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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great readout one significant ommission
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...
Published 21 months ago by Feebie

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Massie's Catherine falls short of great
Massie’s Catherine is an easy read. Here the life of this extraordinary woman is told in a comprehensive way, covering her multiple facets, and her personal and political struggles and achievements. If this is your first contact with Catherine’s life, this book is a great place to start. However, if you are more versed in the European and Russian history of...
Published 19 months ago by Vlad Thelad


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great readout one significant ommission, July 8 2012
This review is from: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `She sat on the throne of Peter the Great and ruled an empire, the largest on earth.', Feb. 26 2012
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (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. In the history of Russia, she and Peter the Great tower in ability and achievement over the other 14 tsars and empresses of the three hundred year Romanov dynasty.'

The history of this period makes for fascinating reading: 18th century geopolitics were complex and Mr Massie presents detailed information clearly. Catherine herself is presented sympathetically by Mr Massie: a child neglected by her mother; a wife ignored by her husband; a highly intelligent woman who had platonic relationships with thinkers like Diderot and Voltaire, and physical relationships with a number of different noble favourites some of whom fathered her children.

This is both a detailed biography of Catherine the Great and a detailed history of Europe's 18th century, and while it wasn't always easy to read I found it absorbing. At times, I found myself admiring Catherine and sympathizing with her. At other times I found her actions at deplorable. She could be both courageous, and insensitive. She was definitely, though, fascinating. The woman who `became the greatest collector and patron of art in the history of Europe' was interested in public health, was inoculated against smallpox and was also an insensitive mother.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatness Personified in some (not all) respects, Nov. 22 2012
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great is right!, July 19 2012
By 
Hilary West (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Hardcover)
Wonderfully written, well researched and a delight to read. A real page turner...read it on the city transit and missed a stop.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Biography, April 11 2012
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This review is from: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Hardcover)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written, Feb. 10 2014
By 
Aeltari (Nova Scotia) - See all my reviews
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This is my second Robert Massie book, and I have to say I love his style. History can be a very boring subject when not introduced properly, and Robert brings these historical people to life with his words. He delves into great detail on the lives of his subjects and the lives of those around them. Thoroughly enjoyed this and will be looking for more of his books to learn about other people.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Catherine is truly the Great!, Oct. 13 2013
By 
B. Wadman - See all my reviews
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Massie's writing style and deep research of Catherine's history make for a truly enjoyable read. I recommend this book to anyone who's interested in Russian history.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!!, Feb. 2 2012
This review is from: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Hardcover)
This is a must read for anyone interested in history. An easy, very interesting read with a wealth of information, that obviously has been extremely well researched that almost reads like a novel. It kept me captivated the whole way through. I could hardly put the book down. After reading this book you feel like you really know Catherine personally. Amazing insights into a most incredible woman that takes you from her simple life as a young girl in Prussia to the throne and grandeur of the Russian Court. Full of intrigue, conspiracy, power, love, and relationships. After reading this book it makes me want to travel to Russia, St. Petersburg in particular, to see her legacies, and walk where she walked. An inspirational book about an inspirational woman!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Massie's Catherine falls short of great, Sept. 3 2012
By 
Vlad Thelad (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Hardcover)
Massie’s Catherine is an easy read. Here the life of this extraordinary woman is told in a comprehensive way, covering her multiple facets, and her personal and political struggles and achievements. If this is your first contact with Catherine’s life, this book is a great place to start. However, if you are more versed in the European and Russian history of the second half of the eighteenth century, you will find it wanting. The author is no Isabel de Madariaga, arguably the leading and unsurpassed scholar on Catherine. Nor is he in the league of Simon Sebag Montefiore, who is as great a historian as he is a writer. Massie's comments can unfortunately verge on the ridiculous (i.e. when comparing Catherine and Elizabeth I, he says: if she had been the daughter of a great king, and a virgin, the lives of these two would have been more similar), which for me, lessen an otherwise good effort.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful biography, Jan. 5 2012
By 
marvin nelson (Toronto) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Hardcover)
As expected, Robert Massie can do no wrong. What an easy ready this was. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of "meat" to the story but it is written so well that you are through the book in no time. What am amazing woman, what an amazing writer.
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Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie (Hardcover - Nov. 8 2011)
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