My Bookshelf: Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman

My Bookshelf for Book Reviews

Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman, by Robert K. Massie

The story of Catherine the Great (1729-96) is compelling for she ruled in a male-dominated world with enlightenment, extraordinary wit, political savvy and passion. At the very beginning, we learn how luck played an important role in Catherine’s early life, transforming her from the real possibility of being the wife of an impoverished German prince to the favorite of Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great and aunt and guardian to the successor to the throne, Peter III. After the marriage was sealed – and she faced serious obstacles – her intelligence and ambition helped put her on the throne. Yet having usurped the throne from her weak husband, who was devoted to Frederick of Prussia (and seemed incapable of the task at hand), Catherine wanted the world to know that even if she wasn’t Peter the Great’s direct descendant, she was his rightful heir. She lived up to the challenge as she expanded and modernized the Russian empire, building on Peter the Great’s triumphs. Massie writes a lively account of Catherine’s life and her reign, writing more like a novelist than an academic or historian. I found myself hard-pressed to put this 625-page book down.

 

Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman

By Robert K. Massie

Description: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a WomanThe story of Catherine the Great (1729-96) is compelling for she ruled in a male-dominated world with extraordinary wit and a sophisticated political savvy. At the very beginning, we learn how luck played an important role in Catherine’s early life, transforming her from the real possibility of being the wife of an impoverished German prince to the favorite of Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great and aunt and guardian to the successor to the throne, Peter III. After the marriage was sealed – and she faced serious obstacles – her intelligence and ambition helped put her on the throne. Yet having usurped the throne from her weak husband, who was devoted to Frederick of Prussia (and seemed incapable of the task at hand), Catherine wanted the world to know that even if she wasn’t Peter the Great’s direct descendant, she was his rightful heir. She lived up to the challenge as she expanded and modernized the Russian empire, building on Peter the Great’s triumphs. Massie writes a lively account of Catherine’s life and her reign, writing more like a novelist than an academic or historian. I found myself hard-pressed to put this 625-page book down.

2 Comments on “My Bookshelf: Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman

  1. If Massie is so great, shouldn’t he read Russian?? He doesn’t and it shows.
    the book is chock full of errors, is ineptly written, and neglects many recent books! He thinks e’s protectig readcers from salacious stories about her private life, unaware that these are all over the Internet and have been for t least two decades!! Her was pthetic on
    chrlie
    rose a few weeks ago (all 12 minutes). His book is an atrocity!

    • John- Why don’t you point out some of the specific flaws with sources so I can think about your comments. I actually like the book — and several other biographies on her — because of her wise, global approach as a strong woman. Are you a Russian expert? Do you write in this space? I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.