cover image The Memoirs of Catherine the Great

The Memoirs of Catherine the Great

Catherine, .. Random, $26.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-679-64299-2

Catherine the Great's memoirs have long been seen as a self-serving attempt to justify her seizing the throne from her husband, Peter III. This fresh, clean translation (the first in English to be based on the original manuscripts), although it provides insight into the mind of the ruler and the Russian court, is unlikely to change that assessment. The memoirs cover the years before Catherine (1729–1796) became empress in 1762. As the memoir makes clear, Catherine, born a German princess, had a hard time adjusting to life in the Russian court, which she considered backward. Her marriage to Peter III was unhappy from the start, and she makes no bones about her unhappiness with him and his mistresses. At the same time, she rationalizes her own dalliances: "I have just said I was attractive. As a result, I was already halfway along the road to temptation...." The translators provide a substantial introduction, but readers without prior knowledge of Catherine the Great might want to have Isabel de Madariaga's biography of the czar on hand for reference. Color illus., 2 maps, not seen by PW . Agent, Giles Anderson . (July 12)