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

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
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Nov 30, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: biography, history, non-fiction

An incredibly deep (and long) work about an incredibly deep, powerful, and long-lived woman who was Empress of one of the largest countries in the world. The book is roughly chronological, each chapter focusing on some aspect of Catherine's (nee Sophia) life and relationships, though there is much overlap. For example, in the chapters about Catherine and the Enlightenment, it discusses the 15+ years she corresponded with Voltaire. Obviously, during that time she was also Doing Other Things.

As the subtitle "Portrait of a Woman" reflects, it is more about who Catherine was as am intelligent, proud, and passionate woman, rather than a listing of dates and significant historical events, though those are slipped in there, too. Her affairs and marriage(s?) are discussed at length, her tenuous relationship with her oldest son and tightrope relationship with Empress Elizabeth, who preceded her.

It's rich and meaty, and I found it fascinating just how much influence one woman's drive and personality could have, not just upon the country she ruled, but on the countries she battled and allied with.
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