Tony's Reviews > Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey through Yugoslavia

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West
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Oct 02, 2011

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BLACK LAMB AND GREY FALCON. (1940,1941). Rebecca West. ***.
I recently read “A Man of Parts,” a sort-of biography of H. G. Wells. Rebecca West was one of his mistresses, with whom he had a child. In her own right, Ms. West was a highly respected author of the times and this book has been called her magnum opus. It certainly is magnum. When I finally got it from the library, I found that it contained over 1,000 pages in a Penguin paperback edition. I was almost afraid to read it. I didn’t want to break the back of the book. This is a travel/history book about her two extended trips to Yugoslavia. (The books were written in 1937 before Yugoslavia was partitioned after WW II.) The approach I took was to read those sections that covered the regions that I had travelled in myself. That cut the reading down to about 500 pages – a manageable feast. I am always amazed that such sharp differences exist between neighboring countries (or regions in this case) that cause such widespread variations in the customs of the indiginous peoples of those regions. That these differences were the cause of long-term animosities between these different provinces is also a source of amazement to me. These feelings usually go back so far in history that the current residents can’t remember why such hostile feelings exist, but they are sure that there must have been good reason for them. If you are at all interested in the history and customs of the regions, this is the book for you. This sould not be the book to take with you on your travels, however. It is not a guide book, per se, but a set of personal impressions based on Ms. West’s tours and interactions with her friends in the country. There are many sections that describe her encounters with other “tourists” that are both humorous and informing, but she soon settles down to her task at hand – providing the cultural and historical backgrounds of each region. I think that this is an important book that has probably become the benchmark of the history of pre-partition Yugoslavia, but will likely become less and less known over the years.
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message 1: by Nicholas (new)

Nicholas Beck This one is sitting on my TBR shelf as well along with some of her novels all requiring a certain commitment. They're quite densely wordy. On a related H.G. Wells note, I recently finished another (long) novel by Howard Spring The Houses In Between which contains a thinly disguised H.G. Wells as (A.B. Wibsey) and not very flattering portrait at that. Very funny though and yes womanising is a central feature of his interactions in the novel although Spring is quite complimentary re his budding authorial talents.

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