From Publishers Weekly
Tumultuous times in late 18th-century Poland are the backdrop for this stiffly written historical romance based on the unpublished diary of Countess Anna Maria Berezowska. In 1791, 17-year-old Anna, orphaned by the near-simultaneous deaths of her parents, has come to live with her aunt and uncle on their country estate. Guileless and innocent, Anna falls in love with handsome neighbor Jan Stelnicki, awakening the wrath of her conniving cousin Zofia, who wants him for herself. After Zofia orchestrates a disastrous picnic, Anna is left alone in the woods, and is brutally raped by a stranger. Married off against her will immediately after the attack, she soon discovers that she is pregnant. In the same year, the Third of May Constitution is signed by King Stanislaw, giving peasants human rights. Many Polish nobles are enraged by the new laws, and call for Catherine of Russia to deliver them. The conflict divides Poland, swallowing up Anna, Zofia and Jan, as well as Zofia's brutal brother, Walter, who signs on with Catherine. Martin devotes more space to romantic drama than to historical detail, but [his] characters are nonetheless caricaturish: even the conflicted, flamboyant Zofia fails to spring fully to life. Martin's tendency to tell rather than show slows the narrative, and few readers will make it to the overheated finale, in which Anna flees the victorious Russian army as it advances on Warsaw.
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"Push Not the River contains all the sweep and romance of the classic romantic epics such as Gone with the Wind and Doctor Zhivago, with a heroine who remains strong in the face of both personal and political tragedy. An enthralling tale of courage, survival, and hope, Anna Maria's story is at once timeless and timely."
-India Edghill, author of Queenmaker
"Push Not the River is a wonderful epic historical saga in the grand romantic style. The plot never lets up; it gallops at break-neck speed through a vividly portrayed historical landscape, against which we see the triumphant transformation of Anna . . . into a strong and powerful woman."
-Jane Feather, bestselling author of Kissed by Shadows
"James Conroyd Martin's vivid historical novel captivates the reader with its sweeping depiction of a bygone society on the cusp of violent change. Combining politics with intrigue and romance, Push Not the River gives us a glimpse into the turbulent era of late eighteenth century Poland and its people. Aristocrats and peasants, patriots and traitors come alive in this story, and the Polish soul is beautifully illuminated through ancient myths, folkways, and wisdoms. With his juxtaposition of the personal and political, Martin weaves a compelling tale of transformation--both of a remarkable young woman and her remarkable nation."
-Jennifer Donnelly, author of The Tea Rose
"Martin's novel transports the reader two hundred years into Poland's glorious past, a world of castles and manor houses. One woman's life provides a metaphor for a country which--with the Third of May Constitution--was the first to attempt democratic reform in modern Europe. While the attempt failed, Push Not the River sings of a people's pride and indomitable hope."
-Jan Lorys, director of the Polish Museum of America
"...River contains all the sweep and romance of the classic romantic epics...with a heroine who remains strong ...." (India Edghill, author of Queenmaker)
"....The plot never lets up; it gallops at break-neck speed through a vividly portrayed historical landscape..." (Jane Feather, bestselling author of Kissed by Shadows)
"....Push Not the River gives us a glimpse into the turbulent era of late eighteenth century Poland and its people." (Jennifer Donnelly, author of The Tea Rose)
"Martin's novel transports the reader 200 years into Poland's glorious past....Push Not the River sings of a people's pride..." (Jan Lorys, director of the Polish Museum of America)
"Holds readers because of the cast of well-developed characters and the need to see how Anna and her young son will survive." (Library Journal