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4.2 out of 5 stars75
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 20 October 2014
A very entertaining, original history of the Habsburgs - and a Central European travel guide too, at the same time. This is a bit of an odd book, but I found it amusing and well worth reading. I do feel it could have been even better: Winder writes extremely well, and he clearly knows his stuff even better. Unfortunately, he is strangely reluctant to discuss the many wars/battles/campaigns, so central to the Habsburgs' history, in any depth (even though I am positive he could!), profusely apologising when he dedicates even a paragraph to the entire War of the Austrian Succession - and yet he is never reluctant to expand on a silly suit or a bizarre painting he sees in an out-of-the-way museum. Despite this regret I still greatly enjoyed reading 'Danubia'.
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on 4 December 2015
Great writer enthusiastic about his subject
Very readable and also amusing
A different sort of travel/history read
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on 9 August 2014
I thought I might find the jaunty style jarring, but this turned out to be one of the most indispenible, clear and thought-provoking books about a huge chunk of central European history that deserves to be far better known and understood. Simon Winder Is a far wiser and shrewder guide than his sometimes throw away style implies and he leaves you enormously better informed, engaged and enlightened - a really great and useful read.
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on 13 July 2014
Fascinating.
You can see the foots of so many modern conflicts ere rooted very very deeply in the past
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on 3 December 2014
This is a great read. I've always been very interested in the Hapsburgs and their Empire, so this is a very good attempt at trying to make sense of it all over time and distance. The author is also very witty, and there are some laugh out loud moments - which doesn't happen too often in history books in general, and those about the Austrian Empire in particular.
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on 12 December 2013
Just the right mix of history and culture with some humour. Kept me enthralled- a real page turner. Loved it.
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on 10 August 2015
Wonderfully witty and informative writing. The author clearly has a passion for his subject, married to keen insight and an amusing turn of phrase. I particularly liked the way in which he shows how the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire gave rein to the nastiness of ethnic division and petty nationalism, with dire results.
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on 6 June 2015
A fascinating and entertaining read, and a great introduction to history and geography I knew pitifully little about. I have been infected by some of Winder's enthusiasms already, including Bartok's Duke Bluebeard's Castle and the town museum at Sighisoara, and my life is all the happier for it! WizzAir, order more planes.
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on 22 March 2014
After "Germania" - one of the most entertaining books on Germany ever written, and a firm favourite of mine - I found this something of a slog. Winder himself admits it is not such a "sunny" book as Germania, and unfortunately this is something of an understatement. What made Germania so readable was the many wonderful Winder anecdotes - if fact it can be claimed that Germania is an account of travels in modern-day Germany with some history tacked on - whereas Danubia is just all the history stuff, with little to lighten the load. Not that anything can be taken away from the huge amount of historical information here - the research which must have gone into this book is breathtaking. It's just that about two-thirds in - long after I had completely lost track of the mind-boggling bifurcations of the Hapsburg dynasty and the shifting geo-political landscapes of south-east Europe - it was merely politeness that impelled me to keep going to the bitter end.
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on 20 October 2013
I had to stop reading this in bed at night because my husband said I was keeping him awake by laughing out loud! I was inspired to buy this book after taking a cruise on the Danube last summer, and realising that I knew little or nothing about the history of Central Europe. I think it will take several readings of Simon Winder's book before I sort out all the emperors and their foibles - my only quibble is that he doesn't always mention the date of the events he describes, which can be confusing at times. But if you're looking for an accessible history book about the region from mediaeval times up to the first world war, this is brilliant!
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