Ratings : 82668

Review : 3533


Published : Nov. 8, 2011

By : Random House, Inc. (NY)

Language : eng

Paperback : 625 Pages

Published : Nov. 8, 2011

By : Random House, Inc. (NY)

Language : eng

Paperback : 625 Pages

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

82668 Ratings - 3533 Review

23 hours, 52 minutes

Pulitzer Prize winner Massie offers the tale of a princess who went to Russia at 14 and became one of the most powerful women in history. Born into minor German nobility, she transformed herself into an empress by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant, curious mind, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers, and reaching the throne, tried using their principles to rule the vast, backward empire. She knew or corresponded with notable figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette & John Paul Jones. Wanting to be the “benevolent despot” Montesquieu idealized, she contended with the deeply ingrained realities of Russian life, including serfdom. She persevered, and for 34 years the government, foreign policy, cultural development and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, wars & the tides of political change and violence inspired by the French Revolution. Her reputation depended on the perspective of the speaker. She was praised by Voltaire as like the classical philosophers. She was condemned by enemies, mostly foreign, as “the Messalina of the north.” Her family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers and enemies are vividly described. These included her ambitious, scheming mother; her weak, bullying husband, Peter (who left her sexually untouched for nine years after their marriage); her unhappy son & heir, Paul; her beloved grandchildren; and her favorites—the young men from whom she sought companionship and the recapture of youth as well as sex. Here, too, is Gregory Potemkin, her most significant lover & possible husband, with whom she shared a correspondence of love & separation, followed by 17 years of unparalleled mutual achievement. All the qualities that Massie brought to Nicholas & Alexandra and Peter the Great are present: historical accuracy, deep understanding, felicity of style, mastery of detail, ability to shatter myth & a genius for finding and expressing a human drama.



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ABOUT Robert K. Massie

Robert Kinloch Massie (born 1929) is an American historian, writer, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, and a Rhodes Scholar.

Born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1929, Massie spent much of his youth in Nashville, Tennessee and currently resides in Westchester County, New York in the village of Irvington. He studied American history at Yale University and modern European history at Oxford University on his Rhodes Scholarship. Massie went to work as a journalist for Newsweek from 1959 to 1964 and then took a position at the Saturday Evening Post.

After he and his family left America for France, Massie wrote and published his breakthrough book, Nicholas and Alexandra, a biography of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra of Hesse, and their family and cultural/political milieu. Massie's interest in the Tsar's family was triggered by the birth of his son, the Rev. Robert Kinloch Massie, who suffers from hemophilia, a hereditary disease that also afflicted the last Tsar's son, Alexei. In 1971, the book was the basis of an Academy Award winning film of the same title. In 1995, in his book The Romanovs: The Final Chapter, Massie updated Nicholas and Alexandra with much newly-discovered information.

In 1975, Robert Massie and his then-wife Suzanne chronicled their experiences as the parents of a hemophiliac child and the significant differences between the American and French health-care systems in their jointly-written book, Journey.

Massie won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for Peter the Great: His Life and World. This book inspired a 1986 NBC mini-series that won three Emmy Awards, (Peter the Great (TV Series)) and starred Maximilian Schell, Laurence Olivier and Vanessa Redgrave.

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