To anyone whose background on the period of Russia's Catherine the Great was substantial, this editing of her memoirs would serve to round out a personality with a surprisingly honest self portrait. But to those whose Russian history is sketchy, this would be read in what is virtually a vacuum. For these are highly personal memoirs, intended to inform posterity of what events led up to her accession to the control. One can draw definite conclusions as to her numerous affairs, the illegitimacy of her children, the fact that she considered Peter III incapable of ruling, a dissolute mindless buffoon, with whom she never had consummated her marriage. But -while getting a vivid enough picture of the round of life in court, where at times she was virtually prisoner of the Empress- one gets singularly little feeling of what went on in the outside world. Names come and go, but remain names, not people. But one does learn to know the young Catherine, a sensualist somewhat by virtue of the boredom with her husband; masculine in her approach to amours; ambitious to prepare herself for the destiny she planned would be hers. The Memoirs end with her secret conference with her mother in law, but additional material in the form of letters, etc. fills in some gaps in the story.