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

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
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's review
Apr 21, 2012

really liked it
Read in April, 2012

As preparation for our upcoming trip to St. Petersburg, I asked for this book for Christmas. This biography is the latest in a line of Russian biographies by Massie, biographies which include Nicholas and Alexandra( which I read and greatly enjoyed when it came out in 1967),Peter the Great, and The Romanovs. Robert Massie titles this biography Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, and that is in fact what it is. Massie gives a very strong sense of Catherine as a woman as well as a monarch. As Massie says, "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 300-year-old Romanov dynasty." Much of this I knew about and had studied previously, but I had not read things before that allowed me to empathize with her as a woman---starting with her going to Russia at age 14 to become Peter's bride, to living eight years with him in an unconsummated marriage, to bearing a son only to have Empress Elizabeth whisk him away and not allow her to be involved in his rearing, to her great need to be loved. All in all, Massie did a very good job of presenting Catherine the Great: monarch, intellectual/friend of the philosophes (e.g. Diderot and Voltaire), and woman.

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