It ranks up with the top 5 or 6 in the historical category that I have read as an adult.
The author's other masterpiece - Peter the Great. It is written in a similar voice - rich in details, with lush personal descriptions, both physical and emotional, yet never overdone, never adding his own imaginings to the record. It sticks true to the available historical records and doesn't take liberties with them.
Catherine, of course. Although, much as her husband Peter comes off as a disagreeable man, the author's treatment of him has the ring of reality to it - again, not taking liberties but providing us with information contained in actual records. This is important to me. If i want fiction, I can always choose a novel.
No, this is a long book with a very full story to tell what with the context and setting., and Catherine's long productive life. It is able to be relished in whatever sized bites the reader chooses. I have the feeling I have "something in the bank", knowing it is a long and detailed book that will hold my interest for many listening sessions.
If you liked Peter the Great, you will also like Catherine the Great. It is written in a very similar style. I appreciate the abundance of background information, descriptions of the times and places, yet the author's talent is to provide all that without it being in any way a history lesson. With some books, I just grit my teeth and read the context part, knowing I will want to have that information as I proceed through the story. But with this author, it is woven so skilfully into the story line that it is not just painless, it lends a rich and realistic basis for the movement of the story as it unfolds. It feels so effortless to the reader, but the rarity of this quality in historical books tells me that it takes a rare talent to pull it off.
I am loving getting to know Catherine as the person she was, a woman like any other woman in basic respects, yet possessing admirable qualities that enabled her to make actual progress for countless citizens and to be remembered in the historical record for the good she accomplished. She had an extraordinary ability to be able to lift her head and shoulders above the incredible, suffocating quicksand of the circumstances she lived in, from the start. This is the prized trait of objectivity. It enabled her to never lose sight of the big picture and the overarching goals she carried with her from childhood. These goals were always much bigger than herself. She was blessed with personal strength that allowed her to rise above the nitty gritty type stuff that pulls the rest of us down, and keeps us down. I think this is what separates the average from the great.It seems impossible to me that anyone would dislike this book.
This is the 2nd best out of the about 20 audiobook I have 'read.' The only one I enjoyed more was 'Born to Run.'
I thought this would be boring and difficult to get through and couldnt have been more wrong. Massie is a great storyteller. He makes the history into a narrative that you cant put down. I finished this off in a few weeks and enjoyed every minute of its some 30 hours. You dont have to be a Russia buff to enjoy this either. The book could appeal to any history lover or even someone wanting to read a fairy tale romance!
Catherine's love letters to and from Potemkin represent a real treasure of historical artifacts and show a sophisticated empress having a childish love affair despite her being firmly middle aged at the time.
When Massie declares that Catherine gave up on trying to pressure Russian citizens to embrace enlightenment ideal and instead focused on education and bringing culture
The narrator was among the best I have come across.
Even though this was non fiction, the book flowed and moved very quickly. Not to heavy and very interesting.
I liked the reader, although a British accent might have been an added plus.
She was truly an interesting person, who led a most extraordinary life!
Absolutely wonderful book, great story and was a great book to hear as an audio.
The story of Catherine the Great, sounded like it was made up. She was such an interesting character, her diaries seemed so contemporary. It made me want to meet her.
No, I wish I could find another one that was so good.
It was literally like hearing a story teller tell you the story of Catherine's life. I loved when he read from her diaries and change the timbre of his voice.
It was absolutely wonderful. It made me realize that we are so lucky to have the medical care we have, people dropped like flies, from smallpox, plague, tb. Even the royalty.
The writing is very clear and I got it the first time.
Some of the histories by David McCullough. Well told stories and informative.
Clarity and natural expression, rhythm.
I take joy in learning.
One thing I liked was the way the history was told within the context of other 18th century events in Europe. The scope if this book is quite broad, though, spanning virtually the entire century, and I'd have liked some more depth here and there. So I am left inspired to hear more.
This is a little long, but very well researched and performed. Catherine the Great was a very interesting person, both personally and in terms of what she accomplished for Russia. This really helped me get through some long commute hours - highly recommend!
Top 3. It makes me sit longer in my car just to hear a few more minutes before going in to work.
Comfortable voice and articulation is wonderful!
I cheered for Catherine!
Usually books with Russian names make for tough audiobooks. It's hard to follow their names. But this book is written so well there is no trouble! Wonderful timeline and detailed story of an amazing time in history!
Robert K Massie has now tackled both the giants of Russian History: Peter and Catherine! From her relatively humble beginnings as Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst we begin to see this 18th century monarch sometimes as a present day adolescent, a frustrated wife, a political leader or even a celebrity. Like he did with Peter, Massie weaves in the more mundane aspects of biographical writing - the politics, the policies and the more risque ones with great skill. He is at the top of his oeuvre and it shows. But then this is such great material to work with! If you think of Catherine as the art collector, as the queen with deviant sexual tastes then this book will be a revelation. She comes across as an autocrat but not a despot, an enlightenment enthusiast only more practical and a woman who seeks the company of intelligent men: be it Voltaire or her great lover Potempkin.
The narration by Mark Deakins is, like all good narrations, un-noticeable. His ability to subtly change voices when para phrasing different characters never sounds contrived and by the end you will miss the friendly tone telling a good yarn. And you'll miss Catherine!
Massie really puts the research in to make this the consummate biography about Catherine. I have a new respect for her legacy. Entertaining because I find it fascinating to understand how life was back in her time. Sick? Just bleed 'em!