Genre: Biography
Publication Date: 1980
Pages: 855
Challenges:
Russian Reading #3, Decades 08 #3 (1980’s), TBR 2008 #3, What’s in a Name Challenge #3 (First Name), A-Z Reading #11 (P title), Chunkster Challenge 2008 #3, Royalty Rules #2

Well – I’d been in Russia for the last several books, so I just decided to stay there while I was in the habit of pronouncing the names to myself. This book has been sitting on my shelf for years, but the sheer size of it has kept it there. My copy is a hardcover and with notes, index, etc. It’s a hefty one at 3.2 lbs and 909 pages. I was determined to read it and this year the Russian Reading challenge gave me a reason to do so. Then, once it was on the list I started adding it to other challenge lists it applied to and ended up with my current record of 7 challenges with one book. I’m such a dork, but I’m pretty impressed with that kind of challenge planning.

It wasn’t a fast read, but it was truly fascinating to me. Peter the Great was a giant of a man (6 feet, 7 inches tall) who ruled a huge country at a time of tremendous change, not only for the country, but for the entire world. This book had to be big to really tell his story. The early part, about his childhood in Old Muscovy is interesting and gives a good background of how behind the rest of Europe the country was. When Peter heads out on his “Great Embassy” to visit the rest of Europe (except for France!), the author gives a brief background on Peter’s contemporary heads of state. This helps place Peter’s actions in the context of what may be more familiar European history to readers.

The middle parts are very heavy on the military history of the long extended war between Russia and Sweden. Parts of this were a bit skim-worthy, but I didn’t because once again, I was reading about a part of European history for the first time. I didn’t know anything about Charles XII of Sweden and his long-running war with Peter.

This book was quite interesting, but I went into it already interested in the topic and the period of history. I’m sure that without that pre-requisite, someone else might find it monumentally dull. The title is quite appropriate because this book is really only partly about Peter the Great. It includes some information about most of the other European rulers at the time of his reign.>