A couple of years ago, I discovered my love for learning more about powerful women in history. Soon after listening to the audio of Cleopatra, I picked up the audio of Marie Antoinette. I loved both of them, though I found Marie Antoinette a bit easier to take in. The crazy thing about all this is that I’m really not that into history. Well, I thought I wasn’t. Turns out I’m really interested in the powerful women of history. I’m really interested in the French Revolution. I’m really interested in the Holocaust. History can be very weird and enlightening. With Catherine the Great, I’m moved into a part of history I knew very little about, the Russian empire.
Massie’s biography follows Catherine the Great, an empress of Russia, from her childhood to her rise to power, and finally to her death.
I was very pleased with Massie’s biography. When I began, I had only the most basic knowledge of Russian history. Honestly, it was less than basic knowledge. Still, there’s so much I don’t know, but thanks to Massie, I’m interested in learning more. There were plenty of things that are probably common knowledge to many that I found really interesting. For instance, I didn’t know until I read this book that Catherine rose to power due to a coup d’etat. My lack of knowledge on that specific element is what made a lot of the book so interesting to me. I was eager to learn how Catherine made it to the throne. Once I learned that, I was eager to know if she stayed in her position or was driven out of it. This book really helped me realize that the best way to stay interested in nonfiction is to choose books that I know little about. One of my favorite elements of this biography is its structure. Massie could have simply written the narrative chronologically, but he structured it in a much more interesting way. Each time a new person in Catherine’s life was introduced, such as Empress Elizabeth or Voltaire, he wrote a chapter about that person to give some context to that person. It was perfect.
I have yet to attempt reading a biography in print. I usually choose to listen to nonfiction audiobooks due to their length and my horrible attention span when reading print. I can’t imagine reading this book in print. I would never finish it, and I would only be able to read a paragraph before I got distracted. Listening to the audio really kept me engaged. Deakins kept me engaged and did a great job with the flow of the text. He did some nice accents throughout when referring to the words of people from different countries, though Catherine’s words never had an accent.
Overall, this is just a wonderful biography and I learned so much from it. I think I’d like to track down a biography of Ivan the Terrible. He would be an interesting person to read about. As for my next biography of a woman in power, I think it’s time to learn about Elizabeth I of England. This one is highly recommended!