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The Last Mazurka: A Tale of War, Passion and Loss Paperback – 25 Mar 2007

12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd; New edition edition (25 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184513219X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845132194
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 689,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"'I read it from beginning to end with admiration. It is rich, well-organized and stoical. Everything in it is finely judged. It deserves to find many readers.' V. S. Naipaul 'This sensitive memoir is one man's act of solidarity with his people: past, present and to come...[a] splendid portrait' Sunday Times 'This is he best way into history - real flesh and blood struggling to live and to love in their collapsing world of war and exile. And written with exquisite precision.' Norman Davies 'It makes one wish one could have met the characters in the flesh... a fascinating history and a moving personal memoir.' Piers Paul Read"

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gail Turner on 26 Jun. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that grips the reader from the first page. You do not want to put it down - and when you get to the end you feel empty.

Author Andrew Tarnowski, Polish by birth, but brought up in England, began to investigate his family's history after being sent to Warsaw as Chief Correspondent for Reuters in 1988 just before the fall of Communism. In some ways he finds out more than he bargained for, discovering disastrous marriages, and colourful and often dysfunctional relations. Yet he succeeds in skilfully weaving the extraordinary stories of their lives into the larger canvas of the turbulent history of Poland - invaded in turn by Austrians, Bolsheviks, Germans and Soviets. As a former Reuters correspondent, Tarnowski writes clearly and objectively, and this is his family's story but it is also a brilliant resume of an important slice of European twentieth century history.

The family owned estates in Galicia, a neglected province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and were connected by marriage to other well-known aristocratic Polish families. The Last Mazurka begins before 1914, with Tolstoyan tales of stag hunts, tame wild boars, loyal retainers, and shots fired on a wedding night. It progresses through World War Two with a betrothal ring (a family heirloom) flung away in anger as Soviet tanks advance, of exile, dispossession, complex love affairs, and finally with a kind of return to neglected former family properties.

The Last Mazurka covers some of the same ground as Olivia Manning's The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Janet Marsden on 22 Jun. 2006
Format: Hardcover
I found this an elegantly written family memoir, which provides a rare look inside one of the oldest European aristocracies, the Tarnowskis of Poland, as they struggled to survive two world wars and the loss of their property to Communism. It is also a painfully honest study of a family under tremendous pressure, both from their own failings and the cataclysm through which they passed. I recommend this book strongly for a number of reasons. Its detailed

description of what it was like to be a refugee, scrambling from handout to

handout, fills in the gaps in general histories of wars, usually more concerned with treaties and battles and great men than with the people, from whatever walk of life, who had to live through war. To see World War II through the eyes of this family, at once so privileged and so damaged, is to experience those years from a new perspective. Who won't sympathize with the author as he struggles to make sense of this family? A sad, unwanted child, he found himself in his early years parked with strangers, virtually abandoned by his beautiful mother and wild, violent father. Strip away the titles, the great country houses, the titled acquaintances and it is a story many people can not only relate to but take to heart.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Maria R. Bninska on 26 Jun. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book. Shows the history of one family and history of Poland. Well written, you start reading it and you can't stop till the end.

The story of Tarnowski family is fascinating, from being rich aristocrats to people deprived of all rights by communists.

In the background you will find Polish history, first and second world wars and communism.

I reccomend this book

Maria Bninska
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By N. Parsons on 28 Jan. 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a truly remarkable and deeply moving book in which the author takes the reader with him back in time as he researches the truth about his family - broken and scattered by the invasion of Poland at the start of World War II. His re-imagined portrait of the idyllic lives of his aristocratic family in the pre-war years is reminded me of Patrick Leigh Fermour's evocation of similar lifestyles he encountered on his walk through Hungary and Romania at a similar period. I wholeheartedly recommend everyone who has an interest in what happened to some central Europe in those years to head this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gayle E. Riley on 22 Jun. 2006
Format: Hardcover
Andrew Tarnowski takes you through the difficult life of his parents and aunt as they run away from the Nazis, leaving Poland and their great noble heritage. This is a genealogy not of dates and names but of struggles, travel and loss of indentity.

I recommend this book if you enjoy history and have a genealogy connection to Poland.
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By thorbug on 5 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book conveys an lively, unblemished and unstinting sketch of a world few of us ever encountered and knew even less about. Having known or met a number of the people featured made it all the more interesting, but even without that boost, this is a very well written and readable book. The Second World War and its aftermath resulted in the obliteration of the Polish aristocracy of which the author's family was part. This book tells us that story, how they did or did not come to terms with it and what eventually became of them, warts and all. There is a sadness threading through the whole book but no bitterness or self-pity which gives it a distinct edge. Given his family history, it seems astounding the author managed to be so apparently level in his own life. Definitely a good read for those interested in that period of history
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