Monday, July 14

12x12: Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great
Robert K. Massie

I got this book for Christmas from my mom. I really love books about history and monarchies, though I usually stick with Tudor history! I was really excited to read this, but it was really, really long so I hadn't gotten the chance during my 1L year.

What I Loved:

  • It was incredibly well-written! I think we all think of biographies as tedious, boring, and dry - well, not this book. It's surprisingly easy to read and stay interested.
  • The book gives a great, in-depth look at Catherine's life. The author spent 8 years studying Catherine; reading her letters, reading her notes, reading the letters and diaries of those who were close or in contact with her. It seems crazy that we could know this much about a person who lived in the 1700's just from letters!
  • Catherine was an incredibly interesting woman. She basically stole the throne from her creepy, animal-abusing husband who no one liked, but she was such a better option than him, no one really cared that she wasn't from the right bloodline. She also had her children taken from her early on so she never got to bond with them - and then did the same exact thing to her son's wife years later. It seems crazy, but it also says a lot about abuse...
  • It made me want to go to Russia, which is a feeling I have never experienced before.

What I Wasn't Crazy About:

  • Everything is tied together, which isn't necessarily a bad thing... You can't read about Catherine the Great without understanding how the American Revolution or the political uprisings in France affected Russia. What this means is that a good chunk of the book isn't directly about Catherine.
  • People and events are sometimes mentioned in chapters before they actually show up in the book. The book is generally organized by topic, not necessarily by timeline. For example, the book mentions Paul, Catherine's firstborn son, and his marriage before it ever happens because it has something to do with marriage proposals. It's a passing mention, which is fully explained later in the book, but it does get confusing once in a while.

Would I Recommend This Book?

  • Absolutely. If you're interested in politics, philosophy, art, or history, this is a perfect book for you. The author has a few more books on other Russian monarchs, which I will be reading ASAP!

What's Left on My List?
  • Women, Food, and God
  • Breaking Through the Stained Glass Ceiling
  • Dating Jesus
  • Grimm's Fairy Tales (I actually lost my copy on the move to Des Moines - no idea how, so this is on hold for the time being, even though I only have 1/5 of the book to go!)

Phew! This is going to be a crazy next few months while I try to finish these books. I have a book for my friend Macy's book club that I have to/get to read this week, so I'll be taking a brief intermission on my project. I go back to school in August, which is coming up way faster that I intended. At least I only have 3-4 books left!

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