Catherine The Great: Portrait Of A Woman
- Head Of Zeus
- Publication Date:
- 01 July 2012
- Biography: Historical, Political & Military
Showing 1-4 out of 7 reviews. Previous | Next
This book is a strong contender for my book of the year. I am not an historian; I have, or perhaps should say had, no particular interest in Catherine the Great, simply reading this to cover another vast area of my ignorance.I particularly enjoyed the way in which Mr Massie made his cast of characters come alive - they were real people, not cardboard figures moving around a chessboard, or - just as importantly - not soap opera characters. Catherine, born Sophia Augusta Frederika Anhalt-Zerst (well, wouldn't you have changed your name?), must have been an amazing lady to have survived the first thirty-five years of her life: a quarter the trials and tribulations that she suffered would have sufficed to see me off.The author is also very skilled in the way that he fills in the history as to where Russia and the World stood in Catherine's day. This book reads like a novel and yet, is packed with information. Mr Massie is also careful not to pass twenty-first century judgement upon eighteenth century situations.The book is packed with fascinating facts; did you know that Catherine tried to install a bill of rights in Russia several years before the USA had one? Although she failed in this goal, she was a benign autocrat and ruled in favour of her subjects. I could go on boring you with my pallid re-hash of Robert K. Massie's wonderful book, but it would be far better were you to go out and buy a copy: you will not regret it.Oh, and if I haven't made it clear, I like this book - A LOT!!!
This book is about Catherine the person: The string of lovers gets at least as much attention as the political events and decisions. The book also somewhat lacks impartiality, the writer is clearly entranced by Catherine and the story of her early life is based almost entirely on her own memoirs.This book is well worth the time if you're looking for an interesting, highly readable account of Catherine and her time. For a cold, impartial history, look somewhere else.
This book has been named one of the best books of the year by numerous newspapers and magazines. After reading all 600 pages of the intriguing and amazing life of Catherine the Great, I agree that this is a great book. I've read many historical fiction, but almost nothing on Russian history.This biography very carefully details Catherine's early life and how she came to Russia from Germany. It was immensely interesting to read of Catherine's unhappy marriage to Peter. The latter half of the book focused on Catherine's thirty-four year reign as Empress of Russia. We learned of Catherine's contributions to Russia, her reforms, the love she had for that country even though she was a foreigner. This book could keep you up at night, reading about Catherine's many lovers, her friendships with Diderot and Voltaire...The book reads like a biography with very little dialogue, but it was a masterful, fascinating look at the life of a female monarch. I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in a historical biography of power, court drama and intrigue that reads like an epic Russian novel.I really loved that the book included several pages of color illustrations as well.
Prior to reading this book, the only information that I had on Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, was that she was an 18th century Czarina of some repute and that she was essentially a nymphomaniac. While the author disputes my clinical characterization of Catherine's sexual prowess, he certainly does take great pains to point out her long list of conquests, right up until her death at a then advanced age. This book is very informative and quite enlightening as it relates to the political and social mores of Eastern European and Asian aristocracy during the period of Catherine's reign. The tangled webs of shifting alliances during the roughly 50 years covered by the book are many times fascinating and at times hung by the thread of whether a 16 year old heir to a throne was enchanted at first site by a 13 year old princess. Entire nations hung in the balance. Especially interesting was the author's repeated juxtaposition between Catherine's espoused liberal "enlightened monarch" ideals and her actual rule over, and disposal of millions of enslaved serfs. Her fascination and financial support of many liberal French and Swiss political reformers and philosophers and then her horror when such philosophies actual came to fruition in the French Revolution. Ultimately, Catherine was a woman of her times and indisputably proved to be a most able successor to the earlier Peter the Great inasmuch as she made Russia a major player on the European stage and greatly expanded the territory under her control. The personalities involved make for a highly entertaining read. I've seen some of the comments labeling the prose as dry or tedious and tend to disagree. Certainly, writing style of non-fiction historical biographies differs from that seen in fictionalized accounts. In addition, this is a translation which perhaps hinders certain elements of style that others might prefer. All in all, I was not dissatified with the writing or the content. I recommend this book to any seeking an understanding of Russian or Eastern European history and/or culture during the mid to late 18th century.
Reviews provided by Librarything.
No reviews here.