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Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Nov 8 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (Nov. 8 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679456724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679456728
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 4.2 x 24.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #116,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description



"Massie once again delivers a masterful, intimate, and tantalizing portrait of a majestic monarch."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"[A] rich, nuanced examination of Russia's lone female leader..."—The Daily Beast

“What Catherine the Great offers is a great story in the hands of a master storyteller.—The Wall Street Journal
“Dense and detailed, enriched by pages of full-color illustrations, Massie’s latest will transport history lovers.” —People

What a woman, what a world, what a biography.—USA Today
[Massie] hasn’t lost his mojo. . . . a consistently nimble and buoyant performances . . . [Massie] has always been a biographer with the instincts of a novelist. He understands plot—fate—as a function of character, and the narrative perspective he establishes and maintains, a vision tightly aligned with that of his subject, convinces a reader he’s not so much looking at Catherine the Great as he is out of her eyes. . . juicy and suspenseful. Kathryn Harrison, The New York Times Book Review

“A meticulously, dramatically rendered biography…” —O, The Oprah Magazine
What a Woman!—Elle magazine
“In Catherine the Great, Massie has created a sensitive and compelling portrait not just of a Russian titan, but also of a flesh-and-blood woman.”—Newsweek
“[A] meticulously detailed work about Catherine and her world…Massie makes Catherine’s story as gripping as that of any novel. His book does full justice to a complex and fascinating woman and to the age in which she lived.” Historical Novels Review

About the Author

Robert K. Massie was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and studied American history at Yale and European history at Oxford, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He was president of the Authors Guild from 1987 to 1991. His previous books include Nicholas and Alexandra, Peter the Great: His Life and World (for which he won a Pulitzer Prize for biography), The Romanovs: The Final Chapter, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War, and Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Thsi historical biography reads like a novel, a well researched undertaking of the story of a very interesting woman.. Motivated even at the age of fourteen to learn every thing she needed to learn to prepare herself for her future life as the empress . She was extremely smart and knew exactly what she needed to learn in order to succeed. While she failed in her efforts to eliminate slavery and her legislative changes were not fully implemented, she was a leader ahead of her time. The interesting omission is that there was no mention of her creation of the Pale of Settlement , which resulted in relocation of all the Jews to this area. I don' t understand why the author left this out.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of two biographies made available via the Amazon US Vine program that I have read. The other is Kenneth Slawenski's J. D. Salinger: A Life. They have been widely reviewed and generally praised. My reviews of them are late to the proverbial "party."

In my opinion, here is what they share in common:

1. Their authors rely on a wealth of reputable sources, all duly cited.
2. Those who read these books will probably learn about as much as they want and need to know about the subject.
3. Their authors write very well. For example, the presentation of the material flows smoothly.

Other reviewers already have (by now) covered most of the main points to be made. I now share these:

1. I have always been intrigued by certain women throughout history who were great leaders. They include Catherine, of course, as well as Elizabeth I. How did they manage the power of their gifts for leadership and management with their human needs? What were the defining moments in the development as both leader and person?

2. To what extent is each a product of her age? Emblematic of her age? A new paradigm of her age?

3. What were the nature and extent of impact of her leadership in her own time? On subject generations? What then is her defining heritage?

I rate Robert Massie Five Stars on all counts.
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Format: Hardcover
Sophia Augusta Fredericka of Anhalt-Zerbst was born into a minor German noble family on 21 April 1729. Sophia was brought to Russia as a teenager, converted to Orthodoxy, renamed Catherine, and married off by the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna to her nephew and heir Peter. As Catherine II, she was Empress of Russia from 28 June 1762 until her death on 6 November 1796. She came to power following a coup d'état and the assassination of her husband, Peter III, and her reign is often considered the Golden Age of the Russian Empire. This was a period when the Russian Empire was expanding rapidly through both conquest and diplomacy. In the south, the Crimean Khanate was crushed following Russian victories over the Ottoman Empire, and Russia colonised territory along the coasts of the Azov and Black Seas. In the west, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was eventually partitioned between Austria, Prussia and Russia with Russia gaining the largest share.
Catherine often relied on her noble favourites, most notably Grigory Orlov (whose brother Alexei Grigoryevich Orlov's victory at Chesme Bay in June 1770 gave Russia a foothold in the Black Sea) and Grigory Potemkin (governor of Russia's new southern provinces and responsible for the annexation of the Crimea).

Catherine presided over the age of the Russian enlightenment, founding the Smolny Institute in 1764 (the first state-financed higher education institution for women in Europe), corresponded with Denis Diderot and Voltaire, and ruled as an enlightened despot.

`She was a majestic figure in the age of monarchy; the only woman to equal her on a European throne was Elizabeth I of England.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have thoroughly enjoyed every book I have read by Robert K. Massie; this book being no exception. I found the details very good, and Massie is able to paint a vivid picture of what life in Catherine's Court looked like. I only have one serious criticism of this book, and that would be the author's often spending more time talking about those around Catherine, rather than on the woman herself. I do concede that without proper historical context, many of the people in this book would not be understandable in what they do and why. From that point of view, Massie does those in Catherine's life a huge service. I would estimate that a good 1/3 of the book is not on Catherine, but those others, with parts to play. Other than my noted criticism, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in Russian history or just interested in a book that reads like a novel, but is completely factual.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a bit of a fan of Robert Massie's work: he has made several eras of Russian history come alive for me. So I was predisposed to enjoy reading his biography of Catherine.

I was not disappointed: the lively pace rich with incident, the sense of insight into the characters of the key players and the manner in which he placed it all in the broader context of Europe during the Enlightenment all worked together to create a fascinating and satisfying read. He admits he fell a little under Catherine's spell himself, but it seems to have helped him to paint a colourful and vibrant portrait.

Two thumbs up.
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