La Grande Catherine et Potemkine by Simon Sebag Montefiore download in pdf, ePub, iPad
It would be hard to finish the book without feeling something close to awe for what Potemkin achieved both personally and through the fascinating and powerful partnership with Catherine the Great. Potemkin the man is also fascinating.
As it turns out, I got more than I bargained for. Definitely worth a read, but also a bit frustrating. Once Potemkin has attained his position, the book becomes a more conventional political history, which I find much more satisfying. But it's his relationship with the woman of his life, Catherine the Great which is the heart of this story.
He does this by painting an impressively researched portrait of high Enlightenment Russia and Europe. The book is divided into several chapters, the first half detailing the beginnings rise and marriage of Potemkin.
Politics, war, creation and love. The letters they sent to each other are a highlight of this book and pretty touching. It can sometimes be hard to swallow the gleeful celebration of Potemkin and his ilk, who profited so mightily from the forced misery of others.
Deciding that all is lost, he asks that as he's traveled so far for much of his life, he'd prefer to pass away lying still on a hill. The reason I did not rate this book higher is Montefiore's uncritical embrace of his subject. He's soon at peace and just before he gives up the ghost, he begs forgiveness to the only woman he ever truly loved. Presenting them to his sovereign, she dismisses everyone else from her study, and as the door slams shut, they weep together in their shared grief of the one who left them. This is history masterfully done.
The first sections of this book read a bit like a romance novel. My personal preference was for the fist half of the book, which focused on their meeting and the development of this relationship. Potemkin is mostly known as a manufacturer of fake villages, and as an exponent of flim-flammery, and this is unfair.
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