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Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2011: Once upon a time, there was a minor German princess named Sophia. In 1744, at the age of 14, she was taken by her ambitious mother--removed from her family, her religion, and her country--to a foreign land with a single goal: marry a prince and bear him an heir. Once in Russia, she changed her name, learned the language, and went on to become the world's richest and most powerful woman, ruler of its then-largest empire. She is remembered as Catherine the Great.
There may be no better author than Robert K. Massie to take on the daunting task of documenting this most rare of human lives. Massie, a former president of the Authors Guild, is a seasoned biographer of the 400-year Romanov dynasty, most notably with Peter the Great: His Life and World, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 and remains one of the most arresting biographies I've even encountered.
In his page-turning chronicle of Catherine II, Massie (now 82) compiles the most complete and compelling narrative to date of this singular woman. Married to an incompetent man-child who was unwilling or unable to help her fulfill her primary role--giving birth to a son--she ultimately grew to become a trailblazer among monarchs: friend of philosophical giants, incomparable patron of the arts, prosecutor of multiple wars, pioneer of public health, maker of kings, and prodigious serial lover.
Indeed, her accomplishments and shortcomings as an autocrat and a woman make for a remarkable saga, but that's not to say that just any author could do justice to Catherine's lasting legacy. (Many have tried.) Massie situates Catherine's early life and three-decade reign as empress amidst the tumult of the European Enlightenment, enriching his own narrative with telling excerpts of her letters and rich discussions of her political environment and personal motivations.
Put simply, Massie is just the man to take this endlessly fascinating life and craft an utterly memorable book. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman is a towering accomplishment, one of the year's best books in any genre. --Jason Kirk
The imperial coronation crown designed for Catherine. The crown was used in all six of the Romanov coronations that followed.
Catherine's coronation portrait. She is wearing her new imperial crown.
Paul, Catherine's son, in one of the Prussian uniforms he delighted in wearing.
Portrait of Peter III
Gregory Orlov, Catherine's third lover, who was with her for eleven years and helped to put her on the throne.
Gregory Potemkin, covered with medals, titles, land, palaces, and responsibilities by a passionately loving Catherine.
This book is an informative easy read if you enjoy reading about Russian history.
I have learned so much about Russia during the time of the Enlightenment in Europe and how Catherine communicated with Voltaire and Diderot.
Like Robert K. Massie's other biographies, *Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman* is well-researched and well-written.
Having read Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanoffs by Robert Massie, I looked forward to this so much. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Roman Descendant
I enjoy reading about royalty. Their life is never as easy as you would think. She really was a great leader!Published 4 days ago by germaine Erbele
Great book especially if you have visited this area . Good insight into the life and times of Catherine
And her entourage.
A fascinating look into who Catherine really was....Published 12 days ago by J. Spotted Eagle Horse
For people living in western cultures Catherine's world has at best dimmed with time. For me, it filled in a lot of blank spaces on eastern European history during this era. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Mark Yankowski
This is a fascinating story of probably the eighteenth century's most powerful woman. Massie is a wonderful writer who has mastered the art of narrative history. Read morePublished 14 days ago by R Helen