Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie is the biography of Sophia Augusta, later known as Russian Empress Catherine the Great. It details Sophia's childhood, marriage, children, affairs, rise to power, famed coup, and eventual death. It is based on recorded historical documents and on Catherine's memoirs.
I have never read any other books by Robert K. Massie, but now I'm hooked. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman is one of the most well-researched and compelling biographies that I have read to-date. The history contained in its 600+ pages is phenomenal, and once I started reading I didn't want to stop. Not only was Catherine the Great a strong-willed, clever, and courageous leader, but an amazing woman who was years ahead of her time. The book was laid out in typical biographical format, birth to death, but Massie's mastery of description and detail put the book in another class entirely. I felt like I was reading a gripping fictional account of the empress as she ruled and fought for equality and preservation of the Russian state, instead of a dry biography filled with dates and facts. I was very impressed with the book's pace as well as the depiction of many famous figures, particularly Diderot, Gregory Potemkin, and d'Alembert. I wish I would have had this book handy for my European history class because I truly feel like I have a better understanding of Russia as a country as well as the politics of the time period. I recommend this to history-lovers, history / literature students, and anyone who wants to experience the awe and majesty of Catherine the Great!
Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)
*** I received this ARC from Random House in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.