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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.
Great Holiday gift for all who love history books well written.Published 1 day ago by Hans J. Schuster
Overall, I found this book to be a disappointment having read Massie's Peter the Great. Unlike this earlier work, Massie devoted far too much space to Catherine's personal life... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Brad Whitman
Wonderful read that cuts through the myths and explains so much. We went to Russia and I did not get this read prior, but it helped to explain the half-information we received... Read morePublished 9 days ago by Nancy64
Great great read.
Like a novel but all true.
Amazing what a bad rap she got in folk history.
But she was awesome. A superior human being. Read more
What a woman! So much I never knew about Russia and for that matter, what was happening at th same time in France, Poland, Ukraine. Read morePublished 11 days ago by JC
Exceptional work by Massie in the tradition of, "Peter the Great." One always finishes Massie books wanting more and enjoying the thought of what is coming next from this... Read morePublished 12 days ago by Hawkeye Forever
Though a biography, this book reads like a story. What a great account of Russia's history during this period. Read morePublished 13 days ago by Robert D Thornton
Incredible book with a historical perspective on Russia and this intelligent charming and dynamic leader who was loved by most and admired by almost all.Published 14 days ago by John Sutherland
An important part of Russian history that is telling up to the current time.Published 14 days ago by Dennis Sheahan