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3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  5,418 ratings  ·  292 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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Best Historical Fiction
344th out of 4,682 books — 18,495 voters
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Best Books of 1983
9th out of 98 books — 64 voters

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Community Reviews

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Stephen Gallup
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
If I judged this book on what I learned from it, I would have given it 5 stars. Apparently I was asleep during our high school European history class when I should have learned the history of this country. Or I was too busy telling Pollack jokes that were very popular at that time? (Why can't they make ice cubes in Poland anymore? Because they lost the recipe.) I have always loved Michener books and have read most of them because I come away with a great appreciation and respect for the people a ...more
Thomas W Devine
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
B Wojcik
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
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
"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
Birdie Tracy

As a young reader I tended to be one of those people who ignored the explanations, forwards, letters from the author and so on, so I could dive right into the story. Only later did I realize how much I was losing out on. I mention this because there are several pages at the beginning of this book that provide background information that will give you a good base from which to begin the story.

Another consideration is that the book was originally published in 1983. Poland didn't gain it's
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
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
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
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
All of James Michener's books are amazing. I have only reread a handful of books in my life and this was one of them. In 1989, I had the opportunity to visit Cracow, Poland and I saw how hard life was for the people. I imagine much has changed for the better. Michener truly seemed to capture the essence of Poland, how it clung to the only thing that kept it united as a nation, its history. While its borders would shift, change, and often disappear, it maintained its identity as a nation through ...more
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
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
Alexander Soley
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.
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
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
Andrew Breslin
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
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 (:
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.
Bart Bargiel
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.
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.
Plodding through an education on Poland

As with every Michener book I've read, it was very long and I learned much. Before now, I essentially knew nothing of Poland and how it seems to have battled its way for sovereign existence forever, as a particularly important piece of land between two extremely aggressive, bully countries. I am glad I read it, but it was a long slog and I found myself often wishing the author would get to the point -- especially in the many long descriptions of hard fought
Utterly fascinating! The history of Poland is the story of a very brave people. Throughout history, Poland has struggled for its survival against vastly overwhelming odds. They survived the Tatars, the Cossacks, the Teutonic Knights, Sweden, Germany, Austria, and Russia. Over and over again their existence was doubtful, yet over and over again they beat those odds.

James Michener's ability to teach history by uniting fact with fiction was a gift to the world, to the many who have had the pleasure
I read this book because Michener is one of my favorite writers and my paternal grandparents came from Poland. They never learned to speak English and I never learned Polish, so there was very little verbal communication between us. I didn't learn much about their personal histories, all I knew is that they never wanted to go back to Poland, even for a visit. I also knew that they were very brave, hard-working, faithful and loving people. I can say that having read this book I was given some ins ...more
It's been a long time since I read one of Michener's books. I remembered that he typically does a good job portraying the long history of his subject while interweaving families and their stories into the history. "Poland" accomplishes this, no doubt about it. It was published in 1983 so does not include what happened when communism fell in 1989. However, Michener could see that change was coming.

The book was very helpful in understanding all of the history of this country which was caught (and
Totally enjoyed it
Mar 16, 2013 Katrina rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
After laboring over the first quarter of this novel for a few months, I finally buckled down and finished reading the rest of it. And I am so glad I did. It was difficult for me at first to get into the style of this book. Each chapter was about a different era and a next generation of characters. I found it a bit frustrating because just as I was getting to know and love a new set of characters in one chapter, they became abandoned in the next chapter and I had to learn of a whole new set of ch ...more
it took me a while to get into this book. And I was unhappy at many points at the main characters or about the fate of their wives and children. Polish history is full of pain and beauty. It is full of spirit and independence as well as self-sabotage. It is a unique history, and the Poles have withstood centuries of their neighbors trying to destroy them as a nation and as a culture. They still stand, despite everything.

The book follows the fates of three families from the same area of southern
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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 th
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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.” 11 likes
“Rampaging horsemen can conquer; only the city can civilize.” 3 likes
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