As Mr. Watts showed in his earlier works "Dare Call it Treason" on the French mutinies of 1917 and "The Kings Depart" on Germany and the Versailles Treaty, he is a master of narrative history. The present book is of similar quality. It is the sort of "find" one dreams of encountering but so seldom does, a well-written, exciting account of a subject one knows to be of interest and importance, but on which little seems to be available outside detailed academic histories. Mr. Watts has a splendidly exciting story to tell - how Modern Poland sprung from a dream of freedom that had been kept alive despite a century and a half of partition and foreign repression - and he tells it with verve. The initial part of the story is on an epic scale: the apparently hopeless struggle of Pilsudski and other nationalists to breathe new life into the Polish ideal prior to the First World War, their brilliant exploitation of events as the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires crumbled at the end of it, their momentarily-successful attempt to revive an earlier Greater Poland stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea and their final, incredible, last-ditch success in repulsing Bolshevik invasion in 1920. After this deliverance - or rather nineteen-year stay of execution, as subsequent events were to prove - the challenge of creating a modern, economically viable state was a daunting one, with minimal resources and an impoverished, undereducated population. The second part of the book, detailing the painful process of industrialisation and of land, fiscal and education reform is no less fascinating than the first, playing out against a background of hostile neighbours and internal political squabbling. Petty party politics and narrow sectional interests bedevilled the new nation and once Pilsudski, the founding father, a benevolent not-quite-dictator, passed from the scene in the mid '30s these became ever more malignant factors, not least in unworthy half-tolerance of increasing Anti-Semitism. Despite all however, one gets the sense of a heroic people seeking a higher destiny, faltering on occasion, yet never losing faith in themselves and hope in the future. Mr.Watts guides the reader through the morass of party politics with assurance, never losing one's interest, and is very effective in bringing to life the main players in inter-war Polish society. The book ends with the disaster of 1939, with Poland once again partitioned by its ruthless neighbours and with its indomitable citizens entering the hell that will see them brutalised and enslaved, but also fighting on battle fronts from North Africa to Normandy and the Netherlands, over the skies of Western Europe and, bloody but unbowed, in the very ruins and sewers of Warsaw itself. These latter epics of Polish heroism are well recorded elsewhere and it is to Mr.Watts' credit that he has recorded so well what set the scene for these later events.