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Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
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RUSSIA > 12. BOOK AS A WHOLE - FINAL THOUGHTS - CATHERINE THE GREAT (SPOILER THREAD)

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 21, 2012 04:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
POST YOUR FINAL REVIEW HERE; WE HOPED YOU LIKED THE SELECTION AND ENJOYED THE DISCUSSION; IT WAS A POPULAR ONE - BUT ALL HONEST, CIVIL AND RESPECTFUL REVIEWS ARE WELCOME HERE. WE ARE NOT HERE TO DISAGREE WITH ANYBODY'S ASSESSMENT. THIS THREAD IS NOT ONE TO POST OTHER PEOPLE'S REVIEWS OR ONE'S POSTED SOMEPLACE ON THE WEB - THIS THREAD IS FOR YOU AND TO POST YOUR REVIEW.

For those of you who have completed the book and/or who want to discuss aspects of the book which are beyond our weekly assignments in the non spoiler threads, this thread is a spoiler thread where you can discuss those points.

If you have completed the book and would like to tell us what you thought about this selection, please feel free to discuss your opinions in a respectful way here.

However, please no links to personal reviews because we consider that self promotion. Simply post your thoughts here without the links.

Many folks read ahead of the weekly assignment and that is OK too; however, you must make sure that your posted comments on the other weekly non spoiler threads do not reflect reading ahead of the posted weekly assignment. If you would like to discuss aspects of the book further along, this is a spoiler thread where you can do just that.

We try to move along the discussion slowly on the weekly non spoiler threads but realize that some folks like to move along swiftly. So we have options for both groups of folks.

Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie BY Robert K. Massie Robert K. Massie


message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 16, 2012 12:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Just an FYI:

Folks, goodreads has a disclaimer at the bottom of their book giveaways which says the following:

In compliance with FTC guidelines, please disclose in your review that you received the book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endort...

In the instance of a book here make sure to say that you got the book for free through the History Book Club on Goodreads if you plan to post reviews elsewhere - like on the goodreads site or on the web.

I guess any free item when you review it has to have that disclaimer if you do the review on goodreads, on a blog, anyplace.


message 3: by Katy (last edited Sep 17, 2012 07:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Katy (kathy_h) I did receive a copy of this book free through the History Book Club On Goodreads. I loved it so much that I went out and bought a copy for a friend so that we could read and discuss it together face to face.

I think one of the reasons that I enjoyed the book is the inclusion of parts of Catherine's diary and letters. This personal communication gives a more personal tone to the biography. One of my favorite biographies, John Adams includes many pieces of personal correspondence and I realize that to me that helps to make the history a bit more alive.

Another thing is that I really did not know much about Russian History. As a child produced during the cold war era, I would think that perhaps knowing more about Russia would have been important. But I do not remember that history as part of my school social studies.

I plan to pick up Peter The Great and Nicholas and Alexandra to continue Massie's histories on Russia. Well written biography. 5 stars.

John Adams by David G. McCullough by David G. McCullough (no photo)
Peter The Great by Robert K. Massie by Robert K. Massie Robert K. Massie
Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie by Robert K. Massie Robert K. Massie


message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
We are glad you enjoyed the journey and shared that with a personal friend. What fun.

Thank you also for posting your assessment and how the book affected you.


message 5: by Jill (last edited Sep 17, 2012 01:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Great comments, Kathy and you can be sure you will like the other Russian history books by Massie that you mentioned.


Peter The Great by Robert K. Massie & Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie by Robert K. Massie Robert K. Massie


Bryan Craig Interesting, Joanne, thanks for sharing. You really realize how hard writing biography is, and one those elements is balance between the stages of life.


Dave Kalach | 2 comments I found the chapters on young Catherine the most interesting. It gives you the window to how she was going to be as a ruler. The older Catherine was a disappointment. She seemed to stray far from her early enlightenment thinking.


message 8: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 21, 2012 04:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Joanne wrote: "Bryan wrote: "Interesting, Joanne, thanks for sharing. You really realize how hard writing biography is, and one those elements is balance between the stages of life."

Thanks, Bryan. Perhaps, a b..."


Joanne, thank you for your posts and thoughts but this thread is to hear from everyone as they complete the book and we are not lobbying for one view or another. I think that message 6 and 8 probably should have been placed in the glossary (especially 6 and also to a slight extent 8).

This thread is for the final review so to speak and we want everybody to feel free to make up their own mind. The posts are in the glossary. Please feel to post your final review here as well.


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments I received the book free from Goodreads Giveaways - thank you. I enjoyed reading it, learned quite a lot and it got me interested in some areas somewhat beyond the scope of Catherine which I would likely never have investigated without the book. These were taxation under Catherine, the Pugachev rebellion and Potempkin villages. I finished quite awhile ago because I got quite interested and didn't want to put it down to wait.


message 10: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thank you Becky for posting your insights. We are glad you enjoyed the book.


Joanne | 647 comments Bentley wrote: "Joanne wrote: "Bryan wrote: "Interesting, Joanne, thanks for sharing. You really realize how hard writing biography is, and one those elements is balance between the stages of life."

Thanks, Brya..."

Thank you Bentley for the clarification and for taking the time to move the posts.


message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
No problem Joanne; we just try to keep things in the right spots.


Alisa (mstaz) Great comments Kathy, Dave, and Becky. Glad you all got something out of reading this and took the time to share your thoughts. Kathy, that is great that you enlisted another buddy to read with you! One of the great things about a good book is sharing it with a friend. Glad you enjoyed it and contributed to the discussion.


message 14: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I knew little about Russian history, other than the story of the tragic last Romanovs, so I was excited to be involved in this group read. The story of Catherine is fascinating and through her indomitable will she rose to power in a country not her own. She is shown to have a maturity beyond her years, which surprised me, as she positioned herself to take the throne from her husband. The author provided insight into the political machinations of the court and a look at Catherine's colorful love life which added a bit of spice to the story. Overall,I enjoyed it and passed it on to a book loving friend.
Note: I received this book at no charge from Random House through the History Book Club on Goodreads.


Joanne | 647 comments Jill wrote: "I knew little about Russian history, other than the story of the tragic last Romanovs, so I was excited to be involved in this group read. The story of Catherine is fascinating and through her indo..."

Jill, I am glad to hear this. It means Massie reached his goal, to bring Catherine to a "new generation" and/or a new audience. Passing on an enjoyable book is always satisfying.


message 16: by Donna (last edited Sep 24, 2012 05:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Donna (drspoon) I purchased the book on my own and joined the read-along as a very new member of The History Book Club. I liked reading everyone's comments as well as the all the great supplemental information that was provided.

I found the book to be interesting and very readable. I enjoyed the intimate details of Catherine's life and the glimpses of world events that she both influenced and was influenced by. Massie strikes a fine balance here.


message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thanks to everyone for their comments so far. However, we should be hearing from everyone who received the offer.


Bryan Craig I enjoyed this book. For me, this is perfect introduction to Catherine and her world. I'm glad I read it.


message 19: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thank you Bryan, Jill, Donna R, Joanne, Alisa, Becky, Dave and Kathy.


message 20: by Adam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Adam Fullerton (librarygeekadam) Dave wrote: "I found the chapters on young Catherine the most interesting. It gives you the window to how she was going to be as a ruler. The older Catherine was a disappointment. She seemed to stray far from h..."

I would agree that young Catherine was the most interesting. Her older self seemed to have lost the spirit that made her younger self so ambitious and interesting. I wished she would have pushed harder for social reforms. I felt she kind of let those go to easily being a big supporter of the Enlightenment.

Overall, I loved the book and have recommended it to friends. I know one of them has already picked up a copy.

Thanks for the good suggestion.


Alisa (mstaz) Adam, glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for your remarks.


message 22: by Alisa (last edited Sep 30, 2012 05:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alisa (mstaz) Personally, I enjoyed this book very much. I knew very little of 18th century Russian rulers before reading this book and I found it enlightening and very well written. Massie's writing appealed to me - he kept the story line moving along and the manner in which he brought this woman to life made it very real to me. Catherine herself was a complex woman and Massie did a good job of showing us who she was, warts and all.

disclosure: I received this book for free through the History Book Club on Goodreads.


Brian (brianj48) | 58 comments I really enjoyed this book. I found Massie's narrative style clear and engaging. An unknown, minor princess, Sophia Fredericka of Anhalt-Zerbst is chosen at age 14 to bear a future child for then 15 year old Grand Duke Peter, heir to the Russian throne, and ends up Empress. Sophia overcomes an erratic mother, a marriage to psychologically unbalanced sadist and becomes Catherine, Empress of Russia..

I became more aware of the damaged lives of both Peter and Catherine. Peter was abused by his tutor. Catherine’s mother and the Empress Elizabeth both treated her poorly. She, quick to adapt and of apparently amazing intellect, ingratiates herself to the Russian people and becomes a correspondent with some of the greats of the Age of Enlightenment.

On the one hand, Catherine spoke of reforms, and did institute some. But she always maintained the power of the autocrat. Massie’s book makes clear how the monarchy spent lavishly and bestowed enormous wealth and gifts on the few, while serfdom continued.

I gained new insights into the histories and politics of the European powers and the Ottoman Empire. Some facts were amazing. Poland had an elected monarch, who had to be unanimously elected by the thousand members of the Polish Diet. At any point during a session, a single member of the Diet could veto any decision, even if all other members had approved for it – and ALL prior decisions of that session were also voided.

Disclosure: I received this book for free through the History Book Club on Goodreads.


Alisa (mstaz) Brian, terrific review. We were glad to have you along for the discussion. Thanks for posting your thoughts here as well.


message 25: by Alisa (last edited Oct 10, 2012 11:44AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alisa (mstaz) Marjorie, thanks for participating in the discussion and offering your perspective. Glad you chose to participate and offering up your review.


message 26: by Maya (last edited Oct 12, 2012 08:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maya (motownmaya) | 5 comments I had very minimal knowledge of and interest in the life of Catherine prior to purchasing this book. Yet, I thought it would be interesting to read about an 18th century female Russian leader. Learning of Catherine's openness, thirst for knowledge, determination and her uncommon skill of balancing her high intellect and rank with personableness, loyalty and ingratiation transformed me. Massie's writing seamlessly transports the reader to the time in which Catherine lived and the reader feels as if she has first-hand insight into Catherine's thought processes. The book includes more detail than necessary in some areas and it could have been truncated quite a bit. However, to all, I recommend exploring the life of this fascinating woman. This book should be read.


Alisa (mstaz) Great review Maya, glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for adding your reflections here.


Steven Harbin (stevenharbin) | 105 comments I received the book, but put it aside for a bit and missed most of the discussion, for which I apologize. Catching up and reading it now, I definitely enjoying it. Massie's style is quite readable and informative and he has the biographer's skill of making his subject real and interesting. I've bought a copy of his Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie by Robert K. Massie Robert K. Massie and hope to read it sometime in the coming months.


Alisa (mstaz) Steven glad you are enjoying the book. Everyone reads at their own pace which is why we leave the threads up for awhile. Feel free to comment in the threads. Glad you posted a note here too, and thanks for participating.


Steven Harbin (stevenharbin) | 105 comments Thanks Alisa,
Can you change the post thread that has me listed as not posting a review of the book after receiving the ARC?
Thanks again,
Steven


Alisa (mstaz) Thanks Steven. I followed up with a note to Bentley as he is tracking that list. He'll get to it in due course. Thanks again for participating in the discussion.


Jason | 104 comments Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie by Robert K. Massie is another History Book Club read that I took forever to finish. This is because the book did not keep me coming back and I read many other books while I was reading this one. About 3/4 through the book I pretty much knew what I was going to write for my review. The first part of the book, the part leading up to her marriage, was interesting, and for me the best part of the book. From that point until just before the end of the book, it read like a soap opera. She went from man to man and had so many woes. Towards the end it was the story of a geriatric old woman, and her pains. Her triumphs in war, but more so her art collections, and her passing fancies. It wasn’t that this book was written poorly, thats not it at all, I just didn’t find the story of Catherine II’s life all that interesting. Maybe for people who are more interested the her social relationships there might be more, but I didn’t find my self identifying with any of the people discussed in the book. I didn’t get to really know anyone but Catherine, which is who the book was about so again no fault of the author. I was a little let down by this one and I think it will be a while before I pick up another historical biography. I need to refresh my mental palate.


message 33: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Thanks for your review, Jason. Sometimes the subject of a biography is not one of particular interest to the reader,so your points are well taken. As you noted, the author is not at fault, it was just the subject matter. Good for you for sticking with it!!!


Jason | 104 comments Jill wrote: "Good for you for sticking with it!!! "

Thanks Jill. I hate to leave a book once I've started.


Alisa (mstaz) Jason thanks for posting your comments. Glad you finished it out nonetheless. You never know sometimes when you read about a new topic if it will resonate.


Denise | 4 comments Catherine the Great was a fascinating read! I didn't know much about Catherine the great, I felt naïve...so I had to put an end to that!! This book was wonderful and full of so much fascinating information. Massie has a wonderful pace in his books. I picked up his book on Nicolas and Alexandra yesterday!! Can't wait


message 37: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Great Denise - thanks for posting - since this is a thread about Catherine and that book - you did not have to do a citation on the read but on the other book mentioned - yes.

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie by Robert K. Massie Robert K. Massie


Alisa (mstaz) Thanks Denise, glad you enjoyed it!


Denise | 4 comments Sorry I wasn't sure how to add the link in


Bryan Craig Denise wrote: "Sorry I wasn't sure how to add the link in"

Use the "add book/author" link and search for your book. On the bottom of the search window, you will see radio buttons for add: cover or link.


message 41: by Fran (new) - rated it 5 stars

Fran Caulfield (fcaulfield) Peter the GreatGood biography with enough insights and development of Catherine's formation (which I did not know)to explain her rule and expansion of Russia (which I did). I have read a few Russian biographies, histories, and novels -- including Massie's Peter the Great -- yet I struggle to see how Russia, with such visionary leaders, failed to achieve more humanitarian and economic success by the twenty first century.


Alisa (mstaz) Fran wrote: "Peter the GreatGood biography with enough insights and development of Catherine's formation (which I did not know)to explain her rule and expansion of Russia (which I did). I have read a few Russi..."

Thanks for your perspective, Fran. This thread was devoted to Massie's book on Catherine the Great.

Also, when you mention a book in your comments, please follow the club's citation format of book cover, author photo (when available) and author link.
In this unique circumstance the entire thread is dedicated to the Catherine the Great book so it does not need to be cited. The other one does, however.
Thanks.

Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie by Robert K. Massie Robert K. Massie


message 43: by Walt (new) - rated it 4 stars

Walt O'Hara | 11 comments I received this book free from the HBC (many thanks, Bentley and crew), and I regret I read it out of sequence with the rest of the HBC, and for that I tender apologies! I got sucked in. I'm pre-disposed to like Robert K. Massie's histories, as they tend to focus on interesting subjects that are bigger than life and full of interesting vignettes. I have read Peter the Great, Dreadnought and Castles of Steel relatively recently so was not surprised how much I liked Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. Massie's fact-laden, chatty prose style is clearly evident here; the big difference between this and other works is how personalized the narrative becomes. Peter the Great was a series of stories about a remarkable monarch. Catherine the Great seems to be telling the story more from her personal point of view. From the very beginning the reader is drawn in to the story of Catherine's rather uninspiring start in life as a puppet for her cold and calculating, ambitious mother. Massie chronicles Sophie (later Catherine after her conversion to Orthodoxy) and her appearance in the Russian court as a bride to be to feckless and doomed Peter. Her conversion and adherence to all things Russian provided a handy PR cover for her German origins, which weren't popular with the Russian nobility. Given her husband's love of all things German and penchant for dressing himself and his courtiers in German uniforms at state functions, the inevitable blowup was bound to occur, and Massie relays Catherine's artfully handled coup and later ascension to the throne after the Empress Elizabeth passed away. I thought the second half of the narrative was slower paced as Catherine struggled to rule and reform a country with archaic customs and conventions. Taking up the cause of the peasant in the years prior to the French Revolution, Catherine did what she could for the plight of the serfs in Russia. Massie keeps Catherine honest as to her motivations and throughout allows the reader to see into Catherine's mind as she navigated the maze of Russian and European power politics.

In summary a great read-- not my favorite Massie book, that might be Peter the Great, but definitely a top contender and as good as anything he has ever written. Not bad at all for a historian to be in top form in his 80s. Well done, Mr. Massie, and thank you HBC.


message 44: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jul 16, 2013 08:43AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
You are welcome Walt - good review and post - don't forget to add the citation for Peter the Great because that is not the book being discussed so it needs to be cited.

Peter the Great His Life and World by Robert K. Massie by Robert K. Massie Robert K. Massie


Alisa (mstaz) Thanks Walt for the review, and glad you enjoyed the book. Very much appreciate you posting your thoughts here. Since yoiu mentioned other books by the author not subject of this discussion thread, be sure to post them all.

Dreadnought by Robert K. Massie & Castles of Steel by Robert K. Massie & Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie all by Robert K. Massie Robert K. Massie

Thanks so much.


message 46: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thanks Alisa - I missed the others.


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