The narrator came close to ruining this book for me; his sense of phrasing of the text was horrible and he seemed to pause in all the wrong places. The story of Peter's life was fascinating, however. I had no idea he was interested and talented in so many areas. It was a very long book, but overall I'm glad I "read" it.
Masterfully written, this audiobook has everything going for it -- a rich history full of interesting characters and a sweeping saga using primary sources so I could hear the rhythm of the language.
Certainly not the narrator
No... 28 hours????
I must add my opinion that the narrator ruined the experience for me. If there were an alternative, even a decent abridged version, I would have gladly jumped ship!
Great story, you could not make this stuff up
Catherine the Great, also good history, well researched and full of interesting details
Only if he did not have to struggle unsuccessfully with Russian names. Here his lack of Russian was very distracting as the names were often almost incomprehensible to anyone knowing any Russian at all.
Robert Massie has written a number of great books including Castles of Steel, Dreadnought, and the Romanovs. My favorite is his volumes is Nicholas and Alexandra which held my interest throughout. I most recently completed his current best seller Catherine the Great. The only Massie book that had not read was Peter the Great (1981). Last week I returned to that biography. Better late than never! It proved entertaining and informative. Many have reviewed this book and there is little left to say. However, as with Massie’s other books, this is not really a biography of Peter the Great so much as the life of Peter the Great placed in historical context. There is a wealth of European and Russian history here occurring in the 17th and 18th centuries that the reader gets for “free.” This observation could be made about Catherine the Great. If you have not read after Massie, this is a good time to start. My favorites are Nicholas and Alexandra, Catherine the Great, and then Peter the Great. That said, I encountered problems with the audio in the first portion of the Audible download. I suspect it was a problem with my downloading, but it cleared in the later sections (2-4).
Robert K. Massie has a rich but direct style of writing, making the audio version easy to follow. The audio version is certainly better for the advantage of hands-free enjoyment of this wonderful book. It's a joy to put in my ear buds and go on a walk, a run on the treadmill, do the dishes, rake leaves, etc., all while being happily entertained with a fascinating and thorough history of the life and times of Peter the Great. There are times when I'd like to take a look at the names of people and places in print, just to see how they're spelled. The narrator frequently drops his voice so that words or phrases become inaudible.
Of course, Peter himself. Intelligent, inquisitive, and quirky -- a perfect hero for the 21st century!
Absolutely not! He reads as though the material is a dirty rag he can't wait to dispose of.
The Russian Ruler Who Raised the Iron Curtain 250 Years Before it Fell!
Robert K. Massie is a wonderful writer. I'd read anything he writes. He never bogs the reader down with his own ego, i.e., trying to impress with inventive use of words. He has an uncomplicated, declarative style that moves right along with wonderful description and easy-to-follow factual detail. He loves his subject matter, and you feel his affection for what he writes. An excellent historian! An excellent writer!
In War and Peace, Tolstoy spends a lot of time explaining how one man, no matter how "great", can not actually change the course of events to any large degree. A humble man, by himself, can live a moral life and do as good as he can for the people around him, but he's not going to change the course of world history. Tolstoy argues events in human history are the outcomes of millions of interconnected threads made up of uncountable influences ranging from basic geography and weather to the less tangible such as the mood and passions of a nation. He argues that the "greater" the man, the more bound he is to these threads and the less able he is to actually alter and lead the flow of history.
Yet the life of Peter the Great, as written by Massie, proves otherwise to Tolstoy's philosophy. Here is a man who, if we are to believe Massie (and I do), almost single handed dragged all of Russia out of the shadowy, mystical, musty dark-ages into an enlightened Western world. Through his sheer force of personality, temper, God-given right to rule absolutely, and his never ending supply of energy did more in a lifetime than perhaps any man who has ever lived.
In just over 5 decades he drastically reformed his nation's religion, built a Navy where there had not even been a single ocean going vessel before him, founded universities, created an environment in which women - previously unable to function in society - could express their will legally and socially - and, most famously, built St. Petersburg on the sea where before there had only been a swamp owned by Sweden.
And in every detail of Peter's life Massie goes to extraordinary lengths to explain and enlighten us how and what Peter did - except one: Peter as a man.
What stuck me about the book is how even after everything Peter did and left behind, I don't know if I can really say I got a clear picture of him as an individual. We have all the idiosyncrasies here: his temper and his nervous twitch, his desire to put aside pomp and ceremony in exchange for simplicity, his singular love of the sea (which it seems nobody else in all of Russia shared with him), but he comes across almost as a machine through all this.
Peter, it seems, was so great, that he barely seemed human. Yes, he had his share of faults and he could also be a warm, friendly, prankster, but he was always the Czar and I felt like one of his subjects halfway into the book.
And perhaps that's the point Massie wanted to make. No matter who was being spoken of in the book (and a lot of time is given to King Charles of Sweden; Peter's respected enemy), I always felt like Peter was driving the chariot, whip in hand, and I was his beast of burden. No matter how close we get to him he still always seems that much further away. And I suspect that is how many who knew him felt, too.
Strange, too, that Peter is Russia's greatest leader because he's the least Russian of them all. He so badly wanted his country to be European and to be taken seriously whereas generations later (after Napoleon's invasion) Russians wanted to pull back from the west. All those western cultural values Peter loved were seen as decadent by men like Leo Tolstoy (whose grandparent, Peter, plays a very important role here).
And so, once Peter died and his almost super-human influence was put into the ground, Russia did her best to become Russian once again, though Russia would never be the same, either. For all this "great" man did in opposition to Tolstoy's philosophy, he never really was able to really make Russia a part of Europe. Russia would always be, in a way, 400 years behind the rest of the world and proud of it too. The Russians didn't want someone to change them; change seems to go against what being Russian is at heart.
But like the final dramatic scene in the book where Peter leaps into the freezing ocean to save a floundering ship, Peter did his best for a nation that did need him otherwise she would have been conquered again - probably by Charles - or would have faded into obscurity.
He was a remarkable man and though what I could learn about him I don't know if I like (he intimidates me), I respect him as a man as best you can respect an absolute autocrat.
Wonderful book and should be required reading for learning about Russian history. No wonder this book won so many awards.
arbiter of great taste
I have been an Audible customer for many years. This is the first book for which I have wanted my money back. The narrator, who I'm sure is a nice guy, does not speak American English and I am tired of trying to figure out what the heck he's saying. I lived in NYC for 30 years and have a good understanding of dialects. This book could be great, but you'd never know.
Anyone who speaks American English.
Frustration, frustration, then anger.
Do not buy this book.
Robert K. Massie is my favorite historical writer. I was happy to find the biography of Peter The Great at audible. But the reader's nasal effected voice was almost unbearable to hear. The biography is great but the reader ruined the pleasure of listening for me!
Yes: particularly if I knew that my friend had an interest in Russian and European history.
It explained in detail why Peter is regarded as "The great" and much insight was provided into the European power struggles from the late Seventeen Century.
The tempo - sometimes ponderous and a little too much of the Oxbridge.
The determination to build St Petersburg as the new capital of Russia.
This is the second of Massey's books purchased from Audible. I plan to buy and read more of them: Massey's style is lively, informative and it seems that every attempt is made to research thoroughly and to represent issues in a fair and balanced manner.