Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Imperial Wife

The Imperial Wife

A Novel

Irina Reyn

Thomas Dunne Books

The Imperial Wife READ AN EXCERPT →



"The Imperial Wife is a smart, engaging novel that parallels two fascinating worlds and two singular women. Irina Reyn writes beautifully of immigrants, art and the vagaries of love."
--Jess Walter, National Book Award finalist and author of the New York Times bestseller, Beautiful Ruins

Two women's lives collide when a priceless Russian artifact comes to light.

Tanya Kagan, a rising specialist in Russian art at a top New York auction house, is trying to entice Russia's wealthy oligarchs to bid on the biggest sale of her career, The Order of Saint Catherine, while making sense of the sudden and unexplained departure of her husband.

As questions arise over the provenance of the Order and auction fever kicks in, Reyn takes us into the dazzling world of Catherine the Great, the infamous 18th-century empress, who may have owned the priceless artifact, and who, it turns out, faced many of the same issues Tanya wrestles with in her own life.

Suspenseful and beautifully written, The Imperial Wife asks whether we view female ambition any differently today than we did in the past. Can a contemporary marriage withstand an “Imperial Wife”?





The Burliuk is a fake. To make sure, I flash the ultraviolet light closer to the surface. No doubt about it—the form’s flat, the red way off. The...


Praise for The Imperial Wife

"The Russians are coming in this ingeniously structured novel that travels between a present-day art specialist handling the biggest sale of her career and the 18th-century court life of the woman who becomes Catherine the Great."-- O Magazine, Reading Room Top 10

"This intriguing novel carries the reader between modern day Manhattan and Russia in the age of Catherine the Great. Prepare to be absorbed and transported." --Elin Hilderbrand, bestselling author of The Rumor

"[Reyn] is a master of creating realistic and nuanced female characters." -Shannon Reed, The Washington Post

"Dazzling and insanely ambitious.” --Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Little Failure: A Memoir

“If only we could meet our historical counterparts. Reyn does just that, aligning a Russian art specialist in contemporary New York and Catherine the Great. The dual narratives make for an imaginative, thrilling, and exquisite novel.” –Kaui Hart Hemmings, New York Times bestselling author of The Descendants

"Reyn cleverly weaves Tanya's story around that of young Catherine's [Catherine the Great]. Both suffer because they possess certain qualities—ambition, decisiveness, sangfroid—that society expects from powerful men but finds suspicious in women."
—Stephen Heyman, Vogue

"Irina Reyn is a wonderful writer -- witty and compassionate, lyrical and sharp -- and The Imperial Wife is a deeply intelligent and expansive book that offers as many fascinating insights into love and ambition as it does about Catherine the Great and the contemporary art world. I loved it."
—Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans, nominated for the National Book Award and finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize

"Two boss women living in very different time periods in history—modern-day New York City and 18th-century Russia—are connected through the ages by their shared obsession with a priceless piece of royal bling."

"I literally could not put down Irina Reyn's The Imperial Wife. The manner in which this author is able to switch back and forth between the dwindling marriage of a contemporary New York couple and the domestic life of Catherine the Great is nothing less than masterful. Every aspect of young Catherine's life is utterly fascinating--and Reyn hits those historical details so squarely on the head, the chapters were reminiscent of Hillary Mantel's finest work. But Tanya, the modern protagonist, is also vivid, complex, and utterly heartbreaking, which gives her chapters equal weight and prominence. Not to mention the subtle yet inevitable way the lives of these unlikely sisters were woven together throughout. When I finished the book, I was both sorry it was over and overwhelmed with this author's skill. This is the most satisfying novel I've read in a long, long time." --Katie Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Girls in Trucks and Abroad

"Reyn's mesmerizing new novel['s]...dual storylines are each intriguing, while the novel skips easily between past and present, leaving readers with more knowledge about Russia (imperial and present day), visual art, auction houses and the lives of the very rich. But its greatest accomplishment is making the inner lives of two fascinating women known...As a fast-paced novel, it's a great read, but as a meditation on what it means to be woman, it's transcendent."
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"A cunning tale of ambition and art." —Toronto Star

“Irina Reyn writes splendidly about three worlds we might not know about: the high-end auction house, the high-worth oligarch, and The Empress Catherine. She brings the tension and uncertainty of the impecunious immigrant experience into startling alignment with that of Russians - and the German-born Catherine - who’ve moved into a world of unthinkable wealth and fearful instability. This book is full of brilliant observation and beautiful writing.” --Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta

"Irina Reyn's smart novel...seamlessly flits between the 20 years of Catherine, sometimes in a cold, friendless castle and Tanya, sometimes in a cold, loveless city. Both women are stronger and smarter than they realize and both are married to men who are anvils, not anchors."
—Jacqueline Cutler, NJ Star Ledger

"The parallels between the heroines are neat and unforced...if the clever Reyn convinces us to appreciate the historical Catherine as a modern woman, she also encourages us to second-guess the thoroughly modern and undauntable Tanya."
—Bob Blaisdell, The Christian Science Monitor

"An insider's view of a world that few witness. In "The Imperial Wife," Tanya must try to placate two Russian oligarchs who are bidding on the rarest of items: a medallion that once belonged to Catherine the Great."
—Rege Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

"A marvelously engaging, affecting and amusing novel." --Phillip Lopate

"A cunning tale of ambition and art."-- The Toronto Star

"A twist at the end pulls the stories together in a satisfying manner. The stories of two eras and two marriages are related in evocative language steeped in keenly observed details."--Kirkus

"With it's sharp characterizations and unexpected twists, Reyn's novel keeps readers on their toes. Both women elicit compassion due to their position as outsiders, and their stories intertwine in playful and profound ways."- Booklist

Praise for What Happened to Anna K.

Literate and fun, What Happened to Anna K. is an uncommonly ambitious book and one of the year's most amusing reads. —Michelle Green, People magazine, People Pick, four stars

It takes hubris to attempt a modern version of Anna Karenina, arguably the greatest novel ever written... The talented Irina Reyn has done it smartly her own way. —USA Today on What Happened to Anna K

Irina Reyn is a marvelous writer. —San Francisco Chronicle on What Happened to Anna K

Reyn's update, like the century she writes in, is faster, busier, more stylish, more self-conscious: it is Sex and the City meets Fiddler on the Roof. —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on What Happened to Anna K

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Irina Reyn

IRINA REYN is the author of What Happened to Anna K: A Novel. She is also the editor of the anthology Living on the Edge of the World: New Jersey Writers Take on the Garden State. She has reviewed books for the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Forward, and other publications. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in One Story, Tin House, Town & Country Travel and Poets & Writers. She teaches fiction writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Irina Reyn

Aslan Habib Chalom

Irina Reyn

From the Publisher

Thomas Dunne Books

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