Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great

Portrait of A Woman

eBook - 2011
Average Rating:
27
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Presents a reconstruction of the eighteenth-century empress's life that covers her efforts to engage Russia in the cultural life of Europe, her creation of the Hermitage, and her numerous scandal-free romantic affairs.
Publisher: New York : Random House, c2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9781588360441
158836044X
Characteristics: 1 online resource : ill. (some col.), maps

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JaneG
Feb 14, 2016

A beautifully written biography. One of my favorites. One step toward understanding the complexities of Ukraine and Russia.
Catherine was an amazing, informed leader, ahead of her time in several ways.

PimaLib_JessicaP Feb 01, 2016

I had no idea.

Honestly, though I know I had to have learned about her at some point, there is SO MUCH I just didn't know about her, not just the secret pre-reign stuff, but her propulsion of artistic holdings in the royal Russian treasury and her humanist leanings. The writing was excellent (thus the Carnegie Medal, I guess). There were times when I would drift a little, but for the most part I was delighted with this book.

tiktok Jan 23, 2016

As one other reviewer stated this is a read with a lot of detail. Unfortunately I didn't have the patience to get all the way through it. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent true story but maybe I can approach it some other time.

t
Thai5357
Dec 07, 2015

Fantastic read. This book took more focus for me to read because I had to keep track of foreign names, and there are a ton! It was great to have some context, as her reign and life was during the Enlightenment movement, and intersects with the birth of the United States. I learned so much about Russia's relation to the U.S., the French Revolution, the Enlightenment, and Poland's history. It would have been interesting to see if she had any conflicts with the Asian countries Russia boarders. There is no mention such nations.

h
hepfette
May 11, 2015

Needs a family tree and a full map of Russia and surrounding countries of the time. The chapters on the French Revolution didn't seem to belong. Otherwise, a very interesting book.

Julia__K Apr 27, 2015

Lust, power, greed and ambition. Catherine the Great’s life and long string of 12 lovers (not including her husband) could fuel more than one mini TV series. Immerse yourself in Massie’s detailed but highly readable biography of this Russian monarch. A real treat for history and biography buffs

k
krdavis255
Apr 20, 2015

I started this book knowing approximately nothing about Catherine II, and now thanks to it I know a lot about her. I appreciated the mix of information about political and foreign affairs as well as personal details about the daily lives, fears, and aspirations of the main players. It isn't just a book about empresses, kings, and princes, it is also a book about people.

So, why not five stars? There are a couple of reasons:

1) Typos! I hope this has been mostly fixed in later editions but the edition I read had enough typos that it became distracting. It's a long book, but surely someone could have read through it once to make sure everybody's name was spelled correctly?

2) No family trees. There are several maps, but no family trees, and in a book about European royalty I consider this a must. Everybody is marrying everyone else and having kids with so-and-so's sister's' aunt's cousin, and it gets confusing.

3) Tangential information. There is a whole chapter about the horrors of the French Revolution, which I guess is needed for context to explain Catherine's subsequent reactions, but you know what I didn't need to read? A page and a half about whether the head remains alive after being guillotined.

4) It really burned my waffles that Massie effectively blamed Catherine for how Peter III treated her in their marriage. He attributes their falling out to her less-than-thrilled reaction to seeing Peter scarred and disfigured after a bout with smallpox. Massie says that in that moment, Catherine failed him. Puh-lease. First of all, she's a teenager at the time, so cut her some slack. Second of all, since when does that justify not having sex for nine years and constantly belittling someone? There was a lot more going on in that marriage than just that one episode; Massie describes all these problems, but still comes back to that episode as a causative factor, when really, the problem is Peter needed to get over himself (and maybe stop playing with toy soldiers so darn much).

twinston781 Dec 04, 2014

Massie writes about Catherine as if she were a Kardashian. Though her life is well-known to history, Massie invites the reader into a world filled with lust, power, and intrigue that will have you flipping pages faster than a James Patterson novel. If all history were this accessible, I would read nothing else!

d
duffh
Jul 20, 2014

Well written and arranged. May be more detailed than the casual reader wants - even side characters get bios, and the guillotine is debated - but I enjoyed its thoroughness.

a
Annlee60
Jul 01, 2014

A very well written book indeed. The author's style is precise. Did not bore readers with unnecessary historical facts but still managed to be extremely informative. A very interesting and captivating read.

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