Another engrossing book from an author who is much more than just a travel writer.



The acclaimed British travel writer and historian retraces his trip after the fall of the Berlin Wall to explore what happened to the hopes and promises of 1989.

This time, MacLean (In North Korea: Lives and Lies in the State of Truth, 2017, etc.) traveled in the reverse direction, from Moscow to Berlin. His six-month journey included Estonia, Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, East Germany, and little-known Transnistria. As the author relates, the promise of democracy lasted only so long. Drawn by the newly dynamic economies, the money- and power-hungry moved in. The rise of nationalism—which built on Nazi theorist Carl Schmitt’s teachings that Germans’ utopia was stolen by existentially different and alien opponents—has created enmity and violence toward migrants, the poor, and other marginalized groups. Having used his characteristic talent of drawing insight from those he meets, the author offers fascinating profiles throughout: the Russian chicken czar who shared his rare hallucinogenic truffle, one of the many oligarchs enjoying the new wealth, at least for the moment; and a Nigerian refugee who told the harrowing story of his unflinching determination to get to London. One of MacLean’s contacts described how Russian tacticians were able, by 2007, to shut down Estonian cyberspace and then take over Georgian government websites and interfere in Crimea, Ukraine, France, and the U.S. Not just a travelogue, this is a consistently engaging yet fearsome book that effectively traces the rise of national identity as a myth that paves the way for racism, xenophobia, and even genocide. “Thirty years ago,” writes MacLean, “Europe became whole again….In Berlin, Prague and Moscow I’d danced with so many others on the grave of dictatorships….I convinced myself that our generation was an exception in history, that we’d learned to live by different rules, that we were bound together by freedom….I’ve remade this journey—backwards—to try to understand how it went wrong.”

Another engrossing book from an author who is much more than just a travel writer.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4088-9652-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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