Uncharted Genres ft. Catherine the Great

For May’s Uncharted Genre, I picked history – mostly because I’ve never read it outside what’s required of my readings at school, but I absolutely love it. I remember in high school I’d be one of the earliest to arrive, and while waiting for my friends and classmates to arrive I’d spend it reading my history book.
I have a particular fascination for Russian history, because of Anastasia, the animated movie, and also because the countries I study for my graduate degree have key historical moments with Russia. So basically I picked up a book on Catherine the Great – the Russian Empire’s longest-ruling and most renowned female ruler. This book is by Robert K. Massie, who also has a bunch of books about other Romanovs.

I liked this book – it reads like a novel, but you can still tell it’s a history book because of the dates, locations, and names in it. I like that it expanded on events and people leading to the ascension of Catherine’s power – I especially like her mother, because despite what she did, she had hustle and did everything she could to improve their station (even if it was because she had dreams for herself she didn’t achieve).
This reminds me of Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, in the sense that the author does a great job of telling a story, and weaving in figures and personalities without making it look so academic. Also this reminded me of why I like history so much, because people never seemed to do anything halfway – climbing the ranks of European aristocracy? Become the empress of Russia, why not!

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