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The Pearl: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great's Russia [Format Kindle]

Douglas Smith

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

'This is a dazzling, multi-faceted jewel of a book. Based on an extraordinary effort of meticulous research, Douglas Smith has discovered and told the true story of a young, eighteenth-century serf woman whose superb voice made her the star of the private opera theater of her owner, the wealthiest nobleman in Catherine the Greats Russia. The high drama of their passionate love is set against a background of the greatest possible contrast: the grim realities of serfdom versus the staggering opulence of the highest Russian aristocracy. It is a remarkable work of dual biography; it is also an unforgettable story.' --Robert K. Massie, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great.

Présentation de l'éditeur

Filled with a remarkable cast of characters and set against the backdrop of imperial Russia, this tale of forbidden romance could be the stuff of a great historical novel. But in fact The Pearl tells a true tale, reconstructed in part from archival documents that have lain untouched for centuries. Douglas Smith presents the most complete and accurate account ever written of the illicit love between Count Nicholas Sheremetev (1751-1809), Russia’s richest aristocrat, and Praskovia Kovalyova (1768-1803), his serf and the greatest opera diva of her time.


Blessed with a beautiful voice, Praskovia began her training in Nicholas’s operatic company as a young girl. Like all the members of Nicholas’s troupe, Praskovia was one of his own serfs. But unlike the others, she utterly captured her master’s heart. The book reconstructs Praskovia’s stage career as “The Pearl” and the heartbreaking details of her romance with Nicholas—years of torment before their secret marriage, the outrage of the aristocracy when news of the marriage emerged, Praskovia’s death only days after delivering a son, and the unyielding despair that followed Nicholas to the end of his life. Written with grace and style, The Pearl sheds light on the world of the Russian aristocracy, music history, and Russian attitudes toward serfdom. But above all, the book tells a haunting story of love against all odds.  


Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 3286 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 352 pages
  • Editeur : Yale University Press (27 mai 2008)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B001UE74EK
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Non activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°656.096 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 étoiles sur 5  15 commentaires
19 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Review of The Pearl 13 mai 2008
Par Timothy M. Frye - Publié sur Amazon.com
Douglas Smith has written a fascinating book. The Pearl tells the tale of Nicholas Sheremetev, Russia's richest noble, who secretly marries Praskovia Ivanovna, his serf and the star of his "serf theater". The book reads like a novel with characters straight out of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, but bears all the signs of great history -- thorough research, good judgment, a sense for the times and characters, and deep insight into the social and political forces at play. This work of dual biography and social history is also a joy to read.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A profound love story, well told 17 octobre 2008
Par Paul E. Richardson - Publié sur Amazon.com
She was a beautiful young serf with a near perfect operatic voice. He was Russia's richest aristocrat. Together, they shared an illicit love that defied the mores of their age and eventually led to tragedy.

As a quick plot summary, this sounds a bit like cover copy for a bit of pulp fiction. But life is always more interesting than fiction. The extraordinary story of Count Nicholas Sheremetyev and Praskovia Kovalyova does read at times like a bit of pulp fiction, what with the unbridgeable chasm between their social classes, his perennial life-threatening illnesses, the intrigues at court, the depravity of the aristocracy. But Smith recounts the tale not as a novelist (though you sense him fiercely resisting the urge), but as a gifted historian, reconstructing the couple's private lives from the archives, filling in ample historical background (we do, after all, want to read about Nicholas' unwitting involvement in Paul I's assassination) about what it meant to be a noble in Catherinian Russia, about travel in Russia, about theater and the arts. It is a profound love story, well told, while at the same time a valuable contribution to Russian social and political history.
(Reviewed in Russian Life)
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Shining Pearl 12 février 2009
Par LB - Publié sur Amazon.com
One of the few times I have actually longed to see a story spring from it's pages on to the big screen. "The Pearl" is a fantastic book, history written in vivid detail, which paints a picture of what it was like for a Russian serf girl to go from the unknown to become the star of the operatic stage, and the great love of Nicholas Sheremetev, contemporary of Catherine the Great.

The story is filled with descriptions of the unfathomable wealth and power of the Russian aristocrats. The history of the building of grand theaters and their conscripted operatic and symphonic companies is fascinating. How wonderful it would be to see the actual theaters and grand houses restored to their former glory, sparkling on the big screen.

As I read about the experiences of Praskovia, "The Pearl", I felt the former serf's life must have been in turns exhilarating and profoundly lonely. How strange it must have felt to be at one moment the grand dame of the Russian stage, adored by her many fans, and at the next, all alone, terribly isolated because of her relationship with Nicholas, the artistocrat.

I was most struck by the deep love Nicholas and Praskovia seemed to have for one another, despite the social conventions of the time. The death of Praskovia clearly marked the end of Nicholas' life as well. Nicholas seems to have been blinded by his grief over Praskovia's death, to the great detriment of his son, Dmitry. It will be a long time before I forget the terrible letter he wrote for his son to read when he came of age. Poor Dmitry seems to have spent his entire life trying to make ammends for the despair he unknowingly caused his father.

What a story! What a history! I recommend this book highly.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A truly remarkable book -- hard to put down! 3 octobre 2008
Par maxl31 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Douglas Smith has written a thoroughly readable, immaculately researched tale detailing the life of the talented opera singer Praskovia (aka "The Pearl")--who was born as a serf, but raised to become one of the serf "intelligentsia" (whose job it was to entertain the aristocrats), rose too become an singing star, and eventually entered into a long-term forbidden relationship with her master, Nicholas Sheremetev, whom she eventually married in secret.

Against the lush backdrop of Tsarist Russia, the story is not just a tale of "forbidden love" (as indicated by the quasi-salacious subtitle of the book) but also a fascinating piece of psycho-social history that details again and again the essential contradictions of a talented and passionate woman living a life trapped within a strict social system that officially relegated her to a position of slavery, with no official hope of ever getting out of that position. The tale is made all the more gripping for the sympathetic portrait it draws of Sheremetev, who bucks social and class convention and pursues his love for Praskovia, in sharp contradiction to the mores of the Russian nobility.

The biggest challenge Smith faced in writing this book was probably the lack of historical data about Praskovia's life. Thus, much of what he describes about, say, her separation from her family and move to the "Big House" is extrapolated from what is generally known about serf upbringing. Luckily, Smith, an internationally known expert in the Russia of Catherine the Great, is up to the task and masterfully manages to fill in details based on his extensive research of the social lives of serfs, without falling into the trap of simply fictionalizing her life.

Overall, Smith is a virtuosic writer, balancing a historian's need for well-researched detail with a novelist's flare for the telling description, the clear narrative thread, and the emblematic moment or detail that reveals a larger psychological or social truth. In particular, the "serf theater" interlude sections are masterfully written. Truly fascinating stuff. I got hooked at the beginning, and with each chapter it became harder to put the book down. Highly recommended!
5 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Misleading title and cover discription 1 août 2008
Par Sadie Storm - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
The title and the cover's description lead one to expect a biographical story of the love story between the Pearl, Praskovia Kovalyova (the Count's mistress and later wife) and Count Nicholas Sheremetev which occurred during an exciting time in Russian history, the time of Catherine the Great. However, the author admits there is little information about this love affair and actually spends most of the book describing the Count's theaters, operas, and dazzling homes. The author even spends a few chapters describing things that bear little relationship to the so-called love story. There is very little information, in fact, about the Pearl, after whom the book is title. Quite misleading!

However, well researched the book, the love story is still to be told.
Disappointing book.
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