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

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
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Apr 12, 12

bookshelves: biography, read-in-2012
Read in March, 2012

if you only read one biography about catherine the great this year...why not read this one? it was pretty good. although i admit that this is the only biography i have ever read about catherine the great, so i really have nothing with which to compare it. in fact, i know next to nothing about russian history. i don't even know why i decided to read this book. i heard that catherine & her husband, peter, never consummated their marriage, & i thought that was weird because marriages back then--especially royal marriages--were all about producing heirs. i wanted to know what was up with royals getting hitched but never boning. this book answered all of my questions & then some. it clocks in at nearly 600 pages. it's difficult to imagine what questions this book DOESN'T answer. & it's amazingly readable, although i admit that i occasionally struggled to keep all the russian names straight. everyone is born with one name & then given a different name by the church & then they are subject to eight thousand different nicknames depending on their hierarchical relationships with other people in the court & their gender, etc etc...it's like the jewish version of god & his six dozen different names. crazy.

perhaps the weirdest thing about this book (which is saying something, because peter sounds like an incredibly weird dude) is that the author thanks robert crumb in the acknowledgments. yes, that robert crumb. i really liked to imagine the author of this book, who comes across as such a kindly old gentleman obsessed enough with russian history to have given half his kids the names of various russian monarchs, broing down with robert crumb.
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