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Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Thorndike Press Large Print Basic) Paperback – Large Print, 2 Oct 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 213 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 926 pages
  • Publisher: Large Print Press; Lrg edition (2 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594136157
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594136153
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 336,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Robert K. Massie was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and studied American history at Yale and European history at Oxford, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He was president of the Authors Guild from 1987 to 1991. His previous books include "Nicholas and Alexandra, Peter the Great: His Life and World "(for which he won a Pulitzer Prize for biography)," The Romanovs: The Final Chapter, ""Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War, "and" Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea."

"From the Hardcover edition."

Review

"Enthralling.""--USA Today"

"Gripping.""--The New York Times Book Review"
" "
""Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman "has it all: jealous mothers, indulgent eccentrics, greedy social climbers, intrigue, infidelity, murder, political coups, sex, war and passion."--Bookreporter

"Exhaustively researched and dramatically narrated.""--The Boston Globe"
" "
"[Robert K. Massie] brings great authority to this sweeping account of Catherine and her times. . . . a compelling read.""--The Washington Post"
" "
"Meticulously, dramatically rendered.""--O: The Oprah Magazine"
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"Reads like an epic Russian novel.""--San Antonio Express-News"
" "
"Will transport history lovers."--"People"

"Massie makes Catherine's story dramatic and immediate.""--The Kansas City Star"
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"Graceful and engrossing."--Minneapolis "Star Tribune"

"A biography as captivating as its subject."--"MacLean's"


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Massie has written an accessible and very informative biography of Catherine II of Russia, after her death (and against her will) called 'the Great'. This book shows you why she was indeed great, albeit with drawbacks! Coming to Russia as a young bride-to-be at fourteen, she had to endure eighteen years of more-or-less isolation before she became an, and flowered as, Empress; and Russia flowered with her. She introduced literature and education, founded a world-class art collection, divided Poland not once but three times, got Russia the Crimea and ports on the Black Sea; and in general continued the tradition of Peter the Great.
I have enjoyed Massie's biography of Peter the Great before, as well as his magisterial books 'Dreadnought' and 'Castles of Steel'; I found this volume on Catherine slightly more difficult to get into than these others. The beginning of the book comes over a bit more belaboured, and with bits of what I thought were cod-psychology; but soon that fades and Massie's usual style takes over. Tthe reader is swept along with the story, being educated as s/he goes, what with the effortless prose and mastely treatment of complex subjects; Massie makes it look easy and accessible, with asides on politics elsewhere in Europe that have a bearing on the main story. After that initial hiccup, very well written and hugely informative for a novice like me!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Have read all of Dr Massie's books over the years and the style and detail certainly appeal to me. Once again the subject matter (Catherine) comes to life and one gains a true insight as opposed to the much-maligned character she is often portrayed as. Dr. Massie provides the historic context so one can see why Catherine behaved as she did.
Anyone who is interested in history (any period) will find this book a little (actually not so little) gem.
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By Charles Vasey TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Robert Massie writes old fashioned history, his books have heroes and heroines (and we know for whom we are rooting) and they proceed in the direction of Time's Arrow. There is very little overt analytical work or discussion of the place of the topic in history. What we have instead is a modern form of Geste, Epic or Saga. It is my suspicion that most readers prefer this to the more diffuse works even if those works appear more scholarly. At times the story can be almost gossipy in a way that draws in the reader, though I would prefer a little more analysis. I was reminded as I read of a late friend, a descendant of Catherine as it happens, who had been entering the last stages of cancer. He needed something to read that was interesting but not too dense, I gave him DREADNOUGHT. He enjoyed it greatly especially as the grandsons of the major players were personal friends of his and he recognised their characters in Massie's description of their forbears.

Massie has certainly selected a worthy subject for this narrative. Catherine The Great rose from comparative nothingness (a minor princess) to ruling a very large empire on the strength (possibly) of an unconsummated marriage and the support of the Imperial Guard. This was a remarkable performance, she had become more expert at being Russian than most Russians. She then proceeded to live life just the way she pleased, taking numerous lovers and young male companions, expanding Russia at the expense of the Sublime Porte and Poland, collecting vast numbers of old masters and fighting off a massive cossack rising. She was the equal of some redoubtable political operators even if, ultimately, she failed to resolve the inherent problems of the Russian state. This is a story that, if written as a novel, would be roundly derided as implausible. Small wonder that the author thought the subject worthy of eight years work.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Catherine the Great is an iconic female monarch, known even to those who have never glanced at Russian history. Her reign ushered in something of a golden age for much of Russia, symbolized by cultural and physical expansion, the effects of which were felt for decades after her reign had concluded. In this biography of Catherine, Robert K. Massie covers the entirety of her life, from her origins as a relatively modest German daughter of a prince, through her disastrous marriage to the heir to the Russian throne, until her death as one of Russia's greatest rulers.

Massie's biography looks intimidating, at almost 600 pages long in hardcover in my edition, but his narrative of the flow of Catherine's life is incredibly smooth and easy to read. I actually managed to read a lot in one sitting and in parts it could almost read like fiction, which makes this a very accessible non-fiction read. I can imagine most readers enjoying this if they have an interest in imperial Russia and Catherine's long reign. Massie also makes Catherine easy to relate to; he draws from her letters and her own memoirs to try and build her character and explore how she might have been feeling through her life.

I didn't like that there seemed to be little connection to Massie's sources aside from the originals, though, and the notes aren't marked in the text, which I didn't like either. A lot of the start of the book is based on Catherine's memoirs, which means that we have to take her word for the way that things happened, and I'd have liked some sort of evidence of external sources corroborating what she says. In reality Massie consulted a lot of sources, but it's really hard to see what's coming from where. It made it difficult for me at least to trust what he was saying.
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