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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.
Growing up in the former USSR, somehow most of this information was omitted in our education. A lot of time was dedicated to the Revolution and Communism. Read morePublished 1 hour ago by Mary Lieber
I love historical biographies and this one did not disappoint. I learned so much about Russian history. In addition, I found the everyday life details interesting. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Rebecca G
The last half of the book was most interesting for me, because it seemed most relevant to recent news...the history of the region... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Hommey Kanter
I highly recommend this narrative biography as "homework" for anyone planning on spending time in Russia, and any students of Russian language, literature, history and... Read morePublished 3 days ago by KindleLover
We are studying this book in our OLLI classes in Denver this fall, and all in the class are enthusiastic about the book and its history of Catherine and the influences in her long... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Carol Kunz
Fascinating person described in a fascinating book. Well written and engaging. A good description of a pivotal period in Russia's history.Published 8 days ago by Elvin T. Bounds
Love anything Russian. Throw in the art, history and love stories- certainly the inspiration for many a Russian novel.Published 9 days ago by sabledachshund
really enjoyed this story. full of great info. the book progresses nicely despite all the historic data. great book for history buffs.Published 9 days ago by Gala B
Maybe i REVIEWEED this book already. It is absolutely magnificent. It is extremely well written and although based on facts and hard history, it is filled with excitement and... Read morePublished 11 days ago by Daniel shefer