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The Fracture Zone

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  256 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
A True Portrait of One of the World's Most Chaotic and Beautiful Regions That Explains Why Violence Has Always Occurred There--And Why It May Continue For Years To Come

The vast and mountainous area that makes up the Balkans is rife with discord, both cultural and topographical. And, as Simon Winchester superbly demonstrates in this intimate portrait of the region, much of
ebook, 272 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 1999)
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May 02, 2013 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As my third book in a series on the Balkans, I chose this memoir of a trip made by the author at the end of the 1990's, a troubled decade for areas like Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, and Croatia. Winchester's journey from Vienna to Istanbul is an attempt to understand the Balkans and why the area seems so prone to ethnic hostilities. His thesis, while not original, is that the trouble goes back centuries -- and perhaps even further back than that -- to the endless tug of war between the Ottoman and Au ...more
Jan 03, 2013 Fiona rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-writing
I was so looking forward to reading this but ultimately it was hugely disappointing. Having read Robert D Kaplan on the Balkans and Brian Hall's excellent 'The Impossible Country', I thought this would also be an insightful journey. Instead, the first half is a very lightweight travelogue, lacking any depth whatsoever. Just as I was about to throw down the book in frustration, I came to two very interesting chapters on the Croatian coast and Montenegro which held my interest for a while longer. ...more
Jan 08, 2014 Love rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great travel book and the first one I have read by Simon Winchester and it will not be the last since I absolutely loved this book. In it Winchester travels from the heart of the former Habsburg Empire Vienna to the center of the former Ottoman Empire Constantinople, or Istanbul as it has been formally called since the rule of Kemal Atatürk. This journey takes him through the Balkans where the Germanic Christian civilization of the Habsburgs met the Oriental Islamic civilization of the Ottoman ...more
Aug 25, 2014 Dennis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the seventh Simon Winchester book I've read, and the first time I've been disappointed.

I thought Crack in the Edge of the World (centered on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake), Krakatoa, and The Meaning of Everything (about the creating of the Oxford English Dictionary) were outstanding, and The Professor and the Madman (born from the last) almost as good.

While not quite as good, I enjoyed Outpost and The Man Who Loved China

This book is about the Balkans and the long history of conflict
In 1999, Winchester relives a journey he made 20 years earlier. This time the various recent conflicts in the Balkans have either ended in the formation of new nations or had NATO armies invading or controlling peace.

A bit dated now, it contains some good parts on the backgrounds of the various people. It contained a short analysis that concluded the violence was economically driven but the atrocities were for revenge.

In part it read as a travel book. Various interesting characters were met and
Janez Hočevar
Simon Winchester's sytle of writing reminds me of Jan Morris', although he does not go the extremities Morris is known for (which is a GOOD THING!!!). His travelogue resembles Balkan ghosts of Robert Kaplan, but is, in my opinion, better as it does not contain any (or contains very little)of the occidental/western prejudices regarding the Balkans, the nations of the Balkan, its specific culture and the ways of life.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the Balkans!!
Ole Phillip
This to me was a disappointment. The author has produced better and more convincing work, the appears almost like an attempt to cash in on a then popular subject, the Balkans and the mess it was. I only gave it two stars because it does come with some interesting bits and pieces...
Oct 27, 2016 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A wandering account of time spent in the Balkans. A sad, sad account of up close impressions from traveling in this tragic part of the world.
Dominic Carrillo
I liked the topic, not the author. Winchester comes across as an over-confident Orientalist who sees the region as savage and backward. I want to read Balkan history by an actual Balkan historian.
Mark Noble
I decided to read this book to find out more about the enigmatic tangle of countries that lie a half day's drive from our house, the Balkan's. I somehow missed this book when it was released; I am a big fan of Winchester's and try to read anything he writes. I expected it to clarify most of the questions that I wanted to answer. But unfortunately, it did not. The book reads as if it was written quickly and published even faster. I read the e-version, so I am not sure if the many typos exist in t ...more
Mar 19, 2012 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The death of Slobodon Milosevic and thus the end of his war crimes trial caused me to find a book on the Balkans and review a bit of that history. As there still does not seem to be a synthesis work that brings together everything that happened in the Balkans in the late 1980’s to the current times, journalist Winchester’s history via travelogue seemed a good choice (as opposed to rereading Robert Kaplan’s superb Balkan Ghosts yet again). The book provided some nice socio-cultural background on ...more
Anne Hawn Smith
This was an excellent book! I wanted to understand the Balkans and the tangled relationships between the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. Winchester does a great job of mixing history with interviews with the various people from each country. This may sound dry and uninteresting, but his combination of foreign correspondent/travel writer gives just the right mix to make the book fascinating.

What really surprised me was the beauty of the area. I had no idea that there are so many areas of every
Jan 08, 2012 Penny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
What exactly happened in the Balkans? This book does a great job of explaining and teaching about the Balkan region. Winchester is a journalist who is sent back to the Balkans just as NATO is bringing in peacekeeping forces. First of all he shows the contrast of this current situation to a trip 20 years prior, and builds on that to teach us about why the Balkan region is the way it is. He does an excellent job of weaving together history, culture,religion, politics and even geology to bring us f ...more
Scott Taylor
Apr 29, 2011 Scott Taylor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very detailed look at the Balkans, from the ground level. The human perspective, during 1999. Depressing, in other words. But it was educational and had many interesting stories, not lingering on the horrific elements of that era that most would know about anyway. Not sure you will come away from reading this book any wiser about the situation in that part of the world - this book doesn't delve much into big picture issues, other than to give a little history from the Ottoman era. But the read ...more
Gabriel Alan
Dec 17, 2010 Gabriel Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the height of the 1999 NATO bombings on Belgrade, Simon Winchester travels through the Balkans, bearing witness to the strained torsions of ethnic and religious division stretching between the historic endpoints of Vienna and Istanbul. The Balkans' bitter history is seen through the welcome bias of an outsider’s eyes, untangling the strife, conflict and even the fractured geology of the region without great proclamations of moral judgment. An excellent primer on this heart rending collision.
Just finished this and not sure what to make of it. I enjoyed it, it was interesting but in the end it just left me empty. I am not sure that there was really any point and the conclusion I did draw from it was less than satisfying. Winchester writes well, is an interesting person but I never felt like he was really invested in what was going on around him. It seemed like just another trip through a chaotic war zone. Maybe after a few days I will come back and change my opinion but for now ... i ...more
Okay, I didn't actually finish it, but the 1/2 that I read was heads & shoulders above Winchester's other book that I read, The Professor and the Madman, which started so good and petered out so bad. It's about Kosovo and Srebrenica and ethnic cleansing and makes one weep for humanity, in the way for which there's little comfort but to put the book down and read about something other than the former Yugoslavia for a bit.
Oct 14, 2015 Kieran rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I found it a little out of date, but that's fine, it's 16 years old already. However, Winchester likes using long words. As an anti-sesquipedalian this piqued me somewhat. One of the people he met in Turkey impressed him so much, he supplied us with a list of his eclectic vocabulary. Wow, I was impressed too. Not.
This use of needlessly using long words detracted from my enjoyment of his story as I believe there is a negative correlation between overt complexity and intelligence.

Take that!
Chi Dubinski
May 15, 2012 Chi Dubinski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bestselling author Winchester, who spent 30 years as a newspaper reporter, travels to Kosovo to interview citizens and tries to understand the history of ethnic animosity in the region. Publisher’s Weekly wrote, “ His unsentimental descriptions of the area's destroyed mosques, burned houses and virulent graffiti serve as a poignant reminder that the effects of war last long after the planes are gone.”
Aug 04, 2015 Madelynp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have no idea where I picked this book up, but it has been on my to-read list for quite some time now, owing to how much I liked Winchester's "Krakatoa." Sure enough, the author delivered--I learned a lot in reading this book, and with the exception of a couple of I'm-an-all-knowing-English-dude moments, I appreciated the writing style. I really like Simon Winchester and will be reading more of his nonfiction in the future!
Sep 10, 2015 Jackie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four stars indicates I like this book very much, and I do, but do not comprehend the complexity of the wars and peoples in the Balkan. I just like the presentation of the books by Simon Winchester and love his casual ability to link geography to nature and the history of the many beautiful folks. His final conclusion seems to emphasize that poverty might cause the fighting, and enough money might stop it all.
Chris Aldrich
Apr 25, 2012 Chris Aldrich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting history of the Balkans and its religious, national, and ethnic problems packaged in an engaging travelogue starting in Vienna and ending in Istanbul. This certainly had more of a reporters' voice about it than others of Winchester's intriguing works, but he is still firmly ensconced as my favorite writer.
Nov 06, 2011 katy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another interesting book about the Balkans. A journalist travels through the war zones in the nineties recounting atrocities on both sides and describing beautiful cities which are not part of the conflict, i.e., Sofia snd Istanbul. Still it's hard to understand why these conflicts continue to take place century after century.
Bill Lively
Mar 23, 2016 Bill Lively rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simon Winchester gives a good overview of the Balkans, its history and current situation. He gives an interesting description of his return to this area explaining why violence has always happened in this region and why it will probably continue for years and years into the future.

Karen Sofarin
I liked this book, having been to Yugoslavia pre-war. Sad but quite an interesting tale. Winchester captures the brutality without gory detail. I want to read more of his books, especially about the dictionary.
I have thoroughly enjoyed every Winchester I have read. This one disappoints me a bit only because it is so short. I was hoping for more historical depth rather than the short memoir of his time in the Balkans.
Feb 22, 2012 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Travelogue from 1999. The Kosovo Crisis provides the backdrop for a patchwork set of sketches from Vienna to Istanbul trying the explore the underlying drivers of the Balkan conflict. Probably a bit dated by now, but still capable of providing interesting new perspectives
Dec 31, 2007 Ellis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a mess in the Balkans...
Steve Hirsch
Oct 30, 2015 Steve Hirsch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book on the author's travels in the Balkans.
Sep 20, 2015 Jay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty informative and intresting.
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Simon Winchester, OBE, is a British writer, journalist and broadcaster who resides in the United States. Through his career at The Guardian, Winchester covered numerous significant events including Bloody Sunday and the Watergate Scandal. As an author, Simon Winchester has written or contributed to over a dozen nonfiction books and authored one novel, and his articles appear in several travel publ ...more
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