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I love a biographer who writes like a novelist. Robert K. Massie builds a compelling story of Catherine’s amazing life using only the facts, which are astounding. Obscure German princess becomes child-wife of the emperor of Russia… and upon his death assumes the throne. Bright, thoughtful, and surprisingly free of the ridiculous egos that most royals succumbed to, Catherine pulled her country into the 20th century and played a full role on the European stage.  Intellectually intimate with Diderot and Voltaire she was a self-educated scholar with an impressive understanding of politics and philosophy. To be perfectly honest, towards the middle of the book when the Russia-Prussia-France squabbles got bogged down with infighting and double-crossing, I got a little bored. Otherwise, I loved the book.

A- (minus for the interminable squabbling)

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