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Great Catherine: The Life of Catherine the…

Great Catherine: The Life of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia (1995)

by Carolly Erickson

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Wow. That sums up my reaction to the person Catherine was. Knowing she eventually became Empress and ruled for decades, all through the story of her horrible childhood and worse situation as Peter III’s wife, I longed for her to take revenge. Of course being the judicious, self-possessed and level-headed person she was, she did no such thing. Not directly anyway. Her wit, success and lasting legacy are revenge enough. Just where are her haughty great-aunt-in-law or vicious husband now in the collective consciousness? Nowhere and nobodies. Catherine was Great and she is remembered.

Not perfect though, and I think Erickson did her best to reveal Catherine’s flaws as well as her strengths, though I think the overall goal was to show a woman who succeeded against a state and a system designed to keep her down and relegate her to failure. ( )
1 vote Bookmarque | Apr 7, 2014 |
This book was well done! Clear, concise and easily read it opened a window on a far different time and place.Catherine was a strong woman in a man's world with the wit, wisdom and drive to succeed against all odds. Her early years in the court of Empress Elizabeth were like a tight rope walker's without a safety net.

Chosen by Elizabeth to wed Peter III, she was stuck in a loveless marriage which was never consummated and blamed for the lack of an heir. Encouraged to produce an heir by whatever means, she did so with the 'help' of a courtier. Peter recognized the child as his until later years when he wished to dispose of Catherine.

After years of study and waiting in constant fear of being put aside or murdered, on Elizabeth's death, Catherine was ready to rule in place of her husband who wasted no time in offending and running rough shod over everyone. In spite of being blamed for his death, she went on to a long and successful rule, continuing the work of Peter the Great in bringing Russia to the forefront of Europe. ( )
1 vote cfk | Jun 24, 2011 |
Erickson’s meticulously researched and delightfully well-written works have made me a huge fan of this Columbia University historian. I absolutely loved this biography of Catherine the Great of Russia, whose startlingly unconventional lifestyle made her one of Russia’s most enlightened and progressive rulers. Once again, Erickson’s sympathetic but rigorous inspection of the most intimate details of Catherine’s life makes me feel as though everything I had learned previously about this Empress of All the Russias paled in comparison to the wealth of interesting and informative facets Erickson so deftly presents to her readers. ( )
1 vote RachelfromSarasota | Jun 9, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312135033, Paperback)

From the moment the fourteen-year-old Princess Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst agreed to marry the heir to the Russian throne, she was mired in a quicksand of intrigue. Precociously intelligent, self-confident, and attractive but with a stubborn, wayward streak, Sophia withstood a degree of emotional battering that would have broken a weaker spirit until at last she emerged, triumphant over her many enemies, as Empress Catherine II of Russia.

Her achievements as empress were prodigious. She brought vast new lands under Russian rule. She raised the prestige of Russia in Europe. She began the process of imposing legal and political order on the chaos she inherited from her predecessors. Yet few historical figures have been so enthusiastically vilified as Catherine the Great. Whispers that she had ordered her husband's murder grew to murmurs that she was an immoral woman and finally to shouts that she was a depraved, lust-crazed nymphomaniac. With deft mastery of historical narrative and an unsurpassed ability to make the past live again, Carolly Erickson uncovers the real woman behind the tarnished image—an indomitable, feisty, often visionary ruler who, in an age of caveats and constraints, blithely went her own way.

Great Catherine reveals the complexities of this great ruler's nature, her craving for love, her insecurities, the inevitable sorrows and disappointments of a strong empress who dared not share her power with any man yet longed to be led and guided by a loving consort. Great Catherine is a fresh portrait of an infamous historical figure, one that reveals how Catherine's flawed triumph guaranteed her posthumous fame and enhanced the might and renown of Russia for generations to come.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:38 -0400)

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Princess Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst became Empress Catherine II of Russia, an indomitable, feisty ruler who was very complex and became an infamous historical figure.

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