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Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman - Robert K. Massie
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
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4.25 325
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become one of the most remarkable,... show more
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into Empress of Russia by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant mind and an insatiable curiosity as a young woman, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers and, when she reached the throne, attempted to use their principles to guide her rule of the vast and backward Russian empire. She knew or corresponded with the preeminent historical figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette, and, surprisingly, the American naval hero, John Paul Jones.Reaching the throne fired by Enlightenment philosophy and determined to become the embodiment of the “benevolent despot” idealized by Montesquieu, she found herself always contending with the deeply ingrained realities of Russian life, including serfdom. She persevered, and for thirty-four years the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution that swept across Europe. Her reputation depended entirely on the perspective of the speaker. She was praised by Voltaire as the equal of the greatest of classical philosophers; she was condemned by her enemies, mostly foreign, as “the Messalina of the north.”Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly described. These included her ambitious, perpetually scheming mother; her weak, bullying husband, Peter (who left her lying untouched beside him for nine years after their marriage); her unhappy son and heir, Paul; her beloved grandchildren; and her “favorites”—the parade of young men from whom she sought companionship and the recapture of youth as well as sex. Here, too, is the giant figure of Gregory Potemkin, her most significant lover and possible husband, with whom she shared a passionate correspondence of love and separation, followed by seventeen years of unparalleled mutual achievement.The story is superbly told. All the special qualities that Robert K. Massie brought to Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great are present here: historical accuracy, depth of understanding, felicity of style, mastery of detail, ability to shatter myth, and a rare genius for finding and expressing the human drama in extraordinary lives.History offers few stories richer in drama than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, this eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.
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Format: hardcover
ISBN: 9780679456728 (0679456724)
Publisher: Random House, Inc. (NY)
Pages no: 642
Edition language: English
Bookstores:
Community Reviews
Feminism in Cold Storage
Feminism in Cold Storage rated it
5.0 Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
bookaneer
bookaneer rated it
2.5 I've got a bridge to sell...
**UPDATE: I originally was going to DNF this. I wrote a review and everything. But then I ended up finishing. As it turns out, my opinion about the book remains essentially unchanged, so the new review just has a few edits. Catherine the Great has to be one of the most fascinating women of hist...
Sty of Books
Sty of Books rated it
4.0 Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
Robert K. Massie makes Catherine the Great come to life as he traces her beginnings as the German Princess Sophia to her ending as Russian Empress Catherine II. He demonstrates their personalities through their actions as he describes their reactions to the circumstances around them.The story itself...
Bettie's Books
Bettie's Books rated it
5.0 Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
bookshelves: published-2011, summer-2013, tbr-busting-2013, biography, slavic, nonfiction, lifestyles-deathstyles, history, epic-proportions, families Read from August 26 to 27, 2013 Slightly prefer this more erudite approach of Massie over Rounding's tome on the same subject. I overdosed marath...
Bettie's Books
Bettie's Books rated it
5.0
fraudio>rosado>mp3non fic> hist> russiansummer 2013> tbr busting 2013Slightly prefer this more erudite approach of Massie over Rounding's tome on the same subject. I overdosed marathoned on this for nigh on a day. Excellent, yet the history it describes is so cruel.4* Nicholas and Alexandra 5* Cath...
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