Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Getting to know the real Catherine

Title: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
Author: Robert K. Massie
Genre: Non-Fiction
Sub-genre: Biography
Pages:  625
Published: 2011
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 0679456724
Reader's Annotation: One of the most influential and powerful women in history is not who most people think she is.
Summary: Massie, well known for his work in Russian history, brings to life one of the great women of the 18th century. He describes not only the life and court of Catherine the Great but brings in historical elements so that the reader can understand and gain perspective on the decisions that were made.
My Evaluation: There were two reasons that I read this book, One, I had read Massie's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Nicholas and Alexandra previously and I wanted to read this book after reading that book to gain some historical perspective on how previous Russian tzars had influenced the decisions that Nicholas made for his country.  Secondly, my relatives on my mother's side (they were German), joined Catherine in Russia, eventually settling on the Volga River and I wanted to learn more about what their life would have been like under this important ruler. Massie, ever the consummate historian, brings to life a story of a brilliant woman that few in the 21st century know about. This book is long but it is extremely well written and well researched. The life of Catherine both in Germany and finally in Russian is well versed in both brilliance and struggles. Massie is excellent at showing the reader that what happens in a person's past definitely affects their future decisions. The one thing I think readers will take away from this book, even not remembering a thing about Catherine is that: she did not die by having sex with a horse!
Rating:  4 out of 5

Events mentioned in this book that you might find interesting:
Push Not the River (Polish Trilogy #1) by James Conroyd Martin (Deals with late 1700s Poland and the carving it by Catherine the Great)
Against A Crimson Sky (Polish Trilogy #2) by James Conroyd Martin
Madame Tussard by Michelle Moran (Historical Fiction with a ton of real life research about her life during the French Revolution at the end of Catherine the Great's reign)