Book Title: Catherine The Great, Portrait Of A Woman Author: Robert K. Massie Date of Publication: November 8, 2011 Finished Reading: 12/31/12 Pages: 574
This was a good read, but not terrific. A large part of the book was devoted to Catherine’s life prior to becoming Empress of Russia, going into great detail about her relationship with her mother, as well as the early years of her marriage. She was hauled off to Russia as a teenager by her scheming mother to marry her cousin Peter, the heir to the throne. The marriage was a disaster, and eventually she embarked on numerous liaisons, resulting in the birth of her three children all by different men.
She managed to grab control as Empress after her useless husband’s ascent to the throne. Catherine is portrayed in Massie’s biography as a very sympathetic and engaging character, being largely self-educated and with grand ambitions to be an enlightened ruler. She did indeed institute many progressive reforms, though regressed towards despotism towards the end of her rule.
Massie writes in a very conversational tone; despite the length of the book and the sometimes confusing historical context, the book reads more like a novel. He documents his story with a nice bibliography, though maps would be helpful in understanding the political story. It also would have been useful to have an index of the “cast of characters”. Between the large number of characters, and the many Russian names, it was difficult at times to keep track of everyone.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.