Sunday, January 8, 2017

Poland by James Michener

Nearly a year after I started Poland by James Michener, the book has been finished. I began the book in anticipation of our trip to Poland in June of 2016. The tome was over 650 pages and really needed a very extended period of free time to be able to read it in a timely fashion. That is something that just doesn't happen in my life. Between book club books and client work, I had to read the book in piecemeal style. I have always enjoyed Michener's books, but this one was tedious and I probably would have not finished it if I weren't so stubborn about reading to the end of a book that I have started.

The novel centers around the story of three families of Buk, Bukowski and Lubonski from the very early history of the land around 1240 through the present time - that when Michener wrote it - 1983. They represent 3 social groups from peasant to noble to magnate. It begins in 1981 with a meeting of the minister of agriculture and the leaders of the farmers. It is during the Communist rule and centers around the possibility of forming a union. It is reminiscent of the beginning of the Solidarity movement. From that introduction to the families the reader is taken back to the time of the invasion of the Mongols into Poland.

It would take nearly as many pages to describe all the action of Poland as the length of the book itself. One of the most ponderous effects of the novel was the superabundance of names. It was difficult to keep them all straight. I did find that the pace of the novel picked up as we got to the 1800s. The story of the Golden Freedom, the partitioning of Poland, the rise of the Nazis and the horror of the Holocaust were much more accessible than earlier chapter. To this reader the in depth description of battles, armies, and armor is tedious and "skip-worthy." However, Michener does weave certain themes through the book. Poland has always been a liberal player in the history of eastern Europe and has been the target of numerous Russian invasions. Yet, through it all, the Poles have managed to survive and as we are witnessing today, almost thriving. Warsaw is a growing and vibrant world capital today, proving Michener's points. 

For anyone with the time and interest in this country, this is would be a great read. It begs to be read in less time than a year, but it did give insight and perspective into the history of a beautiful country that is a gem for anyone to visit.