Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman - Robert K. Massie Robert K. Massie makes Catherine the Great come to life as he traces her beginnings as the German Princess Sophia to her ending as Russian Empress Catherine II. He demonstrates their personalities through their actions as he describes their reactions to the circumstances around them.

The story itself is really long. Massie follows Catherine and her immediate family at first, mostly focusing on Catherine and her mother. Then as he expands on Catherine's life, he focuses on Empress Elizabeth and Peter, Catherine's husband. Next, he describes the personalities of Catherine's lovers and her relationships with foreign powers and her own people. He also describes how Catherine felt about herself and her policies. For the most part, Massie stays on topic and when he does stray, the tangents are mostly relevant. As the book progresses, however, the tangents seem less helpful. There are long passages of text from letters and journals, that while interesting to some people, the passages don't always add to the story of the book. The book would've been shorter if he only wrote about Catherine's life.

Catherine is depicted as a powerful woman calling the shots, and at the same time she's depicted as human. We watch her mistakes as she tries to keep what she thinks she's entitled to. It's interesting to notice that Catherine has her own ideas about how a country should be ruled but eventually falls back to the status quo. Her journey is worth a read for those who are interested in Russian history or in Court Life of royals.

There are maps and portraits of some of the countries and people that Massie mentions. All of the images are at the front of the book. It would've been nice if they were dispersed throughout the book, but that would've been more expensive for the publisher.