By Judy Garrison

I’ve just read 3 engrossing books, all about the dramatic lives of creative, accomplished, powerful women, whose interactions with the stars of their realms give us the bonus of social history. Patti Smith’s evocative memoir of her enduring friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe brought me back to the lower Manhattan of the late sixties and early seventies, and gave me increased respect for the depth of her life as a visual, poetic and musical artist. The biography of Carly Simon– another semi-contemporary of mine–though not so well written, brought her, through many direct quotes and the personal acquaintanceship of the writer, fully to life for me. The biographer of Catherine the Great of Russia took full advantage of her plentiful journals and animated what are usually the cold facts learned in history class into a riveting story. A teenage German aristocrat is brought to Russia to wed the heir to the throne. Their ensuing marriage is bizarre in multiple respects and we watch her learn Russian, really become Russian, carve a place for herself and eventually ascend to become Empress for 33 years, until 1796. Women will identify on an emotional level – though few of us will claim as many husbands and lovers as these 3 – and men will be afforded access to the inner lives of these exceptional women, perhaps in the process gaining new insights into the women in their own lives. ~

These books are available for borrowing at our library:

*Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, by Robert Massie.

*More Room in a Broken Heart: The True Adventures of Carly Simon by Stephen Davis.

*Just Kids, by Patti Smith.