Review #21: Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie

I LOVED Nicholas and Alexandra, and I’ve been meaning to read Peter the Great forever. Massie is an excellent biographer, in that he manages to avoid dryness and can usually form his subjects’ lives into truly compelling narratives. I didn’t know much about Catherine the Great before I picked this up, but I figured that my history buff-ness + Robert K. Massie + badass female historical figure = great read.

This was definitely a good biography, I just don’t know if it was as great as N & A. Catherine the Great was a really, really interesting woman–she went from being a minor German princess to being the ruler of the Russian empire. This biography does a really good job of making Catherine a sympathetic and completely engrossing character–she was human, not just a character or remote historical figure, and I really appreciated that. I also loved learning about such a unique and important woman–she was intelligent and powerful at a time when women were thought to be capable of neither.

Massie puts an incredible amount of detail into this biography, which really enriches the reading experience–I loved learning about Russian culture and history, and enjoyed the little tidbits of information he includes about cast of supporting characters that surrounded Catherine. However, the sheer number of people introduced, many of them with frustratingly similar names, made this a fairly slow read, because I kept forgetting who was who. I also had to take more frequent breaks than I usually do while reading because there was so much information being thrown at me that it was hard to focus sometimes.

Overall, though, if you like historical nonfiction and are interested in powerful female historical figures, I’d definitely check this out!


2 thoughts on “Review #21: Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie

  1. Pingback: Sonk’s #CBR4 Reviews #21, 22, 23, 25 | Cannonball Read IV
  2. The first half of the book was definitely stronger, and I think that’s because he had Catherine’s journals as a source, and it was slightly smaller in scope due to the fact that it was her rise to the throne rather than her reign. I felt like the last half occasionally jumped around in weird ways, too.

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