Karen's Reviews > Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
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's review
Dec 22, 2011

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Read in December, 2011

Having read all the other books about Russia by Massie, I couldn't wait to dive into the life of Catherine the Great. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I found this book a completely unsatisfying read. Poorly organized with huge swaths of text out of chronological sequence, much of the book was tell not show. Occasionally one got a glimpse of the life of the woman, the description of her place in the world and the complex web of others who were both supportive and destructive. Way too much time was spent recounting small incidents that took place with myriad characters, most of whom were extraneous to the central story. Perhaps even that would have been tolerable if we got a real sense of who the woman was and how she struggled but she was always kept at arms length from the reader. Consequently, her struggles were not those of the reader, in contrast to Nicholas and Alexandra, a book so compelling that even though the reader knows the end of the story before beginning to read the book, she can't help but hope for a different outcome. In addition to those problem with development and affect of the book, the editing was shockingly poor with faulty pronoun usage in places and repetition of exact phrases. Are there no editors or agents anymore that care to lovingly nurture a book to its own best iteration? So much research went into this book (thus the three stars for what is really a two star book) that I feel sorry for the author who has not been well-served by those who should have helped him.

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