Catherine The Great by Robert K. Massie

82%

25 Critic Reviews

Effectively utilizing Catherine’s own memoirs, Massie once again delivers a masterful, intimate, and tantalizing portrait of a majestic monarch.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

“[A] tale of power, perseverance and passion . . . a great story in the hands of a master storyteller.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure German princess who became one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history. Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into empress of Russia by sheer determination. For thirty-four years, the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution. Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly brought to life. History offers few stories richer than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, an eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.
 
“[A] compelling portrait not just of a Russian titan, but also of a flesh-and-blood woman.”—Newsweek
 
“An absorbing, satisfying biography.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“Juicy and suspenseful.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“A great life, indeed, and irresistibly told.”—Salon
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • The Washington Post • USA Today • The Boston Globe • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Newsweek/The Daily Beast • Salon • VogueSt. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Providence Journal • Washington Examiner • South Florida Sun-Sentinel • BookPage • Bookreporter • Publishers Weekly

BONUS: This edition contains a Catherine the Great reader's guide.
 

About Robert K. Massie

See more books from this Author
Robert K. Massie was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and studied American history at Yale and European history at Oxford, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He was president of the Authors Guild from 1987 to 1991. His books include Nicholas and Alexandra, Peter the Great: His Life and World (for which he won a Pulitzer Prize for biography), The Romanovs: The Final Chapter, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea, and Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman.
 
Published November 8, 2011 by Random House. 656 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
icon5
Peak Rank on Jan 15 2012
icon22
Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
23
Want to Read
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Catherine The Great
All: 25 | Positive: 20 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Excellent
Oct 01 2011

Massie writes old-fashioned politics-and-great-men history, but few readers will resist his gripping description of colorful national leaders, their cutthroat rivalries and incessant wars.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Kathryn Harrison on Nov 16 2011

How delightful to discover that Robert K. Massie, 82 years old, hasn’t lost his mojo.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Sep 05 2011

Effectively utilizing Catherine’s own memoirs, Massie once again delivers a masterful, intimate, and tantalizing portrait of a majestic monarch.

Read Full Review of Catherine The Great | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Wall Street Journal

Excellent
Reviewed by Jennifer Siegel on Nov 18 2011

Instead of novelty, what "Catherine the Great" offers is a great story in the hands of a master storyteller.

Read Full Review of Catherine The Great | See more reviews from Wall Street Journal

Book Reporter

Excellent
Reviewed by Shelby Wardlaw on Sep 28 2011

Truly, the man could not pen a dull passage if he tried.

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Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer Hunter on Dec 07 2011

Many books have been written about Catherine, undoubtedly the most progressive monarch of Russia, but Massie is able to transcend previous biographies by bringing a novelistic effect to his profile of this unique woman...

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Star Tribune

Excellent
Reviewed by Carl Rollyson on Nov 12 2011

. . .wonderfully told in vivid scenes and sly sentences. . .

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Washington Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Sandra McElwaine on Dec 02 2011

. . .a compelling biography that reads like a novel and is hard to put down.

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LA Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Wendy Smith on Nov 27 2011

. . . general readers will find this an absorbing, satisfying biography of the old school.

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The Washington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Kathy Lally on Nov 18 2011

He leaves us frustrated only once. Early on, Massie mentions the steely ambition that will propel Catherine through some of history’s most remarkable moments. Yet he never really plumbs it.

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Christian Science Monitor

Excellent
Reviewed by Bob Blaisdell on Nov 23 2011

Massie is so familiar with the figures of the Russian court that he (and consequently we) never feel lost.

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USA Today

Good
Reviewed by Deirdre Donahue on Nov 12 2011

The author, 82, is clearly enraptured by his extraordinary heroine and by the end, so is the reader. Even bone-deep anti-monarchists will find themselves cheering on this absolute despot.

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The Boston Globe

Below average
Reviewed by Rebecca Steinitz on Nov 13 2011

. . .if this capacious detail sometimes supports his claims. . .it can also undermine them.

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Dallas News

Below average
Reviewed by Elizabeth Bennet on Nov 25 2011

One quibble: The book is so full of what the characters thought and felt that one wonders how the author got such details. But that doesn’t keep this from being a remarkable story.

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Washington Independent Review of Books

Below average
Reviewed by Laura Fargas

. . .a slightly more fleshed out historical primer might help the lay reader. . .follow the intricacies of 18th-century diplomatic and dynastic intrigue the book explores so richly.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Excellent
Reviewed by Melissa Pierson on Nov 16 2011

. . .it is thoroughly engaging to read: this is People magazine for the educated set. . .

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Open Letters Monthly

Excellent
Reviewed by Steve Donoghue

. . .the strongest element of the book is the author’s unabashed humanism and his eager willingness to keep Catherine the human being squarely before our eyes.

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Denver Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Mary Foster on Nov 13 2011

His clearly drawn depictions of the schemes, jealousies and maneuvers of the court, and of Catherine, bring the era and the woman to life.

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Look At OKC

Excellent
Reviewed by JE McReynolds on Nov 27 2011

Massie has superbly bridged part of the time between Peter the Great and Tsar Nicholas.

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NY Daily News

Excellent
Reviewed by Lindsay Goldwert on Dec 28 2011

Massie’s portrait of Catherine is a work of true scholarship that reads like the juiciest novel.

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Journal Sentinel

Below average
Reviewed by David Lewellen on Jan 21 2012

Massie's keen eye for anecdote is perhaps too keen; his smooth narrative sometimes bumps on stories that serve little purpose, while somewhat slighting the social and economic conditions surrounding the empress.

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My San Antonio

Excellent
Reviewed by Steve Bennett on Nov 07 2011

Massie. . .embraces the mammoth task of re-creating Catherine the Great's life. . .with scholarly zeal.

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Bloomberg

Excellent
Reviewed by Manuela Hoelterhoff on Nov 30 2011

Massie, who has written prize-winning biographies of Peter the Great and the Romanovs, gives an exciting account of the chaotic days that changed the history of Russia.

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Star News Online

Excellent
Reviewed by Ben Steelman on Nov 20 2011

He's a respectable historian but he doesn't forget the "story" in history. . .

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Knitting and Sundries

Good
Reviewed by Julie on Jan 30 2012

I applaud this book as a wonderful, fully fact-based representation of a fascinating woman.

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Reader Rating for Catherine The Great
81%

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John Alexander 27 Feb 2013

Massie's Catherine is abysmal: poorly informed, badly written, totally unoriginal. He's lost his marbles t 82, and this book proves it! He cannt read Russian! Just ask his first wife, from whom he ...

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