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Catherine the Great

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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  1,287 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Henri Troyat writes history as it is rarely written today -- with elegance, wit, dramatic flair, and an intimate knowledge of the characters. And what better subject for a biography than Catherine the Great, the German-born Russian empress whose adopted language and culture were French, whose most loyal correspondents were Voltaire and Diderot? From her birth in Stettin in...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 1st 1994 by Plume (first published 1977)
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Lynne King
This is a brilliant book on Catherine the Great and I was reminded of this author today by Kalliope, who had written a review on Tchaikovsky.

This much acclaimed author, who had moved to France from Russia in the early twentieth century wrote some inspiring biograpies including amongst others, Ivan the Terrible and Dostoyevski.

His greatest achievement, I feel, was being a member of the Academie Française until his death in 2007. Only those who excel stay there.

A highly recommended book.
Aglaya Moroz
To start with, Catherine the Great is the best female leader in human history. I've been fascinated by her for many-many years. In my opinion, Henri Troyat's book is the most objective, beautifully written biography. I strongly recommend this book to anybody who is curious to learn more about the "Golden Age of Russia" and Catherine, as a ruler and a woman.
Carl Brush
I’m not fully checked out on most aspects of Russian history, and I didn’t know much about Catherine the Great aside from her reputation for promiscuity and the excellent Shaw one-act. I was somewhat familiar with Henri Troyat’s work from reading his fine biography of Tolstoy and gladly jumped into the pages of Catherine the Great when a neighbor of mine lent me a copy.
You won’t find a more fascinating historical or human figure than Catherine. She’s full of the kind of powers and contradicti...more
Penny
Though a European history buff, I knew virtually nothing of Catherine the Great, so I borrowed this biography from my sister at Christmas and have just finished it. What a story it is! Born Princess Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst in 1729, a Lutheran from one of many German noble families, she was plucked from obscurity by King Frederick of Prussia, who arranged a marriage between the teenage Sophie and Peter Ulrich of Holstein, grandson of Peter the Great and possible heir to the throne of Russia. The...more
Nikola Vukoja
While I enjoyed this, and anyone who takes a look at the books I've read will see history features heavily, I couldn't give it more that 3* because it #reads like fact but isn't.

Henri Troyat is a brilliant writer, no doubt of that.
However, his #Facts are based on second-hand hearsay and memoir's - some of which if examined, to not *match now known historical facts.

Overall this is well worth the read but it must be noted that, as someone who's studied history and who is a super-nutter-history-buf...more
Maja
I have one major issue with the book and the is the sources that Troyat uses; memoirs and secondary litterature. To me, as I study history at the moment, memoirs are big no-no's. At least without having other sources to compare them with, which Troyat doesn't. At times I was completely convinced that what I was reading was simply a 3rd person re-writing of Catherine's own memoirs. Everything seemed to be taken from her memoirs and nothing was original work or research. The reason why I am such a...more
Christie
Very rarely have I watched a movie based on a true story is the true story more exciting than the movie is, but this is the case with Catherine the Great. I watched the Catherine Zeta-Jones "Catherine the Great" a few weeks ago and wanted to read the biography. Catherine the Great was quite the interesting lady. She was a series of contradictions: one of the greatest rulers Russia had without a drop of Russian blood, had a self-professed "republican heart" who was the autocratic ruler of a count...more
Maria
Sofía Federica Augusta de Anhalt-Zerbst nació en Stettin, Pomerania, en 1729. poco sospechaban sus padres que esa niña, de del todo deseada la madre prefería un varón ni tampoco demasiado agraciada, ocuparía a la edad de treinta y seis años el trono de Rusia con el nombre de Catalina II y que la historia la recordaría como Catalina la Grande. Ya desde muy joven percibió que estaba llamada a cumplir en Rusia una misión política y social sin precedentes. Ambiciosa y dotada de una fuerte voluntad,...more
Gianna
The real story of Catherine's life (born Sophie, a minor princess in Germany) doesn't need any embellishment, but Troyat is, nevertheless, a masterful storyteller in this biography. I enjoyed reading the plentiful examples from the empress's letters and following her transformation from the slightly awkward, smart Grand Duchess to Katerina Velikaya/Catherine the Great. Today we'd say that she had good interpersonal skills and powerful intuition. I've recommended Robert Massie's biography in the...more
Karen
This book is great. I have read and own another book on Catherine but this one grabbed my attention by Page 3. This will not take long at all. I love Robert Massie and I have read his books on Peter The Great and The Romanovs. I should be finished by the weekend. Without a doubt one of the best book I have ever read, The writing and the research are absolutely outstanding. Robert K. Massie is amazing. This is really an important book about an amazing and outstanding woman and gives so much insig...more
Karen Cox
I read this back in '91, right after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Among other things, it describes Catherine's capture of the Crimea and her settlement of Russians in the area. Read it as important background to the current events in Ukraine.
Ian Walton
In this interesting piece Troyat show us how the amazingly clever, impetuous lover and incredible ambitious , Sophie Friederike Auguste, prussian princess who bagely knows how things works on the mystical Russia, transform herself in to the future Catherine The Great,Empress and Autocrat of All the Russias, who won her throne next to Peter the Great as his real heiress. Whit beautiful descriptions of russian society on the XVIII century, the reader can almost feel the magnanimity of the Winter P...more
Cristiana Lupu
Well... Catherine the Great. Most people remember the unorthodox stories about her. But I trust Henri Troyat to be as objective as he can be in a romanticized story about one of the most imposing monarchs in history. Though not particularly fond of hard data in history, I am very drawn to any easy-access novel that makes me travel back in time. Particularly at a time when my job is facing me with the Russian spirit, this book comes as a very good background when it comes to understanding Russian...more
Shannon
This is a good biography of Catherine the Great. My only complaint is that I find the author biased against her at times. The bias is subtle, but there. For a more comprehensive, unbiased biography, I recommend the recent Robert Massie book.
Gerry
This was a most remarkable historical biography. The detail was amazing yet the text was very readable. I already knew a good deal about Catherine the Great but Troyat really made her alive. Catherine was a German transplant to the Russian court who survived court intrigues and led a coup to become queen. She was a liberal philosophically and a friend of Voltaire but ruled in the Russian autocratic style. Her list of lovers is legendary but there were no horse stories. Finally, this book renewe...more
pam
Not nearly as captivating as Peter the Great by Robert Massie but this is mostly due to the fact that Catherine frittered away so much of her time and energy with an endless list of gorgeous but rather mindless lovers. I was a bit bored by the descriptions of her love life and would have preferred to read more about her politics. Nevertheless the book has left a strong impression and I will never forget the amazing trials of Catherine's youth, arriving in Russia as a young German aristocrat and...more
Elizabeth
Sep 14, 2007 Elizabeth rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who is interested in Russian History
I've gotten very tired of reading about traditional European history, and I love biographies, so I thought I'd read about Catherine the Great. Wow, what an amazing ambitious woman! I hope to have her sexual appetite when I get older.

What's more important is to see how she shaped and changed Russia in it's thinking and laws along with her lover Potemkin. I would love to read more about Russian history to see how what she did lead up to the Communist overthrow in Russia. I loved this book, couldn...more
Eli
This book is about Catherine the person: The string of lovers gets at least as much attention as the political events and decisions. The book also somewhat lacks impartiality, the writer is clearly entranced by Catherine and the story of her early life is based almost entirely on her own memoirs.[return][return]This book is well worth the time if you're looking for an interesting, highly readable account of Catherine and her time. For a cold, impartial history, look somewhere else.
Tracey
I bought this book after perusing an exhibition telling the story of Catherine the Great and exhibiting some of her possessions and period pieces. Since my grandparents came to homestead in Russia/Ukraine because of Catherine's bold invitation (out of her desire to improve the yield of the country's most fertile land), I wanted to know more about her policies and the sweeping changes she made to improve the country. It was a great book; I learned a lot of history.
Althea
What a fascinating woman for her time; actually for any time. Although she was not Russian (she was German) she learned to love the Russian people and tried to do her best for the country. Her best, however, was sometimes cruel and inhumane. Quite an interesting life. There is a new biography of her by Robert Massie (who wrote a bio of Peter the Great). I think I need to read that one also in order to delve into her reign a little more and get another perspective.
Missie
To be honest, I had to put this book down unfinished. While it was a fantastic factual book, that's what it was. It was somewhere between a biography and a "based on fact" historical fiction. I had never read anything about Catherine The Great prior to this book and the one really good thing this book did was make me want to know more about her. I think I'll look up a different book that is more to my taste - "based on fact" historical fiction.
Alex Zbarcea
I love all Troyat works, but this one is one of the best works of his, more detailed in explaining the sources of his information.

Very interesting to reed history in this manner.

I didn't know that real name of the tsarine was Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg. Most interesting, she was Prussian, very interesting how she became Tzar.

This book is complex, well written and I recommend it to you all.
Linda
I have long been fascinated with Russia - her people, her leaders, and her history. Catherine the Great is an incredibly interesting and fascinating character in that history. Although there have been many books written about her, the best is a writing I discovered about 35 years ago. I haven't been able to find that particular book (probably long out of print), but this one by Troyat is equally good reading.
Meirav Rath
Dec 24, 2007 Meirav Rath rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History fans, Russophiles
Shelves: general-history
Troyat tells the amusing and interesting story of one of history's greatest queens and empresses. While keeping an eye on the political meanings for the nation Catherine ruled and the consequences of her military decisions, Troyant paints a complete picture of Russia in Cathrine's age in a fun, light style that flattens and simplifies nothing.
I enjoyed reading this book and I highly recommend it.
Heather
Starts out quite addictive and readable. Seems to bog down a little in the middle (where I am now). A little difficult to keep all Catherine's suitors and courtiers straight, as the paperback version has no pictures. But overall it's enjoyable and I'm learning a lot about a historical figure I knew almost nothing about before. Later date update: never got past that middle bog.
Debra
Great book. Catherine was not a disappointing read. Based mostly on her personal writings, & translated from French, I wonder about the facts. That said, you get a real sense of how this powerful woman felt. She led quite a life, & certainly went after what she wanted, a quality most often associated with men. Now I want to read Massey's book.
Jessica
I've read this book many times. A very interesting read of Catherine the Great. Comprehensive and detailed. The author paints a complete portrait of Catherine's rise to power, her life as the empress, her lovers and her death. A fabulous read for anyone interested in this great woman.
Latinka Doychinova
A well written biography of a great woman. The book reads more like a novel than a dry historical study- it keeps the reader's attention at all times, doesn't get boring. It is also a good starting point for further exploring of Russian history, culture and traditions.
Audrey
I did enjoy the first 2/3 of this book, which chronicled the first 16 odd years of Catherine's life, the time when she kept her memoirs. The rest of the book was somewhat more dry. Fascinating life story... cemented my interest in Russian history.
kat
I don't generally read biographies, but I ended up with this one somehow and I've read it several times. It reads like fiction and is all the more compelling because it's a true story. I love the evocative descriptions of Russia and court life.
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33200
He was a french author, biographer, historian and novelist.

Troyat was born Levon Aslan Torossian in Moscow to parents of Armenian descent. His family fled Russia in anticipation of revolution. After a long exodus taking them to the Caucasus on to Crimea and later by sea to Constantinople and then Venice, the family finally settled in Paris in 1920, where young Troyat was schooled and later earned...more
More about Henri Troyat...
Tolstoy Ivan the Terrible Peter the Great Rasputine La neige en deuil

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