Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Thorndike Press Large Print Basic) Paperback – Large Print, 2 Oct 2012
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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."
"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"
"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"
"Graceful and engrossing."--Minneapolis "Star Tribune"
"A biography as captivating as its subject."--"MacLean's"
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Top Customer Reviews
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!
Anyone who is interested in history (any period) will find this book a little (actually not so little) gem.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A good & informative biography of Catherine the Great that is pretty easy to read. It was a little boring towards the end (hence 4 stars, not 5) & seemed to cover the same ground... Read morePublished 22 days ago by Lettie Ranger
Massie writes as always beautifully. His ability to make researched and detailed history as easy to read as any novel is remarkable. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Kindle Customer
Great book, very detailed and well written. I would've loved more info on Catherine's son Alexey Bobrinsky, but otherwise the book is highly recommended.Published 3 months ago by Alina S.
I have been totally engrossed in this book, sad when I finished ,just could not put it down. A must read for all the Russian history fans. Brilliant.Published 3 months ago by Don
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