Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great

Portrait of A Woman

Book - 2011
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Random House, Inc.
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.

Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into Empress of Russia by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant mind and an insatiable curiosity as a young woman, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers and, when she reached the throne, attempted to use their principles to guide her rule of the vast and backward Russian empire. She knew or corresponded with the preeminent historical figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette, and, surprisingly, the American naval hero, John Paul Jones.

Reaching the throne fired by Enlightenment philosophy and determined to become the embodiment of the “benevolent despot” idealized by Montesquieu, she found herself always contending with the deeply ingrained realities of Russian life, including serfdom. She persevered, and for thirty-four years the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution that swept across Europe. Her reputation depended entirely on the perspective of the speaker. She was praised by Voltaire as the equal of the greatest of classical philosophers; she was condemned by her enemies, mostly foreign, as “the Messalina of the north.”

Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly described. These included her ambitious, perpetually scheming mother; her weak, bullying husband, Peter (who left her lying untouched beside him for nine years after their marriage); her unhappy son and heir, Paul; her beloved grandchildren; and her “favorites”—the parade of young men from whom she sought companionship and the recapture of youth as well as sex. Here, too, is the giant figure of Gregory Potemkin, her most significant lover and possible husband, with whom she shared a passionate correspondence of love and separation, followed by seventeen years of unparalleled mutual achievement.

The story is superbly told. All the special qualities that Robert K. Massie brought to Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great are present here: historical accuracy, depth of understanding, felicity of style, mastery of detail, ability to shatter myth, and a rare genius for finding and expressing the human drama in extraordinary lives.

History offers few stories richer in drama than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, this eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.

Baker & Taylor
The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Peter the Great presents a reconstruction of the 18th-century empress's life that includes coverage of such topics as her efforts to engage Russia in the cultural life of Europe, her creation of the Hermitage and her numerous scandal-free romantic affairs.

Book News
Massie, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, presents a narrative biography of Catherine the Great, the empress of Russia, centering on her 34-year struggle to rule backward Russia using the ideals of the Enlightenment philosophers. Covering her life from childhood to death, the book reveals the human drama of her rule, offering details on her relationships with friends, enemies, family, and lovers, in addition to analysis of how she coped with political crises. The book is illustrated with color photos, color historical paintings, and b&w maps. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Baker
& Taylor

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: 9780679456728
0679456724
Branch Call Number: Biography C2864m
Characteristics: xiii, 625 p., [16] p. of col. plates : col. ill. (some col.), maps ; 25 cm

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Ghettostone
Dec 13, 2017

"Catherine The Great" bedazzelled jewlery, custom made high fashion, extravegant foods and visual descriptions that bends the imagination. This is the historical account of a fairy tale rise of a young girl ripped from home, given a new name, and put on a path to absolute power! "Catherine The Great" gives an inside look at Russia's elaborate Royal Court during the peak of it's influence around the world! The book "Catherine The Great" is not my normal fare of reading but the ladies in my book club insisted on it and WOW I'm glad they did. The story of a young girl educated by the Queen's Court of administrators and warlords. Married as a pre-teen to an anti-social, psycho-path as part of a political strategy, young Catherine becomes Queen in the midst of betrayal organized by her husband who wages war against Russia and her, talk about a bad marriage. This descritpively stunning book stand as a defenitive master work of literature, art and history! A joy to read! I would highly recommend this book!

Ghettostone Publications, Editor/Chief
BESTSELLERS BOOK CLUB
www.ghettostone.com

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.

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
AlliGee
Oct 20, 2013

I'm going to have to disagree with some of my fellow commentators; if you approach the book with a great deal of historical Russia knowledge, perhaps this will seem shallow to you. But the book is called "CATHERINE the Great," not "RUSSIA the Great," and I think it provided a perfect amount of context needed to understand Catherine, her reign and her court. Additionally, while rumors and anecdotes ARE mentioned, they are not cited as authentic; it is made quite plain and transparent that what is being relayed to the reader IS a rumor or an anecdote, sometimes even multiple explanations for the same event are given with the disclaimer that the truth is not definitively known.

If you like historical fiction but generally shy away from historical non-fiction, this is an excellent crossover/gateway book. While it is a lengthy volume, it never gets droll or feels like you're reading a textbook; Massie tells a story, and doesn't just relay academic research and facts. I found it fascinating.

s
suzannehb
Oct 17, 2013

I found this book as enjoyable as Nicholas and Alexandria. The first 3/4 was certainly engrossing, the latter 1/4 was less well organized and felt rushed. However, if you enjoy historical fiction, I doubt you will be disappointed with this book.

dvschmidt Aug 29, 2012

NYTimes 2011 best

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