lucrative markets that appeal to patrons.

In addition, Tanya's auction house has a chance to obtain a valuable piece, The Order of St. Catherine. The renowned medallion bestowed on Catherine the Great by Empress Elizabeth in 1744 when Catherine had just arrived in Russia and before she married Peter III and became an empress in her own right, if authentic, could make Tanya's career. It doesn't hurt that she could also gain a victory over her biggest competitor, her former assistant, Nadia Kudrina, now employed by Christie's Auction House.

"THE IMPERIAL WIFE sews history and modernity together seamlessly into a tale that transports readers easily back and forth between two eras."

Just when Tanya, the Moscow-born daughter of Russian-Jewish parents who emigrated from Russia to America when she was a child, should be her happiest, she finds herself brooding over the unhappy state of her marriage. Still in the early years of what should be wedded bliss, Tanya finds herself at odds with her husband, Carl. Carl hails from an affluent family from the Upper East Side, and his upbringing couldn't have been more different from Tanya's working-class existence. Instead of enthusiastically celebrating Tanya's success with her, Carl chooses the night of their victory dinner with her parents to inform Tanya that he's moving out of their NYC apartment.

In spite of being the bestselling author of a book about the early life of Catherine the Great, Carl seems unable to find success that will satisfy his soul. Petulant and peevish, Carl comes across as weak, ineffectual and unhappy next to Tanya, who is strong, competent and driven.

Throughout THE IMPERIAL WIFE, readers are treated to alternating tales of Tanya's present-day life and Catherine's historic existence. Tanya tells us her story from her point of view, while Catherine's tale is narrated using chapters from Carl's book. As we compare the lives of the two women, we can't help but be stricken by the similarities in the marriages of the two couples born centuries apart. Tanya and Catherine are easily able to rise to the challenges they face while being married to men who seem only to wither in the light generated by their wives rather than sprouting in its glow.

THE IMPERIAL WIFE sews history and modernity together seamlessly into a tale that transports readers easily back and forth between two eras. Irina Reyn, a Russian-born author who now makes her home in America, uses her dual perspective to write a fascinating story about what happens when a man marries a woman who is stronger, more confident and more powerful than he could ever hope to be.

Reviewed by Amie Taylor on August 5, 2016

The Imperial Wife
by Irina Reyn

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 1250130077
  • ISBN-13: 9781250130075