Absorbing study of Catherine of Russia, from her childhood in a small and impoverished German principality, deliberately ignored by her mother; through colorful days of her arrival in Russia and her betrothal to the delicate young heir to the Russian throne, the subsequent tragedy of her early years of matrimony, alternately spied upon and fawned upon, to the final pinnacle of success, the achievement of her ambition. A brilliant picture of the Russian court; interesting characterization of the Empress Elizabeth, and the other characters that peopled the crowded stage; psychological insight into the forces that drove Catherine to a life of incontinence, of passion, of despair. Brief glimpses --such as would have been hers -- of the pitiful Russia behind the pageant of splendor. As thrilling reading as a novel -- and yet not giving the impression of undue tampering with authentic material nor straying from the facts of her temperament and life. Not so amazing a piece of scholarship as Marie Antoinette, but slated for the same market. The publishers are putting their big Spring push behind it.