Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie


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.





In a nutshell:

I read it in: the original English

I liked it:     Yes      

For people who like: royalty, biographies, European history

My thoughts: 

“Catherine the Great” starts before the birth of Sophia (later Catherine) and tells us a lot about the background of her mother and father, which is important to understand later events. The first part of the story until Catherine’s accession to the throne is told chronologically, whereas from then on it is told in a mix of chronological and topical. At first I thought I might not like this topical approach, but it turned out to be the much better way.

A lot of topics, like for example the Turkish war, Pugachev’s rebellion or her relationship with Potemkin could be understood much better when told in one big chunk instead of split up in between other events. Often certain situations were mentioned later again in passing when it came to that moment in the chronological timeline. This helped to see why something happened without having to digress into long explanations.

External events like the French Revolution were given quite a bit of room to make the reader understand Catherine’s actions that sometimes contradicted her own previous beliefs. The story was structured very well and left nothing to be desired. It brought all the characters, not only Catherine herself, to life. It was not only extremely informative but also very entertaining.

For readers who want to know more facts about Catherine the Great, her time and her contemporaries this is the book to go to.

Location: Mostly St. Petersburg, Russia

Map St. Petersburg, Russia Peter the Great

Images from Google maps & wikipedia

Product info and buy link :

Title Catherine the Great
Author Robert K. Massie
Publisher Random House
ISBN 978-0679456728
I got this book from Random House Early Bird Read
Buy link Buy Catherine the Great


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

4 Comments Write a comment

    • Ally, I will have a look at them thanks!
      Right now I am reading Winter Palace, also about Catherine, but more fictional that this one.


  1. I have read all of his prior books and I hope to read this one next year-I like to read works also on lesser known royals


    • I was thinking of maybe reading Nicholas and Alexandra next. I agree, though, sometimes lesser known royals make for interesting reading, too.


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