Skip to content

March 14, 2017


Catherine the Great

by N@ncy

Author: R. Massie
Title: Catherine the Great
Published: 2011


The author, Robert K. Massie, is the father of a hemophiliac.
This is how he became interested in the Romanov family.
Massie is a writer who majored in history at Yale and Oxford.
He impresses the reader with many details about Catherine’s’ love affairs.

Comment: Let’s be honest, information about a person’s love life
appeals to many readers especially female.
Massie was following the golden rule: ‘give them what they want’.


The book is written in the third person with the narrator being the author.
It is written in a straightforward objective matter but it reads like a novel.
The facts are presented without much emotion.
Weak point: The author’s personal views very rarely come across.

Comment: Because the reader always knows what happens next
…that is why psychological insight in a history book is so important.
If you want to read a very good historian,
I suggest reading Mme S. Bertière.
Her book The Indomitable Marie-Antoinette has been translated into English.

Strong point: Massie humanizes the Catharine  for the reader
by revealing her intelligence and sharp-wit.
She educates herself (learns Russian quickly) because
she knows she is only a pawn on the chessboard of power.
She must please Empress Elisabeth (mother-in-law) at all costs.


Robert Massie’s  Catherine the Great  consists of
7 parts, 73 chapters.
The basic elements are included:
early reign, reforms, war and revolt, domestic and foreign affairs.

Comment: the first 26 chapters could have been reduced to one long chapter:
Catherine’s early life, marriage and the nine years waiting to give birth to an heir.

Weak point: Massie has lost an opportunity to write an impressive biography
by including too much superficial details about:
makeup, coiffure, dresses, jewels,  carriages, harness and horses.
wedding preparations, ceremony with candles, icons and incense.
the approaching nuptial night and Catherine’s pink nightgown.

The author conducted basic research necessary to produce a biography.
I would have preferred a more in-depth glimpse into the Catherine’s  soul.
This is a good book..just not a great one.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 14 2017

    I’m loving your new style Nancy, it’s very fresh! I didn’t know this reads like a novel. You’re right about the superficial details watering down a good biography, especially as Catherine was called ‘the Great’ due to her policies and reforms. I like your bit on the perspective and author history too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mar 14 2017

      It was a difficult decision to remove my previous blog and many if not all the reviews. No one is going to wade through an archive ‘drop down menu’ over the past 5 years…not even me! It is important to look ahead and write in the present. I felt bogged down in the old blog.
      I’ve learned to keep the writing simple, analyse and try to find some gem of insight worth sharing. Your posts on ‘Shropshire Girl’ were a good example! Thanks so much for your comments!


  2. Mar 14 2017

    I don’t do well with non-fiction (and maybe only because I don’t try enough of it). Sounds like interesting subject matter, but written more like social history than about the woman herself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mar 14 2017

      Very true….it is not one of my favorite biographies. I can suggest 3 that really are worth reading:
      Thea Astley (Australian writer) by K Lamb), Updike (American writer) (A. Begley) and De Kooning (Dutch abstract expressionist artist who made his fame in NYC) by (M. Stevens). Thanks for commenting on the ‘new blog’ !


  3. Louise
    Apr 23 2017

    I thought I had lost you! New look!

    I have to get up to speed on this site.


    • Apr 23 2017

      I took an extended break and gave the blog a ‘face-lift’



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.