Sunday, April 16, 2017

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 by Madeleine K. Albright

genre: memoir, history

Madeline Albright was born Marie Jana Korbelov√° in a Czechoslovakia that was still in its infancy. With a bright and politically active father, her family was heavily involved in both the embassies and government of her home country.  When Hitler's power overshadowed the autonomy of Czechoslovakia, her family was forced to flee to England, where her father began working with the government in exile.  With her own family story as the basic construct, what this book really is, is a history of the Czech Republic during this time period - centering often around President Edvard Benes and Jan Masaryk, the foreign minister.  As this beleaguered country goes from independent to invaded to independent (barely) to under the thumb of Moscow, decisions both big and small undermine the efforts of those who yearned for a democratic republic.

I liked this and yet it wasn't quite what I was expecting.  I really liked the family history part of her narrative, what she remembers, what she finds out from family and what her research tells her.  We spend time in Theresienstadt concentration camp, the "model"camp the Germans built in the town of Terezin outside of Prague.  All of this was news to me and it was heartbreaking and yet moving at the same time.  The rest, though, is a LOT of dense political history.  I do feel far more educated about that period of time.  She is an astute and capable writer -  while I wasn't ever dying to pick it up, I liked her style.  Yes, it is very Czech-centric, but I think she does try to make a point of acknowledging when the Czech people or their leaders acted racist or made unfortunate decisions.

I would read other books by this woman who has lived such an interesting and global life.

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