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The Poland Trilogy #1

Push Not the River

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A panoramic and epic novel in the grand romantic style, PUSH NOT THE RIVER is the rich story of Poland in the late 1700s--a time of heartache and turmoil as the country's once peaceful people are being torn apart by neighboring countries and divided loyalties. It is then, at the young and vulnerable age of seventeen, when Lady Anna Maria Berezowska loses both of her parents and must leave the only home she has ever known.

With Empress Catherine's Russian armies streaming in to take their spoils, Anna is quickly thrust into a world of love and hate, loyalty and deceit, patriotism and treason, life and death. Even kind Aunt Stella, Anna's new guardian who soon comes to personify Poland's courage and spirit, can't protect Anna from the uncertain future of the country.

Anna, a child no longer, turns to love and comfort in the form of Jan, a brave patriot and architect of democracy, unaware that her beautiful and enigmatic cousin Zofia has already set her sights on the handsome young fighter. Thus Anna walks unwittingly into Zofia's jealous wrath and darkly sinister intentions. Forced to survive several tragic events, many of them orchestrated by the crafty Zofia, a strengthened Anna begins to learn to place herself in the way of destiny--for love and for country. Heeding the proud spirit of her late father, Anna becomes a major player in the fight against the countries who come to partition her beloved Poland.

PUSH NOT THE RIVER is based on the true eighteenth century diary of Anna Maria Berezowska, a Polish countess who lived through the rise and fall of the historic Third of May Constitution. Vivid, romantic, and thrillingly paced, it paints the emotional and unforgettable story of the metamorphosis of a nation--and of a proud and resilient young woman.

431 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2000

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About the author

James Conroyd Martin

10 books308 followers
Ah, Fate~
The seed for "Fortune's Child" started some years ago when I was taking an Art Appreciation course at a community college in Los Angeles. One day we were studying the exquisite mosaics of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora from the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, and the professor pointed to Theodora and said, “I’m not a writer, but if I were, that is the woman I would write about.”
Little did he know what he had unloosed.

What a fascinating woman, frailties and all! She could have been the prototype for Eva Peron. I started the novel right then and there; however, life and other books got in the way.

But Fortune's Child has finally found her way.
Fate goes ever as it must.

I am also the author of THE POLAND TRILOGY, beginning with "Push Not the River," a novel based on the diary of Anna Berezowska, a Polish countess who lived through the rise and fall of the Third of May Constitution. After working on the project for some years without raising interest within the publishing community, I self-published in 2001. Just one year later, St. Martin’s Press purchased the book and released a hard cover edition in September 2003. Polish and German rights sold almost immediately.

The Polish edition, "Nie ponaglaj rzeki," was released in May of 2005, became a bestseller and sold out in a matter of months. Anna's story had come full circle: Polish to English to Polish! "Pod purpurowym niebem," the translation of "Against a Crimson Sky," also became a bestseller when published in December of 2007.

"The Warsaw Conspiracy" followed, as did "The Boy Who Wanted Wings."

Martin, who holds degrees from St. Ambrose and DePaul Universities, is a retired English and Creative Writing teacher now living and writing in Portland, Oregon.

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5 stars
1,390 (38%)
4 stars
1,334 (37%)
3 stars
627 (17%)
2 stars
169 (4%)
1 star
59 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 462 reviews
Profile Image for Lynn Spencer.
1,209 reviews81 followers
October 3, 2012
This is one of those books that I should probably think is terrible, but I.Just.Could.Not.Stop.Reading. Supposedly, this novel is based upon an 18th century Polish noblewoman's diary which was suppressed by her descendants for its scandalous content. The heroine, Anna Maria, certainly goes through all manner of trials and tribulations - everything from rape to being caught in her selfish cousin's scheming. Even though the characterizations are a bit thin and the events more than a bit melodramatic, I got completely sucked into Anna's story as she finds her life upended by a combination of the uncertain political climate and her cousin Zofia's manipulations. As I read, the analytical side of my brain kept telling me that I should think this overwrought story is atrocious, but somehow the author hit just the right balance to make it engrossing reading nevertheless. If you can't handle cartoon villains and lots and lots of melodrama, this might not be the book for you, but otherwise, you just might enjoy this glimpse into a time not often covered in novels.
Profile Image for Lauren.
1,113 reviews85 followers
October 11, 2021

This book is a must read! It takes place in Poland. I never realized how similar their beliefs are with the USA. I found my emotions tyed with this country's up and downs.

Now, What makes this book truely great is the fact that it's from a real Countess's diary. The book contains betrayers, kidnappings, murder plots, unrequited love, and many other events that are usually found in a great BR. I'm still surprised it's based on true events.

I should warn that the next two books are all from the author's imagination. You don't have to read the continuing stories but it's hard to leave these great characters behind.
Profile Image for Rebecca Huston.
1,061 reviews157 followers
May 8, 2012
After reading some enthusiastic reviews, I decided to read this one -- and I hated it. Set in the late 18th century, it tells the story of a young Polish countess, Anna Maria, who goes through every sort of mayhem and abuse during the partition of Poland by Russia, Prussia and Austria. Improbable situations, one-note characters and 'tell, not show' writing sunk this one for me. I understand there's a sequel, but I'm not going there.

For the longer review, please go here:

Profile Image for JudiAnne.
414 reviews55 followers
October 21, 2009
This book was very educational as well as being one of the best books that I have ever read. I have the sequel "A Crimson Sky" waiting for me at the library. Can't wait!
Profile Image for Leslie.
588 reviews38 followers
August 11, 2014
One of the things I enjoy most about historical fictions is the opportunity it gives me to learn about a certain time period or event(s) that I didn’t know about. It is even better when it is packaged within a story on such a sweeping and grand level such as Gone With the Wind (which I loved). So it’s not surprising that I loved Push Not the River by James Conroyd Martin and gave it the high rating.

From the very beginning until the very end, I was thoroughly absorbed in Lady Anna Maria Berezowska’s tumultuous story. I give much of the credit to Martin’s wonderful writing. He did a great job of bringing late 18th century Poland and the conflict regarding the Third of May Constitution to life, enabling someone, such as myself, who isn’t as informed about those turbulent years to become informed about it in such an entertaining way. And he went about it in a way where the political aspect of the story didn’t overwhelm the other parts of the story. Actually by having it told through the eyes of Anna and her family and how they were affected by it, you really got to know what exactly was going on and why it was revolutionary for its time. Furthermore, the politics were counterbalanced by the drama and intrigue of Anna’s life. It provided the soap opera-like dramatics and entertainment that really pushed the story along. I was glued to what was happening to her. By combining the politics, romance, drama and action in such a balanced way, Martin created a compelling and fast paced epic story that was both entertaining and informative.

Along with the writing, the book had some very intriguing and charismatic characters that you become invested in, specifically the main female characters of Anna, Zofia and Lady Stella Gronski. The heroine of the book, Anna, was a character that you really came to care for. At certain parts of the book I could admire her determination to do what’s right and be as optimistic about people which at times could make her out to be as naive as her cousin, Zofia, constantly says her to be. However, she is a deceptively strong-willed character as shown by her ability to survive and endure so many awful events. Much of the troubles she had to endure was a result of her vivacious and manipulative cousin Zofia. She was one of those characters that left you feeling conflicted regarding how you felt about her. On the one hand, you can understand her desire to live her own life the way she wants to and you can see she does care about Anna. However, the way she goes about getting what she wants and her behavior towards others, which includes Anna and her mother Lady Stella Gronski, made her such a hateful character. She swings back and forth between these two traits, which leaves you feeling ambivalent towards her. Even now, I still don’t know how to view Zofia which I suppose you can say it what makes her such an intriguing character. Finally there’s Lady Gronski who grew up, along with Anna, in the story. She went from a noblewoman who depended on her husband and followed the rules of nobility to a widow who became involved in the politics of her time and changed her views on the relationships between the classes. She became that mother figure for Anna when she needed it. I really came to care for her character. The book really benefited from having such strong yet different female characters taking the lead.

Push Not the River reminds me of books such as Gone With the Wind in its scope and depth. It’s a historical fiction that combines revolutionary politics with family dramas. The book also homage to a group of people who carry such pride in their country and their customs who are willing to stand up against forces who would seek to wipe them out. Martin did an amazing job of creating an engrossing story based off Anna’s real-life diaries. He did such an amazing job that I’m looking forward to reading the next 2 books in his Poland Trilogy.

*Received copy from Goodreads First Reads giveaway
Profile Image for Natasa.
1,192 reviews
July 3, 2020
This book is a very good historical novel that captures the imagination while keeping true to the era in which it is set. All the aspects that make an exciting read and with the heroic female in the lead role. A story of family tragedies, love, jealousy, war and a spirit that rises to the occasion.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
887 reviews
March 24, 2016
PUSH NOT THE RIVER Book 1 of The Poland Trilogy is based on the true eighteenth century diary of Anna Maria Berezowska, a Polish countess who lived through the rise and fall of the Historic Third of May Constitution.
James Conroyd Martin, the author, has mastered the art of describing the characters and setting so thoroughly that I visualized the story as if I were actually at Sochaczew with Anna Maria and her parents and then at Halicz and Warsaw with her Aunt Stella, Zofia and Jan Stelnicki. Countess Anna Maria encounters and endures many trials and tribulations, betrayal, sickness, vicious acts of violence, and the horrors of war. She remembers words her Father told her on her fifth name day, "SOMETIMES YOU MUST PUT YOURSELF IN THE WAY OF DESTINY".
Besides being a "page turner", this fast moving romantic thriller taught me about some of Poland's geography and history. I really enjoyed reading PUSH NOT THE RIVER, and gave it 5 stars. I eagerly look forward to reading the next books in the trilogy. However, due to the extreme violence, this book is not for the "faint of heart".
Thanks to BookBub for my free Kindle copy of this book.
991 reviews6 followers
February 23, 2015
This amazing novel is based on the diary of real life Polish Countess Anna Maria Bereskowska. It tells the story through her eyes of Poland's struggle to exist in the late 1700's as more powerful nations seek to divide this country up to suit their own needs. It is a story of Anna's struggle to find her way when she is left an orphan at 17, and goes to make a new home with her aunt, uncle, and cousins. It is a story of the patriotic Polish people, willing to fight to maintain their culture and their very existence before being wiped off the map of Europe. Love, hate, treason, betrayal, and sacrifice take center stage in this strong portrayal of a country's history. I was unaware of any of these historical events and enjoyed learning about such a proud people through Martin's suspenseful and descriptive writing style. This is an emotional book, filled with heartbreak, but also displaying human strength against all odds - the will to survive. The story is so real, I felt like I was there.
Profile Image for MAP.
511 reviews155 followers
June 14, 2012

I was really hoping this one would be interesting, since it's historical fiction about a totally different place and time period than I'm used to -- Poland at the end of the 18th century. But no. Boring boring. The goodies are all good, the baddies are all bad, no one has any motivation for anything they do, and by the last 150 pages I was skimming, had no idea what was going on, and didn't care.

And the heroine! TSTL. Her cousin Zofia wonders several times throughout the book what various men see in her, and I concur. What's so special about this chick? She's as boring and bland as dry toast.

Couldn't care less what happens in book 2.
Profile Image for Erin.
258 reviews9 followers
January 22, 2009
I loved this historical novel. It reminded me a lot of "Katherine" by Anya Seton. The characters were so well-developed. I loved our heroine Anna who seemed timid and naive but grew so strong despite her trials. And it has been a long time since a character, who shall remain nameless, has made me so upset! While reading this book I actually went to wikipedia and read the history of Poland from 1500-present. I found out there is a sequel which I will be interested to read.
Profile Image for Barb.
1,179 reviews129 followers
September 12, 2008
Simultaneously Fascinating, Frightening and Fantastic

James Conroyd Martin has taken the diary of Countess Anna Maria Berezowska and created a dramatic and moving historical novel.

A friend of Martin's, a direct descendant of the Countess's shared her diary with him, he thought her life was fascinating and spent years researching the historical setting for this novelization. He was unable to get his work published and so initially published the book himself.

Many times while reading this story I found myself impressed that Martin could write in a woman's voice so perfectly. I later learned the author said he employed almost all of the events and much of the dialogue from Anna Maria's diary.

Anna Maria sadly lost her parents when she was only seventeen. She went to live with her aunt Countess Stella Gronska and her family in Halicz. Her cousin Zofia is a year older yet far more worldly than her country cousin. Zofia's older brother Walter is serving Empress Catherine of Russia. Not long after her arrival Anna Maria meets a handsome young man named Jan Stelnicki who is impressed by her intellect and appreciation of nature. Anna Maria is happy to have something to take her mind off the deep sadness she feels because of the loss of her parents. However her cousin is also interested in Jan Stelnicki and Zofia is manipulative and conniving and willing to do anything to get what she wants. While Anna Maria seems an innocent and weak young girl events happen that shape her into a strong and persevering woman. She is a heroine to admire.

I enjoyed this story very much. The backdrop of political unrest made for even more dramatic events in the lives of these people. The history of Poland's fight for democracy as well as independence from Russia, Prussia and Austria was all very interesting.

I also enjoyed the special little things included in this book; the historical maps of the locations in the story that show the changes Poland underwent during this period in time, the Polish proverbs as well as the Wycinanki (folk papercuts) by Frances Drwal.

I think there could have been a better title for the book. For some reason I didn't care for the title Push Not the River which is taken from a Polish proverb 'Don't push the river it will flow of it's own accord'. I didn't like it before reading the book and I still don't, I just seems like there could have been a title that was a more reflective of Anna Maria Berezowska's indomitable spirit. But that's hardly worth mentioning. I did finish the book wanting to know more of what happened to Anna Maria. And I subsequently discovered that here is a continuation of Anna Maria's story. Yay! It's called Against a Crimson Sky, I will be reading it.
Profile Image for Wanda.
284 reviews11 followers
May 4, 2010
This book disappointed me. I learned very little about the partition of Poland in the eighteenth century that I did not already know, and felt that there could have been more historical detail woven throughout. The author tried, but failed. Good historical fiction should use the fiction and history organically, but there was more of a flavor of a romance novel, than good historical fiction to this book. Despite the fact that this was based on a real live person’s diary, I found the characters not that interesting and rather one dimensional and hackneyed. Think plucky Scarlett O’Hara without the personality flaws. To sum it up, this is the story of a young countess, rather sheltered, who goes from being orphaned in a matter of days, going off to live with relatives, meets the love of her life, is raped, is married off, bullied, brutalized and so forth. The author turns his heroine into a perpetual victim (think the perils of Pauline), the other main female lead into a slut and makes most of the men either brutes, nobles, or bad peasants. It's a low average read, coupled with stereotypes, and I can't honestly understand all of the rave reviews it's gotten.
This was actually a best seller in Poland. I can’t imagine. It also got awards from various Polish groups. All I can think of that is that Poles have been treated so shabbily throughout their history, that they will gratefully acknowledge anyone who tries to bring some of their fascinating history to light – especially an American.
My own experience with what the average American knows about Poles and Poland comes from listening to nasty Polish jokes. Thus, it may be a worthwhile read for the average U.S. reader (one who actually reads rather than watching reality T.V.) because it presents Poles and Poland in a light that perhaps the average citizen has not thought about.
July 2, 2015
This book was amazing. I am not really good with history, so I was not familiar with a lot of the background in this story. However, in addition to reading a great book, I also had a good history lesson. This is the story of Anna Maria Berezowska, a Polish girl from the town of Sochaczew. When she is 17, she suffers a great loss in her life that leads her down a twisted path. The whole book takes you on peaks and valleys as she suffers then finds happiness over and over again. While she is portrayed as a soft spoken somewhat reserved girl, inside she is strong and resilient. She finds her way out of a lot of scraps by being quick-witted and fast on her feet. She is a forgiving person, and always looking for the good in others. So many times throughout this book, I thought 'this would be a good place for the book to end', but then something else would happen taking the story into a new direction. I guess that mirrors the situation with her country as it was pulled from the grasp of one enemy into the other. As was mentioned in Betty' s review, this book gives you a feeling of admiration for the people of Poland. They are a proud group who rally around each other and treasure their own history and customs. This was a hard book to put down as I constantly couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I look forward to the next book, and I also look forward to learning more about this little country with big heart.
Profile Image for Nikki.
1,730 reviews66 followers
September 21, 2010
Overall? I was bored. I did not enjoy Martin's writing, his voice did not feel authentic for a female perspective. I absolutely could not stand Zofia, such a miserable character. Anna was either extremely and foolishly trusting or clueless. It took her nearly the entire book to even understand her cousin's (Zofia's) intentions. Since this is based on an actual journal I fear Anna was foolish and slow. However, I do not know how much creative license Martin used. I definitely hope that the "thoughts" which were included in the book of both Anna and Zofia were not authentic since it made them sound like sad, indecisive and needy beings. The best character was Count Jan, but he was barely in the book.

The historical information included felt heavy (it did not flow, included various features but without supporting information) and as if it were inserted randomly at times. It often interupted the story rather than added to it. I think the novel had great potential but was squandered by Martin. I looked forward to the end of the novel. There is a sequel, which I already own. Due to that I may read it but not for some time.
Profile Image for Phyllis Runyan.
326 reviews
March 17, 2016
I had the audio version of this book and didn't like it. The first part of the book was hard to get through but the second half got more into Polish history in the 1790's and I enjoyed it. I might have given it 4 stars if I would have read it instead of the awful voice on the audio version.
Profile Image for Stephanie Burkhart.
Author 47 books422 followers
June 15, 2009
“Push Not the River” is a gripping tale of love and loss, not just on a personal scale, but on a national scale, as the Polish nation is finally taken over by the Russians in 1794. “Push Not the River,” is a story based on the Countess Anna Maria Berezowska’s diary which she kept from 1791-1794. Her story is fascinating, compelling, and will have the reader anxiously turning the page to find out what happens next.

The story begins with seventeen-year-old Anna reeling from the loss of her immediate family. Her father is killed in a fight with a peasant, and her mother, grief stricken, gives premature birth. Anna’s infant brother and her mother also pass away. Anna goes to stay with her aunt and uncle, the Gronska’s. They live in Halicuz, a town in southern Poland. They have a son, Walter, who is in the Russian army, and a daughter, Zofia, a couple of years older than Anna. Zofia takes a liking to Anna, and befriends her.

While exploring the countryside, Anna meets a young man, Count Jan Stelnicki, who is only a few years older than her. Anna finds herself losing her heart to him. When she finally comes out of mourning for her parents, she spends a wonderful day riding with Jan and he asks her to marry him. The moment is ruined as Zofia arrives – jealous that Anna has captured Jan’s heart when she wanted it for herself. A fight ensues and Jan leaves. Anna has sprained her ankle and Zofia goes for help. While Anna waits, she’s raped, and doesn’t recognize her attacker. Finally, her uncle and Walter arrive to take her back to the house.

Anna is pregnant as a result of the rape and is forced into a marriage she doesn’t want to Count Antoni Grawinski. The marriage is unbearable for both of them. Antoni and Jan duel over Anna, but it’s not Jan who kills him, but a mysterious sniper. Just as Anna and Jan are about to give into their feelings, Poland is threatened by yet another partion, and Jan goes off to war before Anna can tell him she loves him. Anna stays with Zofia in Praga, near Warsaw, but Zofia, now Countess Gronska, is an enigma to her cousin, and Anna can’t help but wonder if Zofia is continuing to keep her from Jan. As the Russians burn Praga, both Anna and Zofia face the ultimate challenge.

“Push Not the River,” is wonderfully paced in a grand, sweeping style that will keep the reader enthralled in Anna’s story. The plot is tight, expertly weaving between the destruction of a nation and the love story of Anna and Jan. Anna’s story is so very human, it’s one that leaves the reader thinking about her even after they put the novel down.

Profile Image for Bobby.
796 reviews3 followers
July 16, 2014
Let me begin by saying I'm not big into Romance stories and I had a good scare as this one certainly starts out that way. But I had won this in a Goodread Giveaway and I am faithful to reading the books I have obtained in the Giveaways, so I stuck with it....and am I glad I did! The history of Poland and it's preservation of language and culture was not something I would ever had pursued had I not won this book. James Martin certainly did his homework before venturing into the writing of this novel. His familiarity with not only the country but of the people and their divisiveness between aristocracy and peasants is spot on. As far as characterization, the blossoming of Anna from a shy, introverted rural lady into a borderline patriot in defense of Poland against Catherine the Great is a joy to read. And trying to figure out Zofia is bewildering as well as frustrating....and that adds a wonderful dimension to the writing that I thoroughly appreciated! She actually became my favorite character. Her unpredictability is often the key as to the outcome of the events within. Be aware that this is the first of a trilogy so there are a lot of loose ends at the finish. I am confident that Mr. Martin will tie them all up properly.
Profile Image for Anne.
Author 1 book44 followers
September 14, 2014
What an absolutely stunning novel this is. I was taken in by the first chapter and became deeply involved as the story went on. Lady Anna Bereszowa, a Polish countess is sent to live with relatives after the tragic death of both her parents within days of each other. There she meets dashing Count Jan Strelniki. By now you may wonder if this is just another silly romance story. absolutely not. Anna has a devious cousin whose machinations cause Anna to endure untold tragedy and misery beginning with a rape by an unknown assailant. I found this book compelling, well written and clean for those who do not like a stream of sexuality and filth. But it is the story which captivates. Highly recommended, I am now reading the sequel.
Profile Image for Kami Reeve.
235 reviews
March 30, 2016
I picked this up to read after reading Seton's Katherine as the time periods are similar and I thought it would be interesting to learn what was happening in Poland during the French Peasant Revolt in the late 1700's. While the historical backdrop of this book is interesting and informative, the author focused too much on the bed business of the people of that time period. However, the good people are good in the book and the bad people are a chaos of good and bad intentions. It reads a bit like a drama rather than a history book, so the pages kept turning til the end. I may check out the next in the trilogy. Writing is solid but be warned, you may want to skip a few pages here and there.
1,289 reviews
March 13, 2010
Really liked the first 7 chapters of this book, then it turns into one of those books males write to women about women... so I really was not into this too much, I'd really say 2,5 but I know most of my girlfriends would love this book :)!
I liked Martin's writing style, romantic, but not too flowery. Nice pace to this story too, and the 1791-94 Poland and struggles for freedom were awesomely brought out. I did like how emotionally complicated the girl cousins relationship was. But otherwise the book was predictable and included the usual plots and turns.
Profile Image for Camie.
898 reviews186 followers
August 28, 2020
This first book of James Conroyd Martin’s Trilogy is about Lady Anna Maria Berzowska a young countess coming of age during the upheaval of eighteenth century Poland.
Before I belonged to several varied book clubs, I read mostly books like this one which is historical fiction combined with family drama and romance.
And still sometimes I just need to read a book about castles and manor houses, along with the story of a very strong resilient woman.
One review says that this book, “has all of the sweep and romance of Gone With The Wind.” If you’re looking for a story of this type to get lost in ... you will enjoy this one. 5 stars

Profile Image for Thom Swennes.
1,822 reviews53 followers
March 19, 2016
Sometimes you must put yourself in the way of destiny.
Poland, without a doubt, may be the most inauspicious country in Europe. Its long and turbulent history is filled with a multitude of invasions, occupations, and divisions. From all directions, foes lay in wait to cross her borders and enslave her peoples and partitioned her lands. With no real topographical barriers to protect her from the invading hoards, Poland lay at the mercy of fate and fate seldom smiled on her. With the terror of the French Revolution bringing down long established monarchs, other European kingdoms were worried about possible revolutionary repercussions.

“Peace does not last without conflict.”
The seventeen-year-old Countess Anna Maria Berzowska finds herself suddenly an orphan when both her father and mother unexpectantly die within a very short time. Count Leo Gronski and his wife the Countess Stella Gronska, Anna’s uncle and aunt take her from her home in Sochaczew to their home for a year. Anna’s introduction to this new society proves just how innocent, inexperienced, and naïve she was and how sheltered her life had been. When she meets her uncle’s neighbor, Jan (Janek) Stelnicki, sparks immediately begin to fly but their romance would be everything but easy. Her cousin, Zofia Gronska, in pure selfishness, poses and prances as a vixen spreading poison in her wake. Throughout the chronicle, the Vistula River flows continually, unperturbed, and unhampered, never changing or diverging as the world around it changes like the seasons. And speaking of seasons, the Polish winters leave the reader shivering regardless of the temperature that surrounds them. Sights, smells, sound, and feelings, all the senses are explored and displayed masterfully by the author.

Customs, beliefs, attitudes, values, and traditions are lavishly presented, adding color, depth and interest to the tale. The great chasm between the nobility and peasantry is much like that of their neighbor Russia and proved to be a constant ground for unrest. Personal and political machinations, maneuverings, and intrigues keep the reader turning the pages and devouring every word. The author mixes real and fictional characters and historical events to weave an intriguing and entertaining tale that the reader would long remember. One can’t help but empathize with the desecration, violation, and victimization of Poland’s lands and peoples. This story reminds me of, and indeed, could match the sweeping grandeur and literary quality of works as Russka (1991) by Edward Rutherfurd (aka Francis Edward Wintle), Leon Uris’s Mila 18 (1983), and James Michener’s Poland (1983) but most of all to me it resembles, rivals and in some ways surpasses War and Peace (1869) by Leo Tolstoy.
I have a predilection for sagas, the longer, the better. This novel fits the bill in every way. It is an intricate story of life and love, masterly weaved into a highly intriguing romance. This missive is divided into six parts as the story progresses through Anna’s eventful life and Poland’s pending fate. This is the first book of the Poland Trilogy and I can say without a doubt that I will read the following two, Against a Crimson Sky (#2) and The Warsaw Conspiracy (#3).
Profile Image for Kerry.
1,445 reviews59 followers
July 16, 2015
There is very little that could be considered "historical" in this work of fiction. It's always a shame when a less-known historical period/geographical area is appropriated and the exploited without thorough research. It insults the reader who may know something about it and who is eager to read a well-written fictional account of people who may have lived during that time.

The premise of this book has such potential, set in 18th-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It makes references to Polish culture, the some political events, the influence of nearby Lithuania, and even some historical figures. But these cannot save the unlikely scenarios, the flat characters, the inaccuracies, the strange pacing, the clumsy plot, the shifting perspectives that--though they represent different characters--sound like the same voice.

Furthermore, it is worth mentioning the painful and naive depiction of womanhood, rape (and rape at that time), women's station in the household, and female relationships.

The writing is cliched and breaks the cardinal rule of "telling" rather than "showing." It raises more questions than it answers--and not in a plot-advancing manner. A good historical fiction weaves in facts about the time period and details about those who lived in a way that builds the world and teaches the reader something at the same time. However, the rules of 18th-century Poland are not followed in this book; rather, the rules are made up as the story progresses and don't seem to follow any rhyme or reason except convenience for the writer.
Profile Image for Maria Aenlle.
Author 3 books10 followers
February 15, 2012
This book seemed long at first but I got into it right away. This historical novel takes place during the 1770's in Poland while the French Revolution was developing. Many Polish aristocrats wanted to make reforms not only to save themselves from the guillotine but because they believed in a more democratic way of life for all. Catherine of Russia had her sight on Poland and it was not too long before she helped to divide the opinion of the aristocracy to take over the country aided by Prussia and Austria. Poland ceased to exist as a whole nation and the aristocrats as well as the commoners suffered the ravages of war. The experiences that the main character, Anna, had to live were so extreme that at times I thought they were invented by the author. I still wonder if he did not take some liberties. The book is supposed to be based on the diaries of the two main characters, Ana and her cousin Sofia, who could not have been more different from each other but whose destinies were intertwined. In the end, love and the light win; a comfort after reading through so many cliff hangers. This book would make a great mini series.
860 reviews7 followers
October 31, 2014
According to the author's notes, James Conroyd Martin based "Push not the River" on the unpublished diary of 18th century Polish Countess Anna Maria Berezowsky. I love a good historical novel; "Push" is not one of them. The characters are totally flat (as an aside, a funeral director in this book would be the richest of the rich), and the episodes spin at a fevered pitch, one after another, each with its own far-fetched solution. The book reads very quickly; there are no subtleties to miss. The ending was satisfying, and the book continues in a trilogy. I did admire Anna and her courage and her wit; Zofia could be everyone's favorite villain; what's not to like about Jan? Still, I won't be checking out books two and three from the library.
Profile Image for Deena.
12 reviews2 followers
June 12, 2013
Loved this book, as a historical novel it brought some of Poland's history to life for me. It had just enough of everything to keep me turning pages and although I could do without profanity completely, it was sparsely used. I appreciated that the author did not bring what I considered a modern element into the relationships and views of the characters, as I have seen happen in so many other 'historical' fiction books I've read. I loved the Polish proverbs at the head of each chapter, too. Definitely putting this on my list for book club.
142 reviews4 followers
July 27, 2014
A Polish Gone with the Wind the cover said. Lush. Romantic. So far so good. What they should have added - for truth in advertising's sake - was: Melodramatic. Overwritten. Improbable. There was hardly a main character I found believable, nor did the author miss any opportunity to include set pieces - rape, murder. If there had been rail service at that time, I am certain he would have had Anna Maria tied to the tracks.

If you want a saga about the tragic history of Poland, you'd be better off with James Michner's Poland. I want my 2 hours back.
Profile Image for Rani.
141 reviews
March 20, 2011
If you loved Gone with the Wind, then pick this one up! I actually would give it 4.5 stars. Historical Fiction based on the unpublished diary of Countess Anna Maria Berezowska. Rich with romance,intrigue, drama,suspense,jealousy and greed,all the while detailing an account of the turbulent times in 18th century Poland.
Profile Image for Cecilia.
24 reviews
December 15, 2009
This is bar none my favorite book. I feel drawn to the Countess in this story because she is a pillar of hope, faith and patriotism in ones country... She works to overcome all obstacles in order to continue to live even when adversity is thrown into her path. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Rachael Knudsen.
75 reviews63 followers
March 31, 2014
A stunning historical work that was rich in depth. I could not put it down. There was not enough of a reprieve in the midst of the story, from the endless miseries of her life, that could allow me to truly love it; despite Anna's miraculously ending up with Jan in the end
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