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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.
I love Robert K. Massie and he does not disappoint in this in-depth look at Catherine. I did not want this book to end!Published 3 hours ago by Patti
A very detailed account of Catherine's German childhood; her marriage to Russia's Empress Elizabeth's nephew, through having children by other men her rise to the throne of Russia;... Read morePublished 21 hours ago by Sharon Maske
Catherine the Great was an extraordinary woman. To accomplish what she was able to do in her lifetime was amazing and I thought this book did an excellent job of presenting these... Read morePublished 9 days ago by shelby65
A must read of a Great woman who ruled Russia. If you are visiting Russia and even if you are not this books gives a very good portrayal of an important woman of European history.Published 9 days ago by A. B. Cunow
I was disappointed when the book came to the end. I really enjoyed it.Published 10 days ago by sara
I enjoyed reading this book. It was difficult to keep the timeline in order at times, but the information was documented well enough to navigate to sections that needed... Read morePublished 12 days ago by sparky46er
Very captivating and informative! I bought a combo of kindle edition and audio. Highly recommend doing that as the narrator's voice literally drags you into the setting of 18th... Read morePublished 19 days ago by Barbora