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