32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Not the Author's Best
, November 8, 2011
This review is from: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Hardcover)
I received this pre-published edition of Robert Massie's Catherine the Great as part of the Early Reviewers program of Library Thing. I received the biography free of charge in exchange for this review.
I had high hopes for this work based upon my experience with two of Massie's previous works, Peter the Great and Dreadnought, both of which I found outstanding. Quite some time ago, I read a previous biography of Catherine the Great written by Henri Troyat and found her life story to be fascinating. Having said that, I must say I was somewhat disappointed with this biography.
Perhaps my disappointment stems from excessive expectations, but in any event I found it failed to measure up to Massie's earlier work. When compared to the Troyat biography, while I found this work to be more approachable and reader friendly, it was lacking in the more detailed and deeper analysis provided by Troyat. By no means is this a poor effort, but the subject matter is about as rich as it comes and I found Massie's result to be somewhat pedestrian and simple. All the bases are covered from a factual standpoint, but the book is quite weak when it comes to any kind of analysis. The history is set out in a series of short, choppy chapters (over seventy chapters, each of which is broken into further subsections) that do little more than take the reader from event to event in the life of Catherine, one of the most intriguing lives of the period.
Massie is a fine biographer and historian. I can't help but feel that with subject matter this rich, he could have done far better.
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