If you're looking for the one book to pack in your carry-on bag for vacation, this is it. This biography of Catherine the Great from Robert Massie is a hefty volume, worthy of long road trips, quiet country vacations, and weekends dedicated to getting lost in a book. The 574 pages benefit from wide swaths of time that can be spent appreciating this long, complex life story. I was able to read this book while on winter break between semesters and was grateful for a period of (mostly) uninterrupted calm to appreciate the breadth of this biography.
Despite its length and scrupulous detail, Massie's biography does not flag and become overly didactic or formulaic; he appears intent on following every action of Catherine's life, regardless of how small, and on showing these subtle details in the larger scope of her sociopolitical power. He carefully explains and analyzes memoirs, letters, ...
To hear Robert K. Massie talk about the life of Catherine the Great, click on NPR's Weekend Edition feature entitled "Catherine the Great: First She Read, Then She Ruled".
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