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3.9 out of 5 stars
Europe: An Intimate Journey
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
If you enjoyed 'Fifty years of Europe: an album" and are looking for more, don't buy this one - it is the same! Published in 1997 by Viking and in 1998 by Pnguin under the 'Fifty years' title, in 2006 Faber & Faber brought it out under this 'new' name. Why? Well, to make money from idiots like me, I suppose. You have been warned. Mind you, it *is* a lovely book, and here is what I wrote about the original:

Written in 1997, this is a series of vignettes (or postcards) from bits of Europe - sometimes you think from *all* the bits of Europe! - written, or remembered, from 1945 to '97. Early on, you may feel it is a rather acquired taste, like carrots with schnapps (an indulgence she committed in Helsinki, after a long spell in Russia).
Postcards of half a page, of two pages... old ladies in Portugal, Rastas in Bergen, cappucino in Vilnius; but the postcards are not isolated. They produce an atmosphere, and then you begin to feel the linkages; linkages with and through history, politics, the melancoly of Trieste, growing old. The taste is both exquisite and homely, the phrases are finely crafted, the feelings real.
Morris has been at it for a long time: as news correspondent with the Mt Everest team of 1953 he wrote the first dispatch on the successful climb of the mountain; passing through Heathrow recently, she describes this "as though conceived in revenge by some insanely disgruntled town planner". The language is both exact and playful, the jokes good, the overview great. This book is a kaleidoscope of personal tableaux, with a very personal Morris-colouring, resonating with anyone (I would think) with interest in other places. There is a Venetian saying for back-street walking, 'per le fodere', through the linings; well, this is it - and it makes you (well, me) appreciate this diverse continent, through its trains, boats, trams, backstreets and hidden corners, rivers and monuments, its mad despots and its poor farmers, through the keyboard or pen of a failed anarchist Welshwoman.
It is great, it is pithy, beautifully written, and an absolute delight.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 July 2010
Jan Morris has written another magical and lyrical travel book, this time a summary of her travels around Europe over a period of 50 years or more, written as a series of short and pithy observations of the people and cultures of Europe through a variety of themes. This is akin to taking a journey through time and geography in the accompaniment of a wonderfully articulate and inspirational writer and observer, to be picked up and enjoyed in short passages or in extended reads. The sort of book that you can just keep dipping into for repeated incisive analyses of what makes Europe such a fascinating place, all done with the sharp, witty and independent observation of someone who thankfully doesn't carry the cultural and historical baggage of many other writers. Framed between the solid and constant bookends of her beloved Welsh home and her love and fascination for Trieste, this book taken as a whole presents a sensitive and loving portrait of Europe in all its diversity, by a writer who understands and appreciates that diversity better than most. A marvellous read to which one can keep returning time and time again.
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VINE VOICEon 15 April 2015
Jan Morris is an artisan of the English language, specialising in portraits of places that exude ambience and mystique, without losing historical accuracy and a mastery of the facts: her books on Oxford, Venice and Spain are unrivalled; she combines curiosity, sagaciously analytical watching with a real skill in communication and exemplary style. Reading Morris is, as one cover reviewer notes, like listening to a great raconteur, who freely shares the incredible adventure of her travels in well-polished and well-honed style. There are, however, a number of significant 'buts' when it comes to this book on Europe. This book is a profoundly personal interpretation - the subtitle 'an intimate journey' should give this away, but phrases like 'it seems to me' and 'as far as I'm concerned' recur with monotonous regularity. There are, for example, repeated references to Morris's adopted Welsh-nationalism (even where it doesn't seem germane), a marked distaste for organised religion (and particularly the folk Catholic piety, surely a significant architect of European culture, which Morris systematically and casually derides), and a personal commitment to the pantheistic systems of a neo-pagan rehabilitation of megalithic religion. In certain places, I felt her interpretation of local culture was wide of the mark. As a result, the chapters on 'Holy Symptoms', 'Nations, States and Bloody Powers', and - to a lesser extent - 'The Internet' - felt supercilious and loaded with unnecessary and unkind invective. If this sounds harsh, check her account of Marian apparitions on pp. 32-34 under the title "Seeing Things", which summarises the Marian apparitions' content as "thanks for the hymns" (obviously unfair but good for a cheap laugh), mocks the devotees as "addicts huddled around the gambling table", and likens the Popemobile to "Adolf Eichman's cage" at his death trial in Jerusalem. You may, of course, maintain a high degree of scepticism about religious claims, but they should be treated with a modicum of respect and not parodied without providing a more balanced account of their social function and content. Sometimes I was intrigued to read more, but couldn't find anywhere to start in more classic historical works: to select just one example, I can find no other reference in print to the Prince Charles Castroit de Renzi (mentioned on p. 346), supposedly labouring as an Electricity Clerk in Stoke-on-Trenth. Some of the chapters, however, are Morris at her best: the 'Spasms of Unity' is perhaps the best - and certainly most entertaining - short introduction to European history from the Holy Roman Empire to the European Union. But Charlemagne barely gets a mention in the book until page 261 and is only really treated in any detail from p 322 onwards. I wanted to love this book, just as I have loved Morris's other works, but in the end it left me feeling like the raconteur was dominating both the agenda and the conversation.
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on 6 March 2015
stunning style and details, emotional yet perceptive, wonderful
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2013
Great insight and wonderful historical snippets make this book a delight to read. Bought it for a friend for her birthday and she loves it too.
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on 16 July 2015
Magical.
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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 30 March 2008
Jan Morris paints a very interesting view. Drawing on visits during many decades she succesfully conveys the images and feelings of places all over the continent. As is many times the case in such cases, one should not expect this picture to be impartial. Rather personal feelings, the mood of the day, her heritage and most importantly the time she spent in each place (like Trieste) dictates the positive or negative tones she uses to portray each stop of her long journey. Depending on this places are seen either through a romantic prism (where nothing is negative) or throught the harsh lens of a distorting every-day routine.
This is not an account of someone with an open mind, but a graphic portayal of personal experiences through a long journey round Europe.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2012
This book offers you insights to places that might visit and even if you never do, you will enjoy reading about the people who live there and the landscapes they occupy.
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 2009
This book has nothing to offer. It is no more than an airing of personal prejudices. It will not help you understand what the countries in at are like, nor their history.

It's pretentious junk: I flung my copy into the bin.
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