Prize-winning historian and biographer, Carolly Erickson has created an eminently readable biography that recognizes the humanity of Great Catherine—Empress of Russia—with her majesty and immense capability. Dispelling some of the myths surrounding her voracious sexual appetite, the biographer portrays Catherine as a lonely woman far ahead of her time—achieving greatness in an era when women were executed on a husband’s whim.
©1994 Carolly Erickson (P)1995 Recorded Books, LLC
Love fiction--classic to light, serious to comedic. Selective non-fiction. These days lots of mysteries (not too violent, please :-)
I don't usually read biographies, but noticed this and thought I'd listen--especially since the wonderful Davina Porter was reading it. Was not disappointed by either the story or the narration--both were simply magnetic! I listened almost non-stop (despite it's length).
Learning more about Catherine the Great really gave me a new sense of admiration for her. She was brought to the court to marry Peter at a very young age. She dealt with terrible conditions--was frequently treated badly by even Johanna, her own mother. Her relationship with her future mother-in-law (Empress Elizabeth) was quite interesting--a woman who would unpredictably treat her as though she was the most important woman in the world, shower her with gifts and attention, then inexplicably turn against her. Notably--when her son Paul was born, Elizabeth took him away from Catherine so she could shower all her love and attention on him, leaving Catherine a grieving post-partum mother without her child.
Her relationship with her husband Peter was equally interesting--as she largely found him unbearable. This led to her having affairs (which could possibly have resulted in her pregnancies). They were married, but Peter often treated her cruelly. He was killed after a coup and Catherine became Empress in her own right. She ruled during a magnificent time--"the Golden Age" of Russia, and accomplished great things during her reign.
Much of the book comes from Catherine's own memoirs. She was a woman of education and culture, and spoke about changes she brought about in the Russian court through her connections with people like Voltaire. She also seems to have described many instances of being ill--close to death, and one wonders at her stamina and resilience that she lived through so many crises.
This book reads like a novel--it feels pretty seamless (not a put together biography that reads in a choppy fashion). If you never knew it was a biography you might just think you were reading an excellent work of fiction--except it is not. I found this book fascinating--and truly recommend it!
Mother of three, grandmother of two, work full time as a labor and delivery nurse and love to listen to books while I am doing other things.
I enjoy reading historical works and I had heard some of the sorted legends about Catherine the Great so I was excited to read this biography. She was a very strong willed woman and I really enjoyed hearing her story come to life. I found the reader extremely enjoyable and the story kept my interest and even though it was a long book....I got through it in only a few days as I looked for time to listen.
Catherine the Great, was an impressive woman. She was brilliant, studied seriously, and made a significant impact on Russia and it's people. She was also somewhat scandalous. This book covers her life and Russian history from her birth (in Prussia) in 1729 to her death in 1796. It's a great read, engaging and fast paced and full of fascinating details about life at court, the living conditions in Moscow and St Petersburg and her relationship with other thinkers and leaders of the time. I enjoyed it and learned from it.
Among the best.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book and was disappointed when it ended.That this book was taken from Catherines' actual memoirs was particularly intriguing. The book highlighted her frailties, remarkable strengths and basic needs as a woman needing to be loved by men, her children and her subjects. A grand life in Russian proportions.
I thoroughly enjoyed her sympathetic narration.
In this book we learn a great deal about Catherine's romances, anguish, unhappy moments, as well as her elegant wardrobe, but rather little about the political, diplomatic and social issues she faced and how she handled them.
Wow. That sums up my reaction to the person Catherine was. Knowing she eventually became Empress and ruled for decades, all through the story of her horrible childhood and worse situation as Peter III’s wife, I longed for her to take revenge. Of course being the judicious, self-possessed and level-headed person she was, she did no such thing. Not directly anyway. Her wit, success and lasting legacy are revenge enough. Just where are her haughty great-aunt-in-law or vicious husband now in the collective consciousness? Nowhere and nobodies. Catherine was Great and she is remembered.
Not perfect though, and I think Erickson did her best to reveal Catherine’s flaws as well as her strengths, though I think the overall goal was to show a woman who succeeded against a state and a system designed to keep her down and relegate her to failure. Davina Porter did a great job with all the personal and place names, too. No mean feat.
Davina Porter could make anything interesting - even a laundry list! That said, the author has done a wonderful job with the subject matter and it's an enjoyable read.
It provided some historical perspective, albeit one-sided. Also, the story seemed to bounce around. Sometimes I wasn't sure what period I was hearing about. Maybe I lost track through disinterest or distraction
I'm not sure how I would spoil an historical account...
I don't think she actually did. I think she probably interfered with imagination
I'd like to see an even-handed biography of the husband, Peter.
This was too biased for my taste. I didn't think it was an historical account so much as a glorification.
I live on a tiny river in NC on the southeastern coast. I'm a voracious reader & listener - also photographer and potter.
I really wanted to like this book and I did finish it, but it was so dry - listening to it definitely made it a better "read" than having read it. Davina Porter does a wonderful job of narrating and makes it all the more interesting but as I got deeper and deeper into the story, it is so obvious that Carolly Erickson, even though she did quite a bit of research, just strung together the letters and history that was recorded. I felt absolutely no compassion for any of the characters at all. I have to admit to some prurient interest in the rumors which the author does touch upon briefly .. as in "the empress had a strong sexual appetite" or something like that. But the book does not encourage the listener to form strong opinions about any of the characters. In fact, I got more information reading about them through Wikipedia than I did in this story. I really enjoy historical novels but this one doesn't come close to Hilary Mantel's fabulous books. They are gripping, fascinating, and full of detail. This book is dry and full of detail but more like a history text than like a really good read. Too bad.
I didn't read the print version.
The moment she rushed to the capital to present herself as the new Sovereign.
She allowed the story to just flow out in a manner that kept it compelling and she seemed to have an amazing ability to accentuate things in just the way they should be at the time they should be.
An amazing story told expertly with much of it being based on Catherine's own diaries. One of the most amazing leaders in the history of Europe.
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