Switching to this book, while I wait for Waterstones to get me, hopefully, a copy of Amos Oz'z book Tale of Love and Darkness, which fell apart when ISwitching to this book, while I wait for Waterstones to get me, hopefully, a copy of Amos Oz'z book Tale of Love and Darkness, which fell apart when I had only read 158 pages. The Vintage paperback edition was bady produced - a totally crappy binding! I will now try a Harvest Books edition of Amos Oz's book. Please, cross your fingers for me - let the Historian not fall apart and the new edition of Tale of Love and Darkness hold!
I have been considering this book for a long time. I am not at all interested in Dracula, but the travels around eastern Europe intrigue me. Furthermore I checked the text and liked it. I have even added it to my "must" shelf. I hope I am not disappointed. I wish I could find a Kirkus review....more
I think this is a fabulous book of non-fiction. It is clear, interesting from start to finish and the amount of detail is perfect. It is not dry, notI think this is a fabulous book of non-fiction. It is clear, interesting from start to finish and the amount of detail is perfect. It is not dry, not ever.
It follows the fall of the totalitarian regimes in the six countries of the Warsaw Pact: Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. You come to understand why the USSR fell apart. It follows the significant role played by leaders and dissidents in these six nations and Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Regan, George H. W. Bush and Pope John Paul II. The events in each of these countries and their respective leaders are covered in detail. Soviet involvement in Afghanistan is also discussed because the disastrous military campaign there partially explains Soviet abandonment of the satellite countries.
I am not knowledgeable enough to check the accuracy of every detail; I read the book to learn. Nevertheless, I do not doubt the author's information - he is an English journalist writing for the London Evening Standard and he witnessed much first hand.
In the introduction the author states that he uses the terms Eastern and Central Europe interchangeably, as well as Soviet Union, Russia and the USSR. It would have been better had he simply stated which counties he classified as Eastern European and which Central European. In addition he uses the words socialism and communism interchangeable. This is sloppy, and in some lines the word choice is quite simply wrong. Socialism and communism cannot be used interchangeably; they are not the same thing! This frequently bothered me.
I wish the book had covered the evolution of events in the Baltic States which also threw off Soviet tyranny. The author states that Yugoslavia is omitted because it deserves a book of its own.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Paul Hecht. Some of the Eastern European names are hard to catch, but most often I could still find these names with the help of Wiki. The narration is excellent. The reading is slow and clear. You need that in a book of non-fiction where there is so much to learn.
I really, really, really liked this book. I found it fascinating and clear. I just wish I could glue everything in my head so it never disappears. When you read a book that is this good, you don't want to forget any small detail.
(Please read what I have written below. You will find there additional important information.)
About 1/3 through the book:
I have listened to about 1/3 and am totally enjoying it. Absolutely fascinating. It starts in in the 1970s so you watch the disintegration of the Empire, not just the final fall. It is one of those books of non-fiction that IS NOT DRY. When a number is given it is compared with another so you understand its significance. You laugh at what you are being told; the author puts it so amusingly. For example, when he talks about the Stasi and the GDR he speaks of a spy who marries for the sole purpose of spying on the woman more efficiently! Everything had to be recorded on paper because there were so many power cuts. He talks of mountains of information and how stupid much was - such as the exact conversation of a guy buying a hot dog. "No the mustard isn't necessary, just the bread." The book is interesting and easy to read and read and read. Just the right amount of information to pique your interest. Not too much so it gets tedious.
I hadn't realized to what extent the dissension in Poland in the 80s was hinged upon the papal choice of Pope John Paul II.
All readers will recognize name after name after name. You learn about Lech Wałęsa, Solidarity (The Polish Trade Union), Václav Havel, Erich Honecker, Erich Mielke (German secret police official, head of Stasi), Leonid Brezhnev, Andrei Gromyko and of course Mikhail Gorbachev. And I have only read a third of the book! ...more
Definitely funny.....but maybe too funny? Do you know what I mean?
Of course I chuckled at lines like these:
"You will never persuade a mouse that a blDefinitely funny.....but maybe too funny? Do you know what I mean?
Of course I chuckled at lines like these:
"You will never persuade a mouse that a black cat is lucky." (chapter 5)
"I had such a good memory.......once!" (chapter 6)
"I have never planned anything illegal in my life! How could I plan anything of the kind, when I have never read any of the laws and have no idea what they are?!" (chapter 7)
"A little honest thieving hurts no one." And then, "It was all very harmless and gave employment to many."(chap 8)
Have you noted how the statements get more and more criminal in tone? Can Graham Greene write a book without turning it into a mystery or a crime novel? (view spoiler)[Interpol, smuggling, art theft and counterfeit are on display here! (hide spoiler)]. What exactly is the relationship between Aunt Augusta and her nephew, Henry? It helps to enjoy crime mystery novels. Here you get an amusing spoof.
Back to the humor. I read somewhere that Graham Greene wrote this, his sole purpose being to compose a f-u-n-n-y book. The humor changes as the book proceeds. It becomes sharper, more satirical. Politics, sex, religion and human behavior are often the brunt of the joke.
I would like to give you a feel for the humor because what appeals to one will be dishwater to another.... and yet I fear that you have to know the characters to understand the message conveyed. On sex, Aunt Augusta declares, keep in mind she is in her seventies, "I have always preferred an occasional orgie to a nightly routine." Or, if you are annoyed at your kids, this line might speak to you, "They go away from you. You can't go away from them." The lines are clever and funny, and certainly I chuckled often, but it is exactly that that I cannot deal with. I cannot read a joke book from start to finish.
Have you noted that I have shelved this book in many different countries? The book is about travel and all the countries where I have shelved it are visited.....but you neither see nor smell nor experience the different couture of the lands visited. You get a teeny bit about Paraguay. The two, aunt and nephew, travel on the Oriental Express. So much more could have been done with that!
This is a book of humor. The narrator of the audiobook, Tim Pigott-Smith, did an absolutely marvelous job of revealing that humor. He uses different intonations for the different characters in a wonderful way. Five stars for the narration.
Please keep in mind that you may totally love this book even if it was not a good fit for me. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more