Thursday, May 08, 2008

Pg. 69: Douglas Smith's "The Pearl"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Douglas Smith's The Pearl: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great’s Russia.

About the book, from the publisher:
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.
Among the praise for The Pearl:
The Pearl is a bright, sparkling jewel of a book; a masterpiece that deserves as large an audience as possible. Russia’s greatest love story has never been properly told, until now.”
--Amanda Foreman, author of the #1 bestselling Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

The Pearl is a book I've always wanted to see written--a portrait of one of the greatest and least known love stories in European history. Douglas Smith, a brilliant historian who writes like a novelist, has brought it to life in a rare blend of meticulous research and gripping emotional narrative that opens to the reader both the recondite world of Russian serf theater, and an extraordinary human drama. Mesmerizing”
--Andrea Lee, author of Russian Journal and Interesting Women

“Far more than the ‘pearl’ of its title, this is a dazzling, multi-faceted jewel of a book which can be admired and read by scholars and lovers of romantic tragedy alike. 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
Read more about The Pearl at Douglas Smith's website.

Douglas Smith is a Resident Scholar at the University of Washington and the author of the prize-winning books Working the Rough Stone: Freemasonry and Society in Eighteenth-Century Russia and Love and Conquest: Personal Correspondence of Catherine the Great and Prince Grigory Potemkin.

The Page 69 Test: The Pearl.

Marshal Zeringue