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on 13 November 2009
I totally agree with the last reviewer.

I started to read this book yesterday and am already half-way through it. Such speed is rare for me.

It is written with a journalist's eye and insight into the real events. Meyer seemed to be rushing from country to country at the time, so gathers hundreds of interviews with the key players.

The book conveys superbly the radomn nature of the collapse, and also how it was top-down and from the inside-out. An empire giving away its own power is quite a unique event. It's easy to make sense of it in retrospect, but at the time it was extraordinary and nobody, not even its protagonists, could keep pace with it.

It's very interesting for me to read about events from an American perspective, and strange to find that many of Meyer's fellow Americans felt Reagen and Bush were responsible for regime change, whereas in fact Bush (the original one) was initially quite cold to Gorbachev and suspicious of change. Meyer believes this misreading of history partly led to the foreign policy of Bush Mark 2.

Appart from anything else, it's a great narrative. At times perhaps Meyer goers over the top with embellishing dramatic scenes (probably unneccessary because the drama is already there) but only a stuffy historian would criticise the book for this.
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on 18 August 2010
This book is good for giving readers an overview of the events that happened in 1989 behind the Iron Curtain and how they eventually lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall. It's a fantastic book for fact junkies but anyone after the atmosphere among the people at the time will be disappointed. After all, this book is written by a Westerner. Consequently he is seeing East Germany with Western eyes and judging things, people and actions by Western standards. In that respect the book 'The Iron Curtain Kid' impressed me more by painting a more vivid picture of how and what people thought and felt. However, I liked that this book here is also looking at other communist states at the time, rather than just East Germany. Personally, I wasn't too keen on the writing style, It reminded me of reading a newspaper article and I would have preferred a little bit more passion. But I guess that's a very subjective point to make. An ok read.
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on 15 October 2009
Having visited Berlin in 1988, I thought, along with a lot of others, that the Wall would last a few more decades. I remember being transfixed by the images and reports of revolution throughout the eastern bloc during the autumn of 1989. Who, of my generation, could possibly forget the images of people dancing on the wall, or the reports of the trial and demise of Ceaucescu?

Michael Meyer's style is easy to read, and explains the events unfolding rapidly in Hungary, Poland, the DDR and Czechoslovakia, along with the acquiescence of Mikhail Gorbachev.

Meyer puts together the story of the events, starting with the realization in Hungary that the communist system was bankrupt and had to change, relating his own experiences (as Newsweek's correspondent in Germany and Eastern Europe) and interviews with many of the key players at the time and since then.

A fantastic historical reconstruction; easy to read and hard to put down.
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on 13 December 2009
Like a great movie, after I finished this book I went back and read it again.

Michael Meyer's clear, "I was there" prose is a pleasure to read. He provides a series of unforgettable vignettes and mind-clearing insights into the most momentous event in recent history, the peaceful collapse of Soviet Communism.

The insights begin on the first page with a dedication to "To MN and those few who dared". Who is "MN"? He is the least known and the most far-sighted and courageous of the many unforgettable figures who put the Soviet Union into history's dustbin: Hungary's Prime Minister, Miklos Nemeth. Read and re-read this book and meet Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth. May history praise his name.
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on 18 April 2011
When I left Berlin after my second visit there in the summer of 1988 I never thought the wall would be gone a little over a year later.
Like most people I have vivid recollections of the unfolding events of the second half of 1989 as one after the other the Communist regimes of eastern Europe collapsed.
What I was less aware of was what led up to that moment, and the man who really made it happen. That man is the former Hungarian Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth.
Michael Meyer's book vividly describes the unfolding events in each country as the pace of change increased throughout that momentous year, from the free elections in Poland to the bloody revolution in Romania and the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia.
But if one man stands out from this amazing story then it is Nemeth.
I particularly enjoyed the account of his meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev where he was seeking approval for his reforms in Hungary.
The picture that sprang to my mind was of Dorothy facing the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, barely daring to ask for anything for fear of refusal.
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on 25 March 2014
This is not an erudite in depth analysis of the events leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, but given the title and the front cover recommend from thriller novelist Ken Follett, nor would you expect it to be. Instead it is a whistle stop tour of the fall of communism gushing with hyperbole. At times you feel the author is so breathless with the excitement that he runs away with himself. Clichés and exclamation marks abound. He can of course be forgiven some of this exhilaration as uniquely he found himself in the right place at the right time and through a mix of ingenuity and good luck managed to interview nearly all the major players. In places the writing is quite painful; referring to Honecker : “..if he did not embrace some measure of glasnost or perestroika Gorbachev would diss him at his own party.” That said this is a readable and enjoyable romp in the same way a Hollywood action movie can be; you’re content to sit through it but leave feeling that perhaps the actors and Director had the best time. He is even handed in his criticism of the American administration and quite correctly points out that Reagan’s now widely replayed and feted speech at the Wall was a minor sideshow rather a major catalyst to the aftermath. I found the notes on the sources at the end of the book the most interesting part.
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on 30 August 2012
I would have given my right arm to see the fall of Berlin Wall. Luckily Michael Meyer's book, The Year that changed the World, gives a close account by someone who saw the Berlin Wall come down, Vaclav Havel leading the Civic Forum to overthrow the communists in Czechoslovakia and was one of the last to interview Nicolae Ceausescu.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is widely recognised as starting process which lead to the disintegration of the East Communist Bloc, by Meyer tells us in the book that the real incidences of change had happened months before. When the new Hungarian leaders decided to hold free elections with a promise of Gorbachev that they wouldn't intervene like in 1956. It was the Hungarians who first cut holes in the iron curtain and allowed holidaying East Germans to leave.

The internal pressures within the Communist bloc had been building up for years, failed economic policies, shortages, lack of choice, daily limitations and basic boredom was taking its toll on population. All what was needed was one knock and the whole edifice came tumbling down. As Meyer argues twenty years later, many Westerners especially Americans failed to understand how the system unravelled so quickly. It was the Communist system that was grinding to a half that lead to the collapse, not because West's confrontational policy towards the Communist bloc.

Michael's Meyer account is a refreshing reminder of what really happened in 1989.
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on 14 January 2011
I raced through this book. The style is first class, the English is excellent, my only irritation being the American spelling which I always find distracting. However, he is an American! I lived through all these era-changing period and it was exciting then and is re-created as just as exciting in this book. His information sources seem to be unprecedented and so much of it was new to me. It reads almost like a fictional thriller. I give this an unqualified recommendation
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on 9 August 2014
I did two projects at BA and MA level about 1989 and this was a very helpful book. It is a first person experience of the revolutions of 1989, giving an overview of events, essentially recorded in 'real-time' as opposed to a reflective view with some of my other research. The author, Michael Meyer, was present in the central/eastern European are as a correspondent for Newsweek in 1989. As a result he managed to be present for many of the key events during the 'autumn of nations' and this book is his story. Meyer tends to report the events rather than pass judgment as on them, and while he interviewed many leading political figures he also describes the social landscape of the time; what people were doing, what they were saying on the street etc. I found this of great interest and a welcome angle from which to research from. The writing is solid and colourful, with lots of detail.
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on 13 August 2013
Bought as a present for someone else but received with gratitude. He didn't see the building of the Wall or the misery it caused just the 'Fall'.
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