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  • Catherine the Great

  • Portrait of a Woman
  • By: Robert K. Massie
  • Narrated by: Mark Deakins
  • Length: 23 hrs and 52 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (219 ratings)
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Catherine the Great cover art

Catherine the Great

By: Robert K. Massie
Narrated by: Mark Deakins
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Summary

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An “absorbing” (Los Angeles Times) biography of one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in Russian history—from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs

“[A] compelling portrait not just of a Russian titan, but also of a flesh-and-blood woman.”—
Newsweek

ONE OF
ESQUIRE’S BEST BIOGRAPHIES OF ALL TIME • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Salon, Vogue, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Providence Journal

Robert K. Massie returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure German princess who became Catherine the Great. Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into empress of Russia by sheer determination. 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. Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly brought to life. History offers few stories richer than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, an eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.

©2011 Robert K. Massie (P)2011 Random House

Critic reviews

“What Catherine the Great offers is a great story in the hands of a master storyteller.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“What a woman, what a world, what a biography.” (USA Today)

“[Massie] hasn’t lost his mojo. . . . A consistently nimble and buoyant performance. . . . [Massie] has always been a biographer with the instincts of a novelist. He understands plot—fate—as a function of character, and the narrative perspective he establishes and maintains, a vision tightly aligned with that of his subject, convinces a reader he’s not so much looking at Catherine the Great as he is out of her eyes. . . . Juicy and suspenseful.” (Kathryn Harrison, The New York Times Book Review)

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What listeners say about Catherine the Great

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Great book about a great woman

I'm a history geek - and proud of it. I like biographies - and this one is among the best I've ever heard. Narration is great, and the book so well written it's hard to put my earplugs away. When I give it four stars instead of five it's due to the fact that there are an overwhelming amount of Russian names - pretty damn hard to keep track at times - especially in the part that describes Catherines coup. Other than that a great read - or ...hear ;D

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7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Very helpful

The book is narrated beautifully and the story helps one understand some parts of today’s happening, but also reveals some of Russia’s inherited cultural wonders. Very nice!

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

What a woman!

Her diaries do bring the first half to life but I didn't really feel like it lagged in the second half as other reviewers have suggested. It's a great story; she's likeable and impressive enough that you root for her throughout; the cast of characters is astonishingly compelling and once her own version of events peters out as a source for the author he draws on plenty of other sources to document a landscape of egomanical European princelings; hyperventilating Russian nobles; a sort of revolving door of lovers; a pantomime villain mother and a husband straight out of Blackadder.

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5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great listen

My history education was really limited to the Roman occupation of Britannia (I live in Bath - Aqua Sulis - so it made some sense) but I wish it had been broadened to include the 18th century as this would have given me a far better understanding of the current political European woes. A great listen and I fully intend to find out more of the 18/19 centuries.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating and detailed history of a remarkable woman living in remarkable times

A window not only into Russian and European history, but the story of a remarkable woman, her life and loves, as she grows from innocent bride into the foremost figure of her times, negotiating the corridors of power and the intricacies of personal relationships, revealing a fully rounded character examined and set amidst a well researched cast of players whose intricate dance of hopes, loves, aspirations, disappointments, frustration and fears make each character fully rounded and engaging. A brilliant and easily accessible biography, of a woman and her times, well researched and engagingly written. The narration was also excellent, in as much it didn't distract from the story... The only times I 'noticed' the narrator was when he used an English accent for the ambassador, although a good accent, I couldn't help 'listening' to his rendition instead of the content!

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating and insightful. A real taste of history.

Slightly distracting narration when doing other people’s voices but you get used to it and it eventually becomes helpful to distinguish the many characters, especially if you’re listening from gaining an overall perspective about this time and listening at x2 speed.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Very interesting

Great book Great narration
This book is very interesting but you have to pay attention because of all the Russian names. I really enjoyed it and will listen again. I feel I now know a lot more about Catherine the Great and more about Russian history.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A game of two halves

I found the second half of the book, after Catherine's personal diaries cease, less engaging than the first when her voice makes the story more alive. I also felt the second half needed editing, the author goes off an tangents as if to make up for this dryness, for example about the history, effectiveness and ethics of the guillotine, which though interesting has very little to do with Catherine and, in these days of Wikipedia can be easily accessed by anyone who cares to know more on the subject.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great historical account

Loved it. I'm a history nerd so while other people listen to thrillers and romance...I listen to history books. This book has awoken an interest in Russian history. Story easy to follow and you get a real sense of the woman Catherine. Narration also good, dramatic where it needed to be.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Not as great as Peter

Easy to listen to. Not as good a book as his other one about Peter but still recommended.

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