0269 | In Europe – Geert Mak

Context: Finally finished this off at our friends’ lovely house in Beamish, County Durham.

REVIEW
This was an amazing book and I can’t think why it isn’t better known. For me, it was a novel premise. It’s effectively a travel book but with a difference. The difference is that Mak’s itinerary is determined by the historical order of key events in 20th century European history. Thus, as WW1 unfolds, he starts in Sarajevo and ends up on Flanders’ fields. I found that by making the connection between historical event and location, the book raised itself above many other books I’ve read of European travel and history.

What particularly engaged me was the people he met in each of these places, people who had been directly affected by the events he was relating. This added an intimacy I appreciated as often historical events of European status can often seem detached and overwhelming in their scale.

There were some stretches which I found less enjoyable… particularly those that related the birth of the EC. But they were quickly over before we were again back in the Balkans.

The book must have taken an immense amount of research and understanding to complete, not to mention hours spent doing the actual travelling. It’s definitely a labour of love and if you have any interest whatsoever in history or travel, this book will be a special one for you.

OPENING LINE

When I left Amsterdam on Monday morning 4th January 1999, a storm was rampaging through the town.

CLOSING LINE

The Alsatian gingerbread smells of Christmas 1990.

RATING

Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement
Read more about how I come up with my ratings

  • Melissa August 4, 2010, 3:11 pm

    I’m a sucker for a good travel memoir and this sounds great.

    Reply
  • Simon August 10, 2010, 11:30 am

    Reading it now. (Actually I’m reading your copy in transit to Gareth). Really enjoying it so far. Combines history with human interest and communicates detail with brevity. Quite a feat.

    Reply

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