Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright
Published February 2013 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for this review

Publisher's Summary:
Before Madeleine Albright turned twelve, her life was shaken by the Nazi invasion of her native Prague, the Battle of Britain, the near-total destruction of European Jewry, the Allied victory in World War II, the rise of communism, and the onset of the Cold War. Drawing on her memory, her parents' written reflections, interviews with contemporaries, and newly available documents, Albright recounts a tale that is by turns harrowing and inspiring.

In Prague Winter, Albright reflects on her discovery of her family's Jewish heritage many decades after the war, on her Czech homeland's tangled history, and on the stark moral choices faced by her parents and their generation. At once a deeply personal memoir and an incisive work of history, Prague Winter serves as a guide to the future through the lessons of the past—as seen through the eyes of one of the international community's most respected and fascinating figures.

My Thoughts: 
Let me just be honest up front and tell you that I'm not finished with this book; I've got about a hundred pages left to read. I thought I could read it in four or five days. I know better than that; there's no way I'm reading 480 pages of non-fiction in four days. Particularly when it's something as dense as Prague Winter. Don't take that the wrong way - I mean dense in the most flattering of terms (if that's even possible).

I've admired Albright for some time; she is a smart lady who has achieved much in her life and who seems to have a sense humor. Heck, this is a lady who has written a book about her ubiquitous pins!  I rightly assumed that I would enjoy this book when it was offered to me for review. Perhaps if I weren't enjoying it less, I'd be done by with it by now!

By no means would I claim to be an expert on World War II. Still, I feel I have a pretty good grasp of what happened in those terrible years. "Not so fast, Missy," Albright seems to be saying. "Have you even thought about the role Czechoslovakia played in this war?" Why no, Ms. Albright, no I haven't. I had no idea, for example, that, after the Rhineland, Czechoslovakia was Hitler's second conquest. (You, Mr. Smartypants, in the back row, stop snickering at me.)

Albright combines her family's history with the Czechoslovakian experience throughout WWII, including her family's escape to London just prior to the German invasion of Czechoslovakia and her father's work while there to aid in the recognition of the plight of his country and the government in exile.

Some of what I've learned so far:

* Molotov cocktails were names after a Soviet foreign minister - by the Finns who developed the weapon to defend themselves against Soviet tanks. Love that.

* Yet more evidence of the incompetence of several world leaders at the time. Had the English and the French supported the Czechoslovakians before they were invaded, Hitler would have been, at the very least, slowed in his efforts.

* Had the British been able to make a decision sooner, the Soviets might have sided with them instead of the Germans, reducing the supplies of the Germans greatly. Of course, this came back to bite the Soviets in the butt later, as we all know.

* The Blitzkrieg was not planned. Hitler had no intention of bombing London to begin with. A lone German bomber got lost and dropped his payload on the city. When the British retaliated, Hitler used that as an excuse to bomb the city and a rallying cry for his own citizens.

For more opinions about this book (most of whom will actually have finished it on time!), check out the full TLC tour.

Madeleine Albright served as America’s sixty-fourth secretary of state from 1997 to 2001. Her distinguished career also includes positions on Capitol Hill, on the National Security Council, and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She is a resident of Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

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