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Publisher's Summary

This superbly told story brings to life one of the most remarkable rulers––and men––in all of history and conveys the drama of his life and world. The Russia of Peter's birth was very different from the Russia his energy, genius, and ruthlessness shaped. Crowned co-Tsar as a child of ten, after witnessing bloody uprisings in the streets of Moscow, he would grow up propelled by an unquenchable curiosity, everywhere looking, asking, tinkering, and learning, fired by Western ideas.

We see Peter in his 20s traveling "incognito" with his ambassadors to the courts of Europe; as the victorious soldier proclaimed Emperor; as the simple workman at his forge; and as the visionary statesman who single-handedly created a formidable world power. Impetuous and stubborn, bawdy and stern, relentless in his perseverance, he was capable of the greatest generosity and the greatest cruelty.

©1980 Robert K. Massie (P)1991 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Enthralling.... As fascinating as any novel and more so than most!" (New York Times Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Story

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  • Adam
  • IRVING, TX, United States
  • 10-26-11

Very good

This is a very good book. It covers a critically important topic in history that is often neglected, and does it in good detail with great prose. One thing in particular I liked about it was that on several occasions it discusses some other events going on in Europe at the time, and is thus even more informative than it would be otherwise.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Abby
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 08-08-11

Engaging, easy to follow, and well narrated.

Mr. Massie's book is very engaging and flows with an easy narrative. The scenes and people are very well described, giving the reader a rich visual and psychological picture of Peter the Great's Russia. He does a great job of detailing not only great events but also such things as interior and exterior architecture, hairstyles, crime statistics, the different materials shoes were made of, what contemporary maps looked like, food eaten by peasants and at court, and etc. He also does great service to describing the situation of women in general but also the specific details of women whose lives came to bear on the story of Peter and current events. The many characters and parties are easy to keep track of, and all in all this book is a clear picture of the life and times of Peter the Great. The narration was clear and engaging - though I find that British accents can be sometimes hard to understand, I had no such problem with this audiobook. I would recommend this for any person, not only Russophiles or history buffs.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Susan
  • poplarville, MS, United States
  • 11-06-11

detailed history

this was one of those books I'd read many years before, and found it to be wonderfully interesting, and got me started liking history in general. Peter was such an intriguing character - and I was glad to see it offered in audible form. It is, however quite detailed, and if you are not interested in how military battles commence, then maybe this is not for you. I do recommend it however, for its insight into not just Peter, but Russian life at the time.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 09-08-13

Accurate title

His life and WORLD indeed. This is much more than a detailed biography of a fascinating man. Massie includes extensive character studies of every major figure on the European scene during Peter's rule, with major digressions into the social and political landscape in which they operated. The result is a sweeping appraisal of the age in Russia and its European and Ottoman environs, filled with evocative detail which brings it all to life. I found it most convenient to listen in fairly small bites over a long period of time and enjoyed the book extremely. Some of this history was fairly new to me, and following the peripatetic and much larger than life Peter through his extraordinary life was a great way to get to know it.

There is a good deal of military and campaign narrative in the book for which it is helpful to have some maps close at hand. The writing is of such a high caliber, however, that even those who are bored by military history will likely find enough colorful detail, along with glimpses of a plethora of intriguing characters of all stripes, to maintain interest. And in the end this is definitely not a book dominated by battles. Even in a narrative which is so wide ranging and all encompassing, only one subject dominates--the towering personage of Peter.

My only regret about this huge book is that so much of it will pass out of my memory in short order. Perhaps in a few years I will listen again, and that is high praise about so long a book from a person who almost never rereads.

Finally, though the book is decades old, written before the end of the Soviet Union, it still stands up very well, even read by Frederick Davidson in his sometimes irritatingly mannered style. I recommend it highly to any fan of well written popular history.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent Book!

This audio version of a fantastic book is perfect. The narrator is grand, capable of pronouncing russian names without a problem, and keeping the right rythm, not reading to slow or to quickly.
The book is written, grouping the events and actions surrounding certain persons or places, or stages and attitudes of Peter's life, into chapters. It does not progress chronologically from event to event, be they unrelated, that the reader would soon feel themselves asking "who is he? and how does he relate?" It is excellently structured, it reads well. I give it a top notch rating.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

My Favorite HIstorian!

Here is another example of a masterful storyteller and historian at work. The Massie histories read like personal biographies—amply supported by contemporary letters and memoirs, they furnish memorable and personal accounts of the time. You will be much enriched by this book, as well as all others that Massie has authored.

Here one learns a number of unforgettable and vivid stories about Peter the Great. For example, his frequent habit of traveling abroad “incognito” in order to satisfy his insatiable curiosity about the technology and culture of the lands he visited without the waste of time and needless formality that he would have encountered on an official visit as Czar of Russia. A man of restless energy and great ambition, he recognized early on that Russia must learn from the West, rather than stay isolated in its own traditions (a lesson the current leader, Mr. Putin, might well ponder anew). We also learn that Peter was a man of good luck. His great victory over the Swedish King Karl XII was nearly thrown away two years later when the Ottoman Turks in loose alliance with the Swedes were in a position to destroy the bulk of Peter’s army and likely would have had Karl been on the scene. Instead, a very mild peace was agreed by a Turkish commander who did not fully understand the strength of his position.

You will enjoy this book for the many great insights on the period brought alive by personal stories, apt descriptions, and extremely well informed commentary of Mr. Massie, all supported by meticulous research and a very rare talent for interesting and engaging writing.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Let's Invite Peter for Dinner

How many times has someone asked, "If you could meet any historical figure . . ." and you had so many names flash before your eyes, you couldn't make a decision? Well, Peter the Great is Numero Uno for me after having listened to this book. He not only dragged Russia into the modern world, he was a wild man, with boundless curiosity, intelligence, and energy. He didn't care about society's dictates. He didn't care about ceremony, tradition, or rituals.He mocked courtly behavior and the Church. In many ways he was like an out-of-control fraternity boy. He drank too much and partied to the point where no one could keep up with him. At 6'7", he traveled throughout Europe "incognito," not wanting royalty to acknowledge him as he visited their country to learn all he could to improve the life of his countrymen.

This book does not limit itself to Peter the Great. It's about his era, and it was fascinating. I can't recommend it enough.

As for the narrator, is it possible this man lisps, and no one ever noticed?!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Most annoying narrator ever.

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The narration was so terrible, I had to steal myself before returning to the book each time. It's unfortunate, as the story itself is well-written, engrossing, and informative of this period in history.

What other book might you compare Peter the Great to and why?

I loved Catherine the Great by this same author and narrated by Mark Deakins. I was hoping to derive similar enjoyment from this book.

How could the performance have been better?

The author has the most nasally voice imaginable. Little to no variation in his inflection and words run together and fade off at the end of sentences making it a chore to understand what he's even saying.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Yes.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Roger
  • South Orange, NJ, United States
  • 09-12-11

Thorough and well told biography

This is an exhaustively researched and incredibly detailed look at Peter’s life, the influences on him, and the results of his actions. It is a well organized and well told story. Massie does a good job placing Peter’s life in the context of his times. He also begins several tantalizing discussions about the longer-term effects of Peter’s life, such as changes to balance of power calculations in Europe and, following Solzhenitsyn, the effects of the subordination of the Russian church to the government. Such discussions are fascinating, but not fully developed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A treat and a pleasure.

I take exception to the first reviewer's comments about the quality of the narration. I find Davidson's narration to be nuanced and enjoyable, and think it's a treat to experience Massie's thrilling biography as an audiobook. As I prepare for the publication of Massie's biography of Catherine the Great in the fall of 2011, it's a true pleasure to reencounter this classic work of biography/history as read by this accomplished narrator.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful