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on 13 July 2007
If you have neither the time to read nor wish to go the expense of purchasing Norman Davies' two volume epic of Polish history `God's Playground' but wish to better understand Poland and it's people then this book is a `must buy'.
The author has since written many books that have the Polish people at their heart - `Rising '44' and arguably `Europe At War' and `Europe: East & West' and his love of the Polish is as evident as his anger at their treatment during the greater part of the last 200 years.
On reading this book it is clear to see why.
Davies has an immense understanding of Polish politics, literature and culture and his arguments are convincing and fully reinforced by evidence and presented in a fluent and engaging fashion.
Don't be put off by the Polish language because there is a section in the preface that comprehensively explains pronunciation, and all the names are easy to remember so one won't get `lost' trying to remember who was who.
Europe is getting smaller, and for the last 50 years or so Poland has largely been a `black hole' to those of us outside, but it truly is the `Heart of Europe' and knowing and understanding it's history - as this book is an excellent aid - is essential for a wider comprehension of Europe's development over the last eight hundred years and more specifically the last three centuries.
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on 24 August 2001
Norman Davies's great skill is writing detailed history that keeps general readers interested, while not skimping on academic detail. In this book, he has condensed his two-volume masterpiece "God's Playground" into a form more suitable for generalists.
The result is a triumph - a brief but highly enjoyable history, enlivened by Davies's dry wit and a treasury of pertinent anecdotes. Poland's magnificent and tragic history is portrayed here in its full range and scope, neither glorifying the Poles as eternal martyrs for freedom, nor slandering them as backward xenophobes.
Given the widespread public ignorance of Polish history, and the sensitivity of Poles to external comment on it, the greatest accolade for Davies must surely be that the Polish translation of God's Playground has been selected as the official history textbook for use in Polish schools.
This new edition of Heart of Europe includes new material on the changes in Poland since 1989.
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on 26 April 2007
Apart from Davies's magisterial two volumes on Polish history ("God's Playground") and his amazing "city-biography" of Wroclaw / Breslau ("Microcosm"), this is the book you might start with if interested in the history of Poland. The peculiar quirk to this book is that it tells things "backwards", i.e. beginning in our times and then working its way down the centuries to the shrouded origins of the Polish nation. I found it highly illuminating and pleasant to read as well. It certainly gave me a insider's account of Polish history and a clear rendering of what their history means to the Poles today. A very good book. I wouldn't like to miss it.
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on 28 April 2011
It is quite an achievement for an English (or possibly Welsh)person to have written what appears to be the definitive Polish histories. This book is very interesting, well-researched and well-explained to the non-specialist. I am reading it on the tube at the moment and it makes the journey fly by. Great stuff, really.
Poland: A history
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on 6 August 2013
This book has helped me to understand why I feel they way that I do, it has explained the history of my people and their struggle for freedom. I can proudly say that I'm Polish...a must read for any modern Pole!
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on 21 December 2013
Norman Davies is probably one the most respected historians of Polish history. He has travelled in eastern Europe and studied at the Jagiellonian university in Krakow.

It takes someone who understands Poland and the Polish people to be able to write about the country's turbulent history. East European can be more complex and difficult to grasp than presented in many of the standard history books.

Polish history has been particularly difficult especially recently because of the communist suppression of freedom in Poland, additionally the west appears to rather forget the inconvenience of a betrayed ally.

Norman Davis steps into the debate and sets out the record as it is.

Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw
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I really enjoyed this book as it is respectful and positive about Poland, as well as giving plenty of historical insight. The book written by a historian who is a recognised expert on the history of Poland.

The book deals with all aspects of Poland's history, culture, literature, diplomacy as well as the elephant in the room the War and Soviet takeover.

The book published in 2001 takes the history to the turn of the century and looks towards the future with hope for Poland.

Excellent book if you want to learn some of the various aspects of Poland.
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on 7 March 2011
I am enjoying this book, still. But there is a frustration for me with this account. I can't see the advantage of a history that goes backwards. The author is so familiar with the material that it will probably not have occurred to him that the year 1795, a critical time in Polish history, needs a lot of explanation and context for someone who knows nothing about it. There is a lot on polish literature and I would have liked more on the early history. The quality of the maps needs revisiting by the publisher. But this is a good introduction to a complex subject and I would certainly recommend it and the order you read the chapters is entirely up to the reader.
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on 17 September 2014
I have only had time to start this book but already I am engrossed. Davies has a writing style that draws you in and informs you at the same time. I'm not sure if I'm up to his magnum opus on the same subject "God's Playground" but I am tempted.
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on 5 February 2013
This book tells the actual truth about event in Poland that most people do not understand.most people should try and read this
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