Nicolson, one of England's most gifted writers, has chosen an absorbing period of world history for his new book -- those ten years starting with Napoleon's retreat from Moscow and focussing chiefly on the pageant of the Congress, when disunion divided allies who had been united in defeating the threat of Napoleonic totalitarianism. This is a disturbing book because it shows how history repeats itself, how coalitions disintegrate when common danger is removed. The portraits of the leaders who assembled at the two peace conferences (Paris and Vienna) are superb. He makes Lord Castlereagh of England, Metternich of Austria, Alexander of Russia, Frederick of Prussia so alive that almost you can see them as personalities in the present conference in Paris, discussing parallel problems to those contended with more than a century ago. What to do with Poland -- How strong should Prussia be allowed to become- How far could they permit Russia to penetrate Europe -- How was the independent spirit of the revolutionary liberal to be handled -- What about slavery, the Jews, etc. Nicolson shows an understanding sympathy for the desire of balance of power evidenced by Castlereagh, and his final failure which ended in his taking his own life. One cannot read this without comparing conditions then with conditions today. It is a disturbing picture, but extraordinarily compelling reading.