I'm a retired librarian with a strong interest in religion, Russian history and biography, and the two world wars. Have been known to take a side trip to mysteries with a political angle.
Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie
I’m listening to Massie's bio of Czar Peter the Great (last part of1600s-first part of 1700s). Interesting how reading several biographies will cast events in different lights. Example: Other biographers describe in detail how he, as a child, put together a play militia, pulling in neighborhood boys. Massie mentions it frequently as his developing a cadre of boys, who as men often stepped in to support him, but he doesn’t describe it as vividly as some biographers do. (I especially noticed this when I read a dozen biographies of Catherine the Great and wrote comparative reviews They're on the internet.)
I'm impressed with how war-ridden Europe was across that time. The little city states were constantly sending armies into each other's domains, trying to grab land. The armies did immense damage along the way, and not only in trying to feed themselves. They also gratuitously killed people and/or burned whole towns and cities to the ground.
The author takes the reader on some unexpected side trips. He does mini-bios of other major figures of the day, such as King Louis XIV of France, whose love of opulence influences what we describe as elegant even today, and King Charles XII of Sweden, who was for many years Peter’s mortal enemy. He describes life in the Turkish sultan's harem. (Wonder how he learned that?) Torture was common; Massie does not spare us the details.
PG’s interests encompassed everything, practical as well as theoretical, and he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty. Since he wanted very much to have a navy (he was pretty much the only person in Russia who did), we get a peek at the state of naval art at the time. To secure the area around St. Petersburg, he used galleys!
Massie not only gives a vivid bio of this influential historical person; he helps us understand Europe as it struggled to enter the modern era.
The quality of Frederick Davidson's reading is excellent; solidly professional. He needed to speak lines/ names that were Russian, German, and French, which many readers could not have done as well. I wish his voice would have been more modulated, but there was little soft about Peter the Great.
I really tried listening to this book. I probably lasted 2 1/2 hours or so listening on a long drive, but I finally had to give up. This narration is so dry and mono-toned that I finally had to give up. My apologies to the author, because based on the reviews on Amazon, I'm sure this is a great book, but I may never know.
Yes, the thick, nasally accent of the english narrator diminishes the listening experience and sometimes gets annoying when listening about the "t-sar", but it's not as bad as people say. The book is VERY long and somewhat slow, but as an American, it is interesting to learn about the history of a great country/dynasty we are taught nothing about. It seems Peter the Great and those after brought Russia out of the "dark ages" and was responsible for much of the great monuments and estates that still exist there. Somewhat of an Alexander the Great who created a more modern day Roman empire in a way. Overall a pretty good book about his reign with a decent amount of background history before his rule. The part about his "secret" travels to Europe while still a young man to learn "Western" practices and concepts was particularly interesting. I can only rate it 3 stars because it is just too slow moving and the narrator detracts from it. An abridged version with a different narrator might be 5-star material.
I decided to use my time being laid up to get smarter! In 18 months I've listened to over 200 books, mostly history, literature & biography.
Saint Petersburg's founding
There's too much to digest.
Massie takes the time to fully introduce the peers of Peter The Great along with their countries and how interconnected they were. I never knew how powerful Sweden was or how influential Dutch merchants were. I wanted to delve into Russian history and now my favorite European historical figure is Peter because he was tireless in his effort to make his country a leader in trade, navy, and power. His curiosity in how everything worked was refreshing.
If you are interested in history, this is a great read because peter the great is a fascinating character. The book is extremely well researched and balances creating a narrative and relating history very well.
The narrator has a very clear voice that is easy to listen to.
The narrator is too ponderous. The subject matter doesn't necessarily mean that every word is of equal import.
Most educational. Almost gruelingly so.
Similar to "John Adams" for the important historical information each imparts.
I liked the timbre of the voice…but the heavy, heavy formal British accent almost killed me. I got so fatigued, after a while, listening to Mr. Davidson's drawn, then clipped, drawn again King's English I felt compelled to ask my imaginary Pat Sajak if I could buy an R. Picture Professor Henry Higgins giving diction lessons to Rex Harrison. The cure, turns out, is small doses.
The descriptions of torture. I cried.
Take your medicine…in small doses.
The book if a full and colorful history of Peter the Great. Frederick Davidson is one of the best narrators I have ever listened to.
No. It's very long.
This is an extraordinary story of an extraordinary person who moved an entire country ahead at least 100 years from the position in civilization in which he inherited rulership.
Few people have had such impact on their society. Only the name of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk comes to mind in recent times. Theodore Roosevelt may have moved the USA ahead a decade and perhaps Abraham Lincoln moved the the USA ahead several decades but Peter moved his country at least a century.
The voice of the reader is excellent and he does well with phrases and names in many languages.
My only complaint is in the production of this book and many others. It is impossible for a reader to adequately mimic the voice of a child or member of the opposite sex and particularly such very different people with significant foreign accents. That is an impossible task and should be replaced by a reader of the proper sex or age for quotations. This reader does as good a job as most other readers but even the worlds best reader is inadequate when given such a task.
No time to read best sellers, but I love listening to books on tape while driving.
Had a hard time understanding the narrators british accent. His reading was so boring I fell asleep several times.
Interesting take on Russian history
No. It's pretty comprehensive.