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Catherine the Great Audiobook

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

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Publisher's Summary

The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.

Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into Empress of Russia by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant mind and an insatiable curiosity as a young woman, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers and, when she reached the throne, attempted to use their principles to guide her rule of the vast and backward Russian empire. She knew or corresponded with the preeminent historical figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette, and, surprisingly, the American naval hero, John Paul Jones.

Reaching the throne fired by Enlightenment philosophy and determined to become the embodiment of the “benevolent despot” idealized by Montesquieu, she found herself always contending with the deeply ingrained realities of Russian life, including serfdom. She persevered, and for thirty-four years the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution that swept across Europe. Her reputation depended entirely on the perspective of the speaker. She was praised by Voltaire as the equal of the greatest of classical philosophers; she was condemned by her enemies, mostly foreign, as “the Messalina of the north.”

©2011 Robert K. Massie (P)2011 Random House

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (1119 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Michael moscow, Russia 11-11-12
    Michael moscow, Russia 11-11-12
    ratings
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    "SPECTACULAR"
    Where does Catherine the Great rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is the 2nd best out of the about 20 audiobook I have 'read.' The only one I enjoyed more was 'Born to Run.'


    What did you like best about this story?

    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!


    Which scene was your favorite?

    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.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    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


    Any additional comments?

    The narrator was among the best I have come across.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellen 11-05-12
    Ellen 11-05-12 Member Since 2017
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    "Great non-fiction book"
    What did you love best about Catherine the Great?

    Even though this was non fiction, the book flowed and moved very quickly. Not to heavy and very interesting.


    What about Mark Deakins’s performance did you like?

    I liked the reader, although a British accent might have been an added plus.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    She was truly an interesting person, who led a most extraordinary life!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie 10-15-12
    Julie 10-15-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Fabulous Book"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely wonderful book, great story and was a great book to hear as an audio.<br/>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.


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

    No, I wish I could find another one that was so good.


    What does Mark Deakins bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    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.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tropics Falls Church, VA 10-08-12
    Tropics Falls Church, VA 10-08-12 Member Since 2017
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    "Outstanding"

    This book came as a complete surprise to me. Because of its length I expected it to have boring sections, but this was not the case. It was fascinating through out.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leslie 10-01-12
    Leslie 10-01-12
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    "Couldn't put it down"
    Would you listen to Catherine the Great again? Why?

    The writing is very clear and I got it the first time.


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

    Some of the histories by David McCullough. Well told stories and informative.


    What does Mark Deakins bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Clarity and natural expression, rhythm.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I take joy in learning.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Megan Walnut Creek, CA, United States 09-17-12
    Megan Walnut Creek, CA, United States 09-17-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Thorough and engaging biography"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    VMC Seattle 09-05-12
    VMC Seattle 09-05-12
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    "Amazing!! Great storytelling."
    Where does Catherine the Great rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top 3. It makes me sit longer in my car just to hear a few more minutes before going in to work.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Catherine the Great?

    N/a


    What does Mark Deakins bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Comfortable voice and articulation is wonderful!


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I cheered for Catherine!


    Any additional comments?

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suman Amarnath Hyderabad, India 08-31-12
    Suman Amarnath Hyderabad, India 08-31-12 Member Since 2012

    Suman Amarnath

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    "A Compelling Read"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Augusta, GA, United States 08-27-12
    Kim Augusta, GA, United States 08-27-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Good Listen"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Holbrook coastal North Carolina 08-20-12
    Karen Holbrook coastal North Carolina 08-20-12 Member Since 2009

    Dixie Kangaroo

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    "Fascinating Childhood"
    What did you love best about Catherine the Great?

    Her strange relationship with her husband, Peter III


    What did you like best about this story?

    The section about her courtship and early marriage.


    Have you listened to any of Mark Deakins’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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