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LONGLISTED FOR THE SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE, A CHARMINGLY PERSONAL HISTORY OF HABSBURG EUROPE BY THE AUTHOR OF GERMANIA
From the end of the Middle Ages to the First World War, Europe was dominated by one family: the Habsburgs. Their unprecedented rule is the focus of Simon Winder's vivid third book, Danubia.
Winder's approach is friendly, witty, personal; this is a narrative that, while erudite and well researched, prefers to be discursive and anecdotal. In his survey of the centuries of often incompetent Habsburg rule which have continued to shape the fate of Central Europe, Winder does not shy away from the horrors, railing against the effects of nationalism, recounting the violence that was often part of life. But this is a history dominated above all by Winder's energy and curiosity. Eminently readable and thrillingly informative, Danubia is a treat that readers will be eager to dip into.
“Thorough and funny . . . Rich with anecdotes and enthusiastic appreciation.” —The New Yorker
“[Winder] never stops talking and rarely pauses for breath. Even then, however, you want to tell him: Forget about breathing and just go on talking. Danubia is a long book, yet this reader would not mind if it were longer still.” —Andrew Wheatcroft, The New York Times Book Review
“An engaging, often funny catalog of one man's eccentric enthusiasm for a country that he has come to love--somewhat to his own surprise . . . Winder is an entertaining writer, and an erudite one.” —Ian Brunskill, The Wall Street Journal
“A delightfully personal and engaging book . . . Winder's knowledge is as encyclopedic as his enthusiasm is childlike.” —Roger K. Miller, The Denver Post
“In a rollicking book that is part travelogue and part history, Winder takes up the unwieldy topic of the Habsburgs. The sprawling family empire ruled much of Europe for more than centuries, owing to a combination of 'cunning, dimness, luck, and brilliance.' From the Middle Ages until the end of the First World War, Winder writes, 'there was hardly a twist in Europe's history to which they did not contribute.' Winder, whose best-seller Germania took a similar approach to German history, explores the story of the dynasty and the lasting imprint of its reign by travelling the expanse of its former empire and giving a lively account of his research. He is thorough and funny, and the book is rich with anecdotes and enthusiastic appreciation, and it includes a broad survey of the artifacts and landscapes that tell the story of the family that laid the foundation of modern Europe.” —Andrea Denhoed, Page-Turner, The New Yorker online
“Making five centuries of Habsburg history fun seems like a tall order, but Winder pulls it off. He entertains because he is entertained . . . With unrelenting wit--sometimes smirking but also self-mocking--he traces the Habsburgs' fortunes . . . What gives the text verve is Winder's ability to interweave the eccentric details of the Habsburgs themselves with an absorbing cultural history, driven by his exuberant passion for the lives and music of great composers and textured by his skillful physical descriptions of forgotten corners of the realm.” —Foreign Affairs
“As with his previous work Germania, Winder describes this account as a ‘personal history', allowing him space for whimsy, for a great deal of Haydn, for careful analysis of paintings and the freedom to favour certain emperors because they were interesting people rather than political heavyweights. It all makes for an excellent, rich and amusing read.” —Roger Boyes, The Times (UK)
“Winder is a puppishly enthusiastic companion: funny, erudite, frequently irritating, always more in control of his material than he pretends to be, and never for a moment boring . . . Danubia is a moving book, and also a sensuous one: we feel the weight of imperial coins, hear and smell the ‘medals and spurs clinking and everything awash in expensive gentleman's fragrances' as emperors and regiments meet at formal occasions. Winder says he researched it largely on foot, seeking out museums and castles, and listened to all 106 Haydn symphonies just to get in the mood . . . Miniaturist in its eye for detail, grand in its scope, it skips beats and keeps our attention all the way.” —Sarah Bakewell, The Financial Times
“Winder's amalgam of travelogue and personal history follows on from his bestselling account of Germany, Germania, and is similarly infectious in its enthusiasms. In pages of cheerful, slang-dotted prose, Danubia dilates knowledgeably on the Habsburg dynasty as it flourished along the river from its source in Bavarian hills through Austro-Hungary and the Balkans to the Black Sea . . . Danubia is a hoot and well worth reading.” —Ian Thomson, The Independent (UK)
“[Winder's] personalized, almost you-are-there view of history results in an arresting combination of anecdote and scholarly examination, where the interests of serious armchair travelers and devoted students of European history meet.” —Brad Hooper, Booklist