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Catherine the Great: Love, Sex, and Power

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  810 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
Dutiful daughter, frustrated wife, passionate lover, domineering mother, doting grandmother, devoted friend, tireless legislator, generous patron of artists and philosophers—the Empress Catherine II, the Great, was all these things, and more. Her reign, the longest in Russian Imperial history, lasted from 1762 until her death in 1796; during those years she built on the wo ...more
ebook, 592 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2006)
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Eva Stachniak
Nov 19, 2011 Eva Stachniak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent all-rounded biography of Catherine the Great. Virginia Rounding does a great job in showing the many-faceted life of the Russian monarch. She is a compassionate biographer, but she does not shy from discussing Catherine's less savory features: her troubled relationship with her son, her compulsive need to control the lives of her grandsons.

There is a wealth of information about Catherine, her court and Russia in this biography...a must read for anyone interested in the life
May 03, 2008 Sera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rounding's biography of Catherine the Great, former Empress of Russia, is a long, but compelling and objective read. Rounding used painstaking research, most of it first hand, to give a detailed view of Catherine's life as a young child through the day of her death. She also added an Epilogue, which provides a nice, brief summary of how the rest of the Romanov family of rulers hailed until their reign came to an end when Nicholas II's family was assasinated.

Catherine was an interesting woman wh
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jun 06, 2008 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
Ms Rounding has provided a biography of Catherine which, while it is based on the person, covers the history and politics as well. So, who was Catherine and how did a relatively minor princess who was not even Russian born become the longest reigning monarch in Russian imperial history?
This is a fascinating study in power and politics as well as a personal journey through the life of one of the most intriguing women documented in history. Catherine herself was a complex character: a tireless leg
Jan 29, 2016 Fergie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps the greatest aspect of this well-rounded biography is the inclusion of Catherine the Great's own letters. It's clear from reading her words that Catherine was an intelligent woman, ahead of her time. Author Virginia Rounding's book may not be as good a read as Robert K. Massie's biography of the same subject, but she certainly does a more than admirable job in showing the reader why Catherine is a worthy biographical topic.

Rounding lays evidence to how Catherine, a former German princes
Sara W
Excellent book about Catherine the Great. The author uses a lot of primary sources (letters, memoirs, etc.) which really add a lot to the book. It's wonderful to read about these people in their own words. This book took me a long time to read because of all the details and names and places I wasn't familiar with, but it was well worth it.
Nov 30, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie
Great book by Virginia Rounding who made an extensive historical research work on Catherine's The Great life. The book is very well written, keeping our attention during the whole story. Looking forward for other books by this author.

Sending as a passport-book to Bettie.
Rebecca Huston
A very good, very readable biography of Catherine the Great.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
I finished this a while ago. Very enjoyable reading. The author says at the outset that she wants to "present Catherine the woman, the multi-faceted, very eighteenth-century woman, principally through her own words and those of her contemporaries[]." Also? Apparently the horse story is a complete fabrication. Not a big surprise. I can't remember if I knew that before or not. But since this is something of a personal biography with political aspects, it spends a lot of time on Catherine's relatio ...more
Tori Hoeschler
Mar 03, 2016 Tori Hoeschler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Admittedly this book took me a long time to finish (this is in large part due to the fact that I'm not the speediest reader and I tend to have more than one book going at a time), but as far as nonfiction goes, this is officially a favorite. In fact, it is one of the better books I've ever read; fiction, nonfiction, or otherwise. In "Love, Sex, Power", Rounding brings to life a fantastic minx of woman that put Russia on the map as a legitimate world player. The reader is thoroughly entertained a ...more
Fascinating portrait of an incredible monarch. Rounding paints the picture of a real woman, along with Catherine's status as legendary empress. I really enjoyed reading about the policies she implemented and how she changed the face of Russia in Europe's eyes. The only negative is that Rounding dances around the subject of Catherine's children - avoiding how much the Grand Duke and Duchess resented her because of her iron grip on their lives. Although this would have been the same situation had ...more
Carol Vuchnich
Jan 12, 2008 Carol Vuchnich rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I admit it. Some historic biographies are not my cup of tea. Challeged to read this for a book club, I managed to get about 1/4 of the way through and finally decided to let this book go home to it's original owner.

If you are a history buff and love reading volumes of old letters, documents and love notes, mostly about court "goings on" this is the book for you. To her credit, Catherine was a person to be reckoned with. If anyone knows of a good raunchy fictional version I can read at the
Not being very familiar with Catherine the Great's reign (most of my reading on the Romanovs has been focused on Nicholas II), but curious about her, I searched around for a while for a suitable biography to start with. Rounding's was recommended time and again, and after reading it, I can see why.

Her account is detailed, with some excellent analysis mixed in, while remaining easy to follow. (Not an easy task, considering the number of people involved in Catherine's court, many with identical or
Sep 25, 2014 Maggie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All those who love History!
Recommended to Maggie by: Bought it by chance at a lifeline book sale
Shelves: historical-fact
I drew myself up and, with head erect, stood as one bearing great responsibilities rather than a humiliated and oppressed person. From the Memoirs of Catherine the Great (quoted from Chapter 4, pg 85). This was a reflection by Catherine on how she moved on from her early married life during her early twenties.
Catherine the Great suffered the emotional abuse that a greater number of children went through with their parents during this era (mid 1700’s). Hers’ were wealthy and of sufficient nobili
Lady of the Lake
I read this last over a year ago and found all the actual personal letters etc just facinsting. I love when there are things direct from the person as it leaves no questions as to what the truth is. This is full with info and as some found this too much I can't get enough of it! No huge revalations of info fir those famailiar with CTG bug it's well written, & beautifully done. (also on a side note... I have an ancestor who knew CTG and what an INCREDIBLE woman to know!!)
Danielle Deutsch
It is entirely not what I thought it would be. I bought it in an airport preparing for an international flight. I thought it would be told historical fiction style ala The Other Boleyn Girl, which as an aside is a horrible movie (I watched it on the same flight). So, it wasn't how I expected, but I think I like it better than I would if it written with an eye to being turned into a movie starring Scarlett Johanssen as the aging empress.
Jan 28, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are many biographies of Catherine the Great, and this was not the one I originally wanted to read. However, I wonder how anyone can go wrong writing about her. This daughter of landed German gentry basically took over the Romanov family line and heaved it forward into history to last 100 or so more years. Only the Bolsheviks could topple what Catherine had built -- although her own children and grandchildren were no help, either.

Catherine's story is a smack of a response to anyone who bel
Oct 05, 2008 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written, parts of it were good. The author crammed too much unnecessary information in the book. The author makes the assumption that the reader already has a fully grasp on how the convulted Russian court system in the 1700's worked.
May 23, 2008 Luci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this immensely. It wasn't too dense, just a good and well written biography. The author does not assume any prior knowledge and makes sure that the reading isn't littered with too much superfluous information.
Monica Copeland
Apr 17, 2008 Monica Copeland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved, loved it! Excellent details, pacing, and humor. Every morning, I was excited to get back to reading it.
Jun 28, 2009 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An accessible and absorbing account of the life of a remarkable woman.
Lindsay Roesler
Sep 19, 2008 Lindsay Roesler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great biography of Catherine the Great
Oct 11, 2015 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Does anyone want to give me a test on Catherine the Great and Russian history at the time of her reign? I would pass with flying colours after reading this entirely interesting and very detailed account of this wonderful woman! This author has actually for me, brought the times and the people who lived loved and prospered in the mid 1700's come colourfully to life before my eyes! Even more amazing is that my husband and I travelled to St Petersburg Russia and Moscow in August 2015 -we visited mo ...more
Lauren Schumacher
This monstrous behemoth of a biography took me months to complete. While fairly interesting for a biography (and a subject matter) it was certainly dry.

Catherine's rise as a minor German princess is most interesting. She survived an overbearing mother-in-law, a mother who allowed an uncle to molest her, and a husband who played with toy soldiers in their marital bed. Somehow she staged a coup so successfully that a foreign-born woman held on to the throne successfully for the rest of her long li
Jun 15, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rounding must have poured over letters and diaries for years to produce this interesting work on the personal life of Catherine the Great. It's quite a story. Catherine's governing and military leadership are beyond the scope of the book. I would have liked more background than what was given, but the personal focus would have suffered.

The highlights for me were the descriptions of her childhood and life as a young woman and wife. In this section Rounding gives the reader a lot of lot of guidanc
Jun 01, 2015 Corrin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read. She is a wonderful writer that makes Catherine's amazing life really interesting to read about. I feel like I really got a sense of her as a person and a realistic view of what life was like in court at the time. It reads like a novel but its all true. I would recommend this to anyone whose interested in history.
Jun 18, 2014 Dexter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A -very- indepth look at Catherine the Great's life. It's exceedingly detailed, and yet I didn't really get tired of reading. Admittedly, it took me quite a while to get through it all, but I did. I never even thought about leaving it unfinished.

All the detail of the biography makes me inclined to believe the author about almost everything, but Virginia Rounding paints her in such a positive light that I can't help but wonder. Nevertheless, I'm pretty convinced that Catherine the Great really wa
Jill Coleman
Really in-depth account--sometimes a bit too much so for my tastes. I thought the early part of her life and ascension was the most interesting. Amazing the amount of "favorites" she had--not much different story in many ways than her male counterparts.
Dec 30, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Scanned through this a bit--Catherine the Great has the kind of fascinating, eventful and oh-so-juicy life that makes for great biography, and this is beautifully written, but a bit overkill on information for me. I think I (okay, someone else) should pioneer a line of pared-down, high-points biographies for the non-researcher--200-300 pages, cover the arc and legacy of the life rather than every. single. detail. of every thing they ever did and thought they ever had. I love reading about intere ...more
Gay Dorsey
May 22, 2014 Gay Dorsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Detailed, fascinating, comprehensive, colorful: this book contains everything you would ever want to know about Catherine the Great. It was long, but then so was her reign.
Jul 15, 2011 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book gives great insight into Catherine's personality, background, life, and interests. It is a fantastic read with copious citations from Catherine's own memoirs and those of her courtiers and confidants, and really gives one a good feeling for the time period. My only complaint is that it could use to cover her foreign policy and actual accomplishments better; I am writing an essay on her motivations for forming the League of Armed Neutrality, yet what is arguably her most well-known acco ...more
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Virginia Rounding is an author and book critic, specialising in history – especially, though not exclusively – that of Russia and France. Her last book was a biography of the Empress Catherine II (Catherine the Great: Love, Sex and Power, 2006, described by Frances Wilson in the Daily Telegraph as ‘a thumping great triumph of a book’), and she will soon be presenting a programme for BBC Radio 3 a ...more
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