Friday, July 27, 2012

Carnegie medal winners

I recently read both 2012 winners of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction:
Anne Enright's The Forgotten Waltz (Fiction) and
Robert K. Massie's Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Nonfiction)

Enright begins The Forgotten Waltz, with a forbidden kiss witnessed by a child; we travel back with Gina Moynihan as she recollects her loves and lust in Dublin's suburbs. Though the book was well written I didn't enjoy it. I really struggle with works of fiction that revolve around affairs and indiscretions. I just don't enjoy watching as people throw away their marriages and lives for moments of passion, and inevitably wind up destroying those around them. (My exception to this rule is Gone With the Wind).

I loved Massie's Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, which is an amazingly detailed account of Catherine the Great's Life from her early beginnings as Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg (Damn! Royalty have long names); her move to Russia and conversion to Greek Orthodoxy--and name change to Ekaterina Alekseyevna, or Catherine, as we know her--betrothal to her second cousin Peter (later Tsar Peter III); through her unhappy marriage, lovers and subsequent rise to power.

I was surprised to discover that on top of all the political intrigue, Catherine's life was bursting at the seams with sex and affairs. Did you know that Catherine the great had a dozen lovers? Lovers of reigning sovereigns were called, "favorites," and were given mad loot and housed in the palace near the ruler! That makes anything presidents in our recent history did seem lame in comparison, no?!

Massie's writing is full of details and detailed accounts of events, using journal entries and personal letters to back up research. A thoroughly crafted book which made me want to read his other books about the Romanov Dynasty, particularly his Pulitzer Prize winner about Peter the Great.

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