- Library Binding: 639 pages
- Publisher: Turtleback Books; Reprint edition (18 Sept. 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0606268367
- ISBN-13: 978-0606268363
- Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 4.3 x 23.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,721,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman Library Binding – 18 Sep 2012
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"Enjoyable and perceptive study ... Rounding has read widely, and writes punctilious, professional history with a no-nonsense style and a respectful relish for the details that make the past come alive." (Simon Sebag Montefiore Sunday Telegraph)
"Rounding writes with enviable lucidity, and gives us the most accessible and enjoyable portrait yet." (Daily Mail)
"A great thumping triumph of a book." (Daily Telegraph)
"Rounding shows that ... the reality is far more interesting than any of the fictions." (Scotland on Sunday)
"Written with vigour and intelligence enough to do justice to its prodigious subject." (Sunday Times) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Power politics and sexual politics combine in the life of an extraordinary woman who ruled Russia from 1762 until her death in 1796. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Rounding states clearly at the outset that it's not her intention to provide that rounded overview, and instead to concentrate on 'Catherine the woman' - the neglected wife, the domineering mother and grandmother, the needy lover, the acquisitive collector, the writer, the patron of the arts.
Unfortunately, stripping out 'Catherine the ruler' also means stripping out most of her greatest achievements - her political, legislative and educational reforms, her expansion of Russia's borders or her cultural Europeanisation of at least the higher levels of society. Consequently, what remains is a far less sympathetic or impressive character than would otherwise be the case: a spendthrift and extravagant socialite attending an endless round of balls, spending a fortune travelling from palace to palace, and - most notoriously - taking a series of lovers to satisfy her emotional and sexual needs.
Whether the reader finds the book satisfying will probably rest on the extent to which he or she is able to accept this very partial view. It's well-researched with copious quotations from letters to, from or about Catherine; it's readable and provides a fine insight into the Russian court of the time. It has any number of interesting asides, ranging from immunisation against smallpox to the logistics of moving a court several thousand miles to and from the Crimea.Read more ›
In addition to these strong 'professional' attributes, Ms. Rounding also shows Catherine's human frailty and deep hunger to love and to be loved.
In the end, Ms. Rounding, has brought to life a remarkable ruler that combined statesmanship at the highest level with an insatiable appetite for serious and petty lovers.
I am also told (although not until the last page of the book's Epilogue,) that she improved the lot of many of her subjects, and that she had pushed Russia up the rankings in European states: and this is the problem with this otherwise entertaining and interesting book, a lack of context.
Catherine's domestic and foreign policies, the condition of the vast majority of the Russian people, from serfs to landlords, are almost completely ignored: subsumed in an increasingly irritating catalogue of balls, masques,interior decorating tips (for those with huge palaces) and lists of favourites, lovers and relatives.
Despite the witty correspondence with Voltaire and others, and the fact that Catherine was clearly a high calibre political operator, Virginia Rounding has portrayed in the end, a rather shallow, selfish isolated, monarch, existing exclusively for her own pleasure.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
a wonderfull book.Russia was indeed very lucky in having such an able woman in enriching with treasures,expanding the territorial borders and improoving the status of its... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Harry Partidos
I love Catherine the Great, she was an extraordinary woman in an age of men and hereditary priviledge. Read morePublished on 15 Mar. 2013 by La Femme Savante
Twas not bought for moi ! But kept recipient engrossed for endless hours which gave me some respite from them being bored. Read morePublished on 2 Nov. 2009 by Mr. C. A. Cheslett