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Catherine the Great: portrait of a woman

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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."

Catherine's family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies--all are here, vividly described. These included her ambitious, perpetually scheming mother; her weak, bullying husband, Peter (who left her lying untouched beside him for nine years after their marriage); her unhappy son and heir, Paul; her beloved grandchildren; and her "favorites"--the parade of young men from whom she sought companionship and the recapture of youth as well as sex. Here, too, is the giant figure of Gregory Potemkin, her most significant lover and possible husband, with whom she shared a passionate correspondence of love and separation, followed by seventeen years of unparalleled mutual achievement.

The story is superbly told. All the special qualities that Robert K. Massie brought to Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great are present here: historical accuracy, depth of understanding, felicity of style, mastery of detail, ability to shatter myth, and a rare genius for finding and expressing the human drama in extraordinary lives.

History offers few stories richer in drama than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, this eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Grouping Information

Grouped Work ID ccdbe825-77a7-f667-ce23-723c4da5842b
Full title catherine the great portrait of a woman
Author massie robert k
Grouping Category book
Last Update 2018-05-24 23:05:25PM
Last Indexed 2018-05-24 23:41:04PM

Solr Details

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auth_author2 Deakins, Mark.
author Massie, Robert K., 1929-
author2-role Deakins, Mark.
author_display Massie, Robert K
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display_description Presents a reconstruction of the eighteenth-century empress's life that covers her efforts to engage Russia in the cultural life of Europe, her creation of the Hermitage, and her numerous scandal-free romantic affairs.
format_catalog Book, CD audio book, Large Print, eAudiobook, eBook
format_category_catalog Audio Books, Books, eBook
id ccdbe825-77a7-f667-ce23-723c4da5842b
isbn 141045021, 9780307970213, 9780307970220, 9780679456728, 9781410450210, 9781588360441
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last_indexed 2018-05-25T04:41:04.989Z
lexile_score -1
literary_form Non Fiction
literary_form_full Non Fiction
local_callnumber_catalog B C3632m, B C3632m Large Type, CD AUDIO B C3632m
owning_library_catalog Nashville Public Library
owning_location_catalog Bellevue, Bellevue Kids, Edmondson Pike, Edmondson Pike Kids, Green Hills, Green Hills Kids, Main Kids, Main Library, Old Hickory
primary_isbn 9780679456728
publishDate 2011, 2012
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series Thorndike Press large print basic
series_with_volume Thorndike Press large print basic|
subject_facet Audiobooks, Catherine -- II, -- Empress of Russia, -- 1729-1796, Empresses -- Russia -- Biography, Large type books, Russia -- History -- Catherine II, 1762-1796, Russia -- Kings and rulers -- Biography
title_display Catherine the Great : portrait of a woman
title_full Catherine the Great : portrait of a woman / Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman, Catherine the Great [sound recording] : [portrait of a woman] / by Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great [text (large print)] : portrait of a woman / by Robert K. Massie
title_short Catherine the Great :
title_sub portrait of a woman
topic_facet Audiobooks, Biography & Autobiography, Catherine, Empresses, History, Kings and rulers, Large type books, Nonfiction