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Prague Spring

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,296 ratings  ·  180 reviews
New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Room Simon Mawer returns to Czechoslovakia, this time during the turbulent 1960s, with a suspenseful story that mixes sex, politics, and betrayal.

In the summer of 1968—a year of love and hate, of Prague Spring and Cold War winter—Oxford students James Borthwick and Eleanor Pike set out to hitchhike across Europe,
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published August 2nd 2018 by Little, Brown (first published 2018)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  1,296 ratings  ·  180 reviews

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A novel about the intertwined lives of four people who meet in Czechoslovakia during the “Prague Spring” of 1968. James and Ellie are students hitchhiking through Europe during their summer break. Sam is a diplomat at the British Embassy who is involved with a Czech woman, Lenka. Most of the text is taken up with the ups and downs of the two relationships. This is my third Simon Mawer novel and I would say that in this respect it follows the same pattern as the previous two.

I didn’t dislike the
switterbug (Betsey)
If you know anything about the Prague Spring—which started in January of 1968 and went on until August 21 of the same year, when the Soviet Red Army invaded, it is the time of mild liberalization and democratization of the media and travel, and of the citizens’ ability to enjoy more freedoms in Czechoslovakia. You can always research the history online, which does help to comprehend the importance of this time. Dubček's “socialism with a human face,” as this time was called, gave rise to many ...more
Kristýna (The Book Talk Blog)
How do I review THIS? Mawer's new book is a masterpiece. The story will touch you through its gentleness, it will hold your heart, caress it and then crush it. Parts of beautifully poetic language are followed by raw story-telling which gets to the point, quickly and simply. I loved the book, that's all I can say, and I bow before Mr. Mawer.

Full review soon to be posted on my blog.

Czech review:
Feb 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of two young Oxford students who get to know each other from acting in a play. It is 1968 and time to decide what to do on "vac" and the female of the two is the driving force in pushing for a road trip through Europe. Everything as described is quite believable, but why they managed to survive this road trip is "blowing in the wind."
A coin toss decides on their direction that takes then into the political turmoil of the Prague Spring.

I was a chicken and never took a trip like
Jacki (Julia Flyte)
Set in the summer of 1968, this is about two couples who get caught up in the events of Prague Spring, when reform briefly came to Czechoslovakia before the Russians moved in and took control. Ellie and James are students at Oxford who are spending the summer travelling round Europe and who come to Prague on a whim. Sam is a First Secretary at the British Embassy who has fallen in love with Lenka, a Czech student. They are all caught up with enthusiasm that change is in the offing, but the ...more
I am way to analytic when it comes to the books I read. This could be a fuction of working in a bookstore, using goodreads and pretending I am a reviewer and just down right pretenious-ness. But it is becoming rarer and rarer that I just can enjoy something because I just like it.

I could nit pick this book apart. But I just enjoyed the sentimental romantism of the piece. Of the city of Prague, of young love, with a person and with history. It was an easy book to sink into. And sometimes that has
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As this superb tense thriller shows Simon Mawer writes wonderful historical fiction, and creates an interesting cast of diverse personalities, whose lives inter-play against the dramatic background of Dubceck’s ‘Prague Spring.’

First love, jealous and possessive, and attractions, strengthening and diminishing, are laid bare in all their many clumsy forms and blundering facets, and are handled with great sensitivity. The characters will stay in the memory long after the book is finished.
Anne Fenn
What great old time story telling. Beautifully written, complex characterisation, focused on Europe in 1968, I loved every minute of it. Main characters Sam and Lenka reside in Prague, while Elly and James play young people struggling with themselves on a journey of discovery through Europe. Their haphazard approach to life - throw a coin to see where to go- contrasts sharply with the carefully formed persona of Sam the diplomat and Lenka, a Czech nationalist with a tragic past. The plot follows ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed The Girl Who Fell From the Sky & Tightrope but this is much better than those two books. There is more depth in the story and the characterisation, the political context is more carefully drawn and yet it remains a page turner. I would say this is the same kind of satisfying read on all fronts that The Glass Room was.

Two story strands - young students hitching round Europe end up in Prague, and a Diplomat and a Czech dissident - both equally well rendered and then the
1968. In the West there is the swinging sixties, the US is in Vietnam, the Cold War is threatening but drugs and rock and roll rule. In the East, Russia is dominating its allies and is threatening Czechoslovakia for relaxing it's political love of Communism.
Ellie and James go hiking in the summer - tourism in the Eastern bloc is very much a novelty. In Prague, Sam is a UK diplomat who finds love with the alluring Lenka.
There's a lot about the various relationships. Not sure why so much was
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a lovely book with well drawn diverse characters. It is true that the setting of the scenes and characters takes quite long, but I like how the characters are drawn, divers and how it is put together. I hate open endings and not knowing how it finishes just drives me mad.
Apr 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slow start and a build-up (quite nice but not much more than a romance-drama), then everything happens in the last 100 pages (gripping and dramatic and a great read). (view spoiler) So that's one star off. Plus, I appreciate the author trying to imbue the story with Czech and even using diacritics, but he could have at least got someone to check if his Czech is actually correct (it often wasn't). ...more
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book set in Prague during the Spring of 1968 that tells the story of two mismatched couples; British hitchhikers from Oxford who end up in the city on a whim and a British diplomat and his new lover, a Czech student. All become caught up in the historic events of the time, at the height of the Cold War. Dubček leads a reformist government with the hope of offering greater freedoms to his people, giving cause for wary optimism in downtrodden Prague. But Brezhnev’s communist Russia ...more
Ali Schultz
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
The situation is interesting but the plot and characters aren't, really.
Catherine Davison
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I particularly appreciate books which manage to capture my attention with a good taut storyline while at the same time send me off searching for the history of a place, people and culture. This book did both. There’s only one reason I’m not giving this book the full five stars but I don’t want to be spoilerish by explaining exactly why. Read it and you may also experience that slight let down which attests to how skilfully Mawer created his characters: if they weren’t so well developed I wouldn’ ...more
Tonstant Weader
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simon Mawer’s latest book Prague Spring is sent in the short flourishing of freedom in Czechoslovakia when Alexander Dubcek sought to create “socialism with a human face” by lifting censorship and expanding cultural freedoms. This was soon crushed by the Warsaw Pact invasion to end, as they put it, the counterrevolution. James and Ellie are two Oxford students hitchhiking Europe during their holiday. James is infatuated with Ellie and Ellie is amused by James. She’s studying literature; he’s ...more
Madeleine Myers
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
History drawn in vivid colors.

My own Czech ancestry has given me a lifelong curiosity about the homeland my grandparents left, and especially about this period in the history of the Czech Republic. The main characters were close to my age at the time, young, out of college, in love, and independent, but we were definitely lacking the experience and self-awareness they possess. At first the shifting between Ellie and James's adventures and Sam and Lenka's romance was bothersome, but once their
Carolyn Mck
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the title, those with a knowledge of recent European history will recognise the setting - the brief 'spring' when the Czechoslovak Communist leadership undertook liberal reforms, including freeing up the press. Sam Wareham is the British diplomat in Prague at this time: he has just said goodbye to his lover Steffi who has returned to England. Then he meets Lenka, a young woman in the centre of a group of political reformers. Meanwhile James and Ellie are a young English couple hitchhiking ...more
Melissa Joulwan
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, czech-republic
4 1/2 stars.

This books examines what people are willing to risk for freedom and love. And if you've ever wondered what it would be like to accidentally get caught up in a potentially dangerous spy mission, this is the book for you.

It’s the summer of 1968—the summer of love—even, for a while, in communist Czechoslovakia. As tensions rise between Moscow and Prague in the background, this story follow the misadventures—romantic and otherwise—of two groups of people: an on-again-off-again British
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Story set in the late 60's a historical novel, part romance, part coming of age, and part spy novel. Looming over the book is the impending squashing of a freedoms of the Czech people by the Russians. The beauty of the book is relishing the courage of the Czech people, and their love for freedom. History tells us the Russians may of ruled the people with a iron fist. But they never captured the hearts of the people.
Karla Huebner
At last a novel not by a Czech that conveys something about Prague! That said, it's not primarily about the city or set there; there are two story lines, and they converge there just before the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. On the one hand we've got the British diplomat Sam, who speaks Czech decently and gets involved with a young woman named Lenka after his semi-girlfriend is posted elsewhere. On the other hand we've got two British university students, one rich and one working-class, ...more
Even dough the plot is set mainly in Czech republic during the period of 'Prague Spring' in 1968, at the beginning we travel from England with two main characters, students on a trip, and we are introduced with an English diplomat based in Prague. I expected something else, something better, to be honest. I didn't like Ellie and I didn't like James - why the hell he missed a backbone so badly and why the hell was she so flat? I kinda liked Sam and I really liked Lenka. However, their stories ...more
Barbara Ridley
A good read. I especially enjoyed it because I remember the worldwide tumult of 1968 very well, and I have a family history connection to Prague. This novel doesn't match the brilliance of Mawer's Glass Room, but it was interesting to see the author return to Czechoslovakia, following two protagonists, one a British diplomat who cares deeply for the country, the other an aimless young man who ends up there purely by chance but gets swept up in the events of the moment. The two parallel stories ...more
April Mislan
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The descriptions of Prague are so real and accurate, It was a great insight on what life was like for the Czech people during that time. Following the 2 different storylines to see how they finally meet was good. I do feel there was more lead up to the main event, and then the main event was rather short.
Shayne Thomas
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great historic fiction about a country which I have become very fond. Details about communist intervention in Czechia during 1968 is the backdrop for a series of love stories. If you have traveled to Prague then you will love all of the geographic references. This is a great read for your trip abroad.
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mawer brilliantly conjures up the feverish excitement of 1968 in Czechoslovakia, through the eyes of a couple of English hitchhiking, British embassy staff, and student and activist residents of Prague. Thrilling and moving.
James P. Myers
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Definitely enjoyable. Compelling picture of the Prague Spring through the eyes of youth. The characters were also well drawn by the author.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two story lines intersect half-way through this historical fiction, and until then it was simply the writing, not interest in the characters, that kept me going. The latter half is paced better, although I admit I would read anything Mawer writes. His The Glass Room was stunning. And though this novel does not strike me as strongly, the scene that describes a cello player at a concert in Prague is worth the entire read.

"And she begins, making exact, articulate movements of hands and arms, like a
Tony Nielsen
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now with ten successful novels under his belt you could rightly expect that Simon Mawer's new book will deliver. And it does. In spades, in fact.

The setting is the beautiful city of Prague, but not as we now know it, because the date is 1968. The Cold War is raging but in the Prague spring there's a feeling of anarchy in the air, and in Alexander Dubcek's Czechoslovakian world he's walking a very fine line with his Northern neighbours and the Red Army that's preparing to pounce.

English students
Jean Aarons
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Simon Mawer (born 1948, England) is a British author. He currently lives in Italy.

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