I loved this book! It made the history of Russia come alive for me.
and a penny for your thoughts
This was better than reading a straight up history book. Mark Deakins was a fine choice as a narrator since this was straight up history, not much of a story.
That being said, Catherine the great story certainly doesn't need a lot of embellishment. So, all in all I give this 3 stars because while I did listen to the entire book, it was rather boring at times and I did not look forward to listening but thought of it more as something I wanted to check off my bucket list and get done.
I couldn't finish this even though I was reading it for book club. Might have been Ok as paper book because it goes faster. I have friends who say the middle section is fascinating.
Overall, this is a well crafted biography on one of the most interesting characters on European history. Robert Massie sets the stage well, and the story up to the point of Catherine assuming the throne is superb.
The second half, on her reign, is divided into sections on various topics -- her favorites, her wars, her art, etc. -- and this section can be a little hard to follow and occasionally repetitious.
Overall, though, an excellent read.
I was entranced with Catherine's story and learned so much about history. While very long, I enjoyed it very much. Massie helped me understand the time and the people deeply. Deakins told the story beautifully. I will look for more of Massie's work.
Not as good as Peter the Great, but an interesting followup to that book and worth reading.
Catherine's personality was a perfect anchor amid the huge cast of characters - there were times when I would forget the specifics of one person or another, but I always felt like Massie did a great job connecting them all back to Catherine. Similarly, the book was excellent as an audio book because Massie kept everything moving forward at a good pace. Aside from a rather lengthy foray into the topic of the Guillotine, I thought the scale, speed, detail, and language of this book were excellent. Also, there were minimal notes in the text, which is a relief after some annotation-packed biographies I've read.
I thought Mark Deakins did an OK job with the characters. I admired a lot of his accents for the various foreign characters, and Diderot's personality in particular came through in the voice acting. However, my major hangup with this book was how silly Deakins' voice for Catherine was. I don't know if it's because he's a man or what, but his version of her could really throw me off.
I loved this biography, and I would definitely read more of Massie's work about Russia. He presents history and facts very clearly and obviously has a lot of respect for Catherine the Great. His portrayal of her was very fair, and I loved hearing about her weaknesses as much as her strengths. Too often, women are assigned some sort of archetype to adhere to, but Massie treated Catherine just as history often treats men - with great scope and attention to her idiosyncrasies and the influences that shaped her.
Amazing how fate would have it that capital become one of the greatest leaders of the Russian aristocracy and the monarchy during many troubled decades in Russia. Story upon story abounds in this book of her and her court, the man she loved, and the men that love her. She did a lot of traveling in Russia, and you can only imagine the difficulties of traveling in that day when there was no modern conveniences to transverse the hundreds and thousands of miles that are needed in order to see Russia and all the cities and provinces that she ruled over. There was recently a movie about her however the movie was only a couple of hours it would take a definite miniseries and a large magnitude to ever amplify all the efforts achievements and affairs that transpired during her reign. This is a story worth reading listening to if you've never studied this subject it will certainly enlighten you as to, there's a lot more going on in Russia than you think.
I would recommend it highly to anyone interested in Catherine the Great. Massie's research is astounding. The book reads like a novel.
He changes his voice according to who he is quoting...male voice, voice with various European accents, etc.
Same as title