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3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  7,259 Ratings  ·  396 Reviews
Like the heroic land that is its subject, James Michener's Poland teems with vivid events and unforgettble characters. In the sweeping span of eight tumultuous centuries, three Polish families live out their destinies and the drama of a nation—in the grand tradition of a great James Michener saga.

"Poland is a monumental effort, a magnificent guide to a better understanding
Paperback, 640 pages
Published September 12th 1984 by Fawcett Books (first published 1983)
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Popular Answered Questions

Vanessa Duh . Ha , ha , ha , ha . The trick question made you look.
I just finished reading it a week ago . An imaginatively plausible work ! A bit verbose ,…more
Duh . Ha , ha , ha , ha . The trick question made you look.
I just finished reading it a week ago . An imaginatively plausible work ! A bit verbose , which is Michener's style ,but plausible just the same .
Maybe that was a question posed by a former KGB member who knows something we yanks don't .(less)

Community Reviews

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Stephen Gallup
Mar 25, 2010 Stephen Gallup rated it really liked it
Poland was one of several Michener historical novels I read in the late 70s and early 80s, when it seemed everybody else was doing the same. I rarely hear him mentioned these days and wonder why.

I hadn't intended to read it again now, but a copy fell into my lap, and after opening it idly I was hooked.

Large chunks of the story had stayed with me over the years. I remembered Michener's accounts of the invasions by Tatars and Swedes, and the unspeakable things those people did (wonder why modern-d
Jul 01, 2015 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I like James Michener a lot. That said, it's obvious that he's not for everybody and in fact, I would argue that most people are not reading James Michener correctly. And before you say, "You shouldn't need to be told how to read something in order to be able to read it," I would say this: people should have some understanding of say, the Bible, or the Qur'an, or of Nietzche, or Plato, or Buddhist Sutras before you start engaging with them. Or if you're trying to argue that that's intense philos ...more
Jun 12, 2016 Gary rated it it was amazing
This epic is a phenomenal account of a remarkable nation and a remarkable people.
It documents the resilience of the Polish people, in the face of experiencing their nation being crushed by invaders and more powerful neighbors, so many times.

It begins in 1981, at the time that Poland lay under the heel of Communist tyranny, as a puppet of that Evil Empire, the Soviet Union, introducing us to the brave Polish farmers leader, Janko Buk, who out of love of his people, prepares to take on the might o
Thomas Devine
Sep 27, 2012 Thomas Devine rated it really liked it
As a bestseller, the 1984 Corgi edition of this novel retailed at NZ$9.95. I found this gem in a second-hand book sale for NZ$3. It would have been worth full price if it had been sold as a current bestseller.
The copy I now hold belonged at some stage to one L. de Groot. It’s a book I’ll add to my hoard because even though I may never read it again, I treasure it.
I read a few of Michener’s sagas many years ago and he is the master of blending fact and fiction in fascinating stories. In a minisc
Jan 02, 2013 Martin rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013books
"Poland" is written with all the elegance of a bloated instruction manual. If you enjoy the absence of subtext, disastrously bad sentences, and descriptions that make a list of technical specifications read like poetry, you will love Michener's writing. This ain't Zadie Smith, folks. In fact, it's probably one of the worst-written books I've ever slogged through.

Yet. I didn't hate this book. Because while reading page after page was like walking through a post-apocalyptic city in a movie, where
Aug 23, 2011 Mary rated it it was amazing
James A. Michener's historical fiction, "Poland", is remarkable. It dives into the heart of the country - its people, culture, art, music, landscape, traditions, rituals - in such a way as to enkindle in the reader a love for the country.

Michener paints a thorough picture of the events that have shaped Poland, and clearly establishes the boundaries between history and fiction before the novel begins. A thousand years of history are cleverly presented through tracing families through their gener
B Wojcik
Jun 07, 2009 B Wojcik rated it really liked it
After reading this book (one of the few books I bother owning & storing on my shelf), I read the rest of Michener's historical novels. It's great the way he weaves history of whatever region he's writing about into the lives of people in that region through the ages. And it doesn't go too deeply into the mumbo jumbo lovey stuff like (a la "Days of Our Lives") but just the basic way of life from each generation, and how it affects future generations.

This style also got me hoocked on Edward Ru
First Michener I've read. Interesting setting and history, wide in scope. Covers a lot of ground.
Apr 23, 2017 Chuck rated it really liked it
WOW ! ! ! I haven't read a Michener novel in years but he still delivers the goods for me. Virtually all I know about the histories of Hawaai, South Africa, Afghanistan, and now, Poland I learned reading Michener. I even learned things I didn't know about the history of my home state of Texas from reading his novel, "Texas." "Poland" covers the history of Poland from the the 13th century to the 1980s. I had no idea of the adversity faced by Poland down through the years. It's borders changed sev ...more
Andrew Breslin
Sep 07, 2014 Andrew Breslin rated it really liked it
I was in Poland about 20 years ago, hanging out with two Polish friends, one of whom spoke three languages fluently, the other, five. We were having a fascinating conversation comparing humor across languages and cultures. I asked what subjects were targets of traditional Slavic levity, and they told me the most popular type of jokes usually poked fun at policemen and draconian government officials. This was just a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its decades of oppression in ...more
May 22, 2014 Brandon rated it it was ok
Ok, I'll go against the grain and say that this book was awful. Best-selling book of 1983? Yikes.

It spans 800 years of history, which is ambitious to say the least, and I feel like Michener just couldn't pull it off.

It felt like he wanted to tell the history of Poland without actually referencing, you know, sources, so he made it fiction and created a fictional area on the Vistula so he really didn't have to be accurate at all.

Even that would have been fine if it were overpowered by fantastic, c
Jan 13, 2011 Johnny rated it liked it
Michener’s Poland: A Novel is primarily about three families in nine different ages. It was written during the height of the Solidarity movement in Poland and uses a fictional, but quite representative, conflict between Polish union organizers and Communist sympathizers as the bookends between which the rest of the historical fiction is racked. Even the struggle between the two families involved in the bookend conflict serves as framing for the conflicts within the book. It is not only epic in t ...more
Mar 07, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was in college at the suggestion of a friend of mine who was serving as a missionary in Poland at the time. I had read some James Michener previously and would consider myself a fan. "Poland" completely blew me away because it once again made me realize how little history I know. Michener is known for being a good researcher and I am often taken in by the way he brings history to life. Poland has a rich and tragic history that is rarely considered important in world event ...more
This was my first "real Michener" - one of the long, serious books that covers centuries in an area's history. At first I thought I would love it, then around the half way point it bogged so much I wondered if I could finish. It picked up in the second half, but I still struggled in some sections. One problem I had is that Poland's history is frankly depressing. Apparently they were continually attacked by outsiders while suffering from poor leadership within. Frankly if Michener had invented Po ...more
Jun 15, 2008 Rita rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Since visiting Poland, I have wanted a way to absorb more Polish history, this book is a good way to do it.
[James was reading it in Copenhagen and recommended it too.]
Michener is not among the greatest of writers, one does not 'savor every sentence'.

But he's a good storyteller and that keeps me reading.
He stresses that the Poles have always resisted having a strong leader. It was a long long time before regional 'warlords' were willing to relinquish some of their powers to the central government
Dec 26, 2016 Wayne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history lovers
Recommended to Wayne by: Michener's other books

This was often heavy going but perseverance always wins the day with Michener
because he is always so dedicated to his readers and to the topic he wants to share.

Borderless Poland has always been prey to its surrounding neighbours or even some enemy
who may just be in the vicinity or has travelled from afar looking for greener pastures eg Genghis Khan.No broad river, no mountain range protects it or makes entrance difficult.

Then you have the Poles themselves, especially the Rich and Powerful,
Aug 28, 2012 Samira rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
Really interesting book about Polish history spanning centuries. Makes you in turn marvel at the stupidity of the Polish magnates, shake your head at strange occurrences and wonder why you never heard about such important events in European history before. Educating and informative read.

It also has a rather good introduction explaining exactly what is historically accurate and what part is fiction. Very good and obviously well-researched book.

However, one should have a fairly good knowledge abou
Oct 03, 2012 Katrina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: unfinished
I give up - I can't do it. This book is dreadful. I love historical fiction, and all I wanted was some good fictional characters to hook me into a very general overview of Polish history. I have Polish heritage and I visited the country 3 years ago, so I have a strong interest in the subject matter. This book failed to deliver in so many ways.

These characters are barely even 2-dimensional; they speak nothing but stilted expositionese; they are not memorable or distinguishable from one another by
Towards the end of the book, Bukowski asks the bishop how he gained the courage to survive Auschwitz. The bishop realizes that what the younger man has wanted to ask was 'How did we gain the courage?" The bishop says: "Character is the sum of all we do before the age of twenty. You did certain things in those formative years which made you brave and durable." The bishop goes on to tell what he did in his formative years that determined his character and made him able to withstand the abuse of Au ...more
Aug 04, 2012 Jane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 5-stars
This was my first Michener read, and I thought it was excellent. I am only sorry I did not have a chance to finish it before my recent trip to Poland, although am glad to have read it regardless. It seemed a cross between War & Peace (historical fiction covering the lives of many E. European families through generations, with intense battle scenes, romance, etc.) and a David McCullough history (similar straight-forward and very readable writing style). I have read another review here on Good ...more
May 30, 2008 Lauren rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It's a mixture of history and sheer fiction. It's rather easy to tell which belongs to which category. You follow three main families from the three historical strata of Polish life through hundreds of years. The individual people are not, in themselves, important to the book. They're tools to show what some of the experiences of people may have been during certain eras. It's definitely not a history book, so read it keeping that in mind. That being said, you get some ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Elena rated it really liked it
This was, for me, a really good way to learn the history of a country that I never could quite understand. An actual history book would have been entirely too dull, and anyway I have learned that history is often subjective. Speaking of which, this author definitely does not depict the Poles of the WW2 area as the raving anti-Semities that I have learned about. I decided though, that this is only logical, because the book is meant to highlight the patriotism and resilience of the Polish people. ...more
Jun 23, 2013 Katie rated it it was amazing
This book is amazingly powerful. It was recommended to me by a family friend when I returned home from vacation in Poland a few years ago (I'm Polish in heritage & most of my family still lives there). I just got around to reading it and wow. I don't want to give anything away, but I haven't had that many emotions through a book in a long time. I found the end to be especially powerful. And of course it made me proud to be Polish (:
Nov 08, 2013 Duane rated it really liked it
Next to Hawaii, my favorite James Michener novel. The history of a country and a people that is riveting, often brutal, set as a backdrop to one of Michener's compelling fictional stories. You can't come away from a Michener novel and say, "I didn't learn anything". If you love history, especially European history, this one's for you.
Alexander Soley
Jul 21, 2014 Alexander Soley rated it liked it
Interesting and well-written. Unfortunately, the fact that it was written in the early 1980s determined that it would be somewhat speculative and outdated. Still a good read though.

His descriptions of early Poland are so well described that I wish the author could have tried Science Fiction; he could have given GRR Martin a run for his money. What a shame.
Bart Bargiel
Aug 31, 2009 Bart Bargiel rated it it was amazing
The reason Western Europe wasn't conquered by the Tatars, Teutons, Turks and Mongols. Ok so we got jacked up by zee Germans. James A. Michener spent 2 years researching the history and lineage of 3 families spanning 8 centuries and turned it into a "titanic documentary novel". I'll be reading this again soon.
Jan 02, 2009 Deborah rated it it was ok
Tons of historical detail- but it's written in such a paradoxical way: it presents itself as reality and research-based, while fictionalizing everyone and everything in it. Overall, it's an interesting read, but you have to take it all with a pretty big grain of salt.
Nov 15, 2015 Paul rated it it was amazing
I had starting working on my family tree, and since half of it comes from Poland, I thought I'd read up about the history of the country.
John Rachel
Oct 21, 2012 John Rachel rated it it was amazing
I'm Polish. A perfect match. For me personally this is one of Michener's more interesting books.
Jul 26, 2011 Dinah rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-past
Totally enjoyed it
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Michener had a Polish librarian? 3 22 Oct 21, 2013 03:21AM  
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James Albert Michener is best known for his sweeping multi-generation historical fiction sagas, usually focusing on and titled after a particular geographical region. His first novel, Tales of the South Pacific , which inspired the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Toward the end of his life, he created the Journey Prize, awarded annually for t
More about James A. Michener...

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“a soldier lives always for the next battle, because he knows that before it arrives impossible changes can occur in his favor.” 12 likes
“Rampaging horsemen can conquer; only the city can civilize.” 3 likes
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