Review: Catherine, The Great Journey

Catherine: The Great Journey, Russia, 1743 (The Royal Diaries)Catherine, The Great Journey
by Kristiana Gregory

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Catherine, Great Journey / 0-439-25385-3

Here is another wonderful Royal Diary addition. Catherine the Great is of interest to me, having read Henri Troyat's superb rendition of her life and reign. This novel, fictionally 'written' by Catherine, follows Troyat's own work closely and is remarkably consistent with the facts of Catherine's early life, and with the tone of Catherine's personality and style.

This book would be highly approachable for children and adults of all ages. The historical accuracy is superb and provides a valuable insight into the early life of Catherine, while being rich and personal enough to compel more than a historical interest from the reader. The author, Gregory, touches on the most salient points of Catherine's journey into Russia to meet the Empress and to become betrothed to the crown prince. Catherine touches on the bitter cold and the hardships of travel, and describes her own serious illness which endeared her so strikingly to the Russian people - it was widely believed that her illness was caused by her ceaseless studies to learn the language and customs of her chosen people.

While I usually list the potential concerns a parent may have with the Royal Diary in question, there is not too much here to be concerned about - no wars, violence, or wounded in these pages. The crown prince's cruelty and madness which surfaced later in life is suppressed here, probably for the best. Catherine's mother, however, is remarkably cruel and harsh to her daughter, which might disturb very young readers. Also, the Empress' odd custom of enforcing cross-dressing balls (where the men dress in ladies' clothes and the women dress in mens' clothes) is noted briefly here - historically accurate, but potentially confusing for a very young reader. The incident is dealt with quickly and carefully, however, and should not be a deterrent to an older reader.

~ Ana Mardoll

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