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The Balkan Trilogy Paperback – May 1, 1982


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (May 1, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140059369
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140059366
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,117,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Berger VINE VOICE on September 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is out of print and hard to find, but deserves better. It's not perfect - it's a girl book lengthy in human nuance and short on action - but it gives a superb view of life on the ground in Eastern Europe as World War II begins.

The action is seen primarily through the eyes of Harriet Pringle, a newlywed from England who accompanies her husband Guy back to his job in Bucharest, just as the war begins, Germany and then Russia dismantle Poland, and Polish refugees flood into town. A newcomer, Harriet slowly finds her feet among the English-speaking émigré community, their numbers swelled by the flotsam of war. Characters like the impoverished Prince Yakimov, a freeloading raconteur, both embellish and complicate the Pringles' life, as do various diplomats, travelers, teachers and scam artists. Guy is a good-hearted and generous left-winger inclined to interpret all events through the lens of revolution healing all ills. Harriet isn't so sure, and sees Guy continually taken advantage of because of his good nature. She slowly comes to resent how much of himself he gives to others while neglecting her.

She finds companionship with the wealthy Bella, an Englishwoman married to a Romanian, a society belle, and with Clarence, a morose Englishman who slowly falls for her. Yakimov, a white Russian émigré and the now-penniless widower of a wealthy woman, moves in with the Pringles when he has no place to go. They also find themselves hiding Sasha, fugitive son of a wealthy Jew, and a marked man.

What happens in the three novels as the situation darkens, and as the action moves to Athens, gives one an unusual taste of the life of that period and of a corner of the war rarely written about in English, but fascinating nonetheless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By PadmaPriya on June 14, 2013
Format: Paperback
Olivia Manning opens up a world that is completely outside my experience - the settings are Rumania and Greece during World War II - and yet is excruciatingly (in the cringe-worthy sense) familiar because many of its characters are British ex-pat, post-colonial slackers and pretenders of the worst sort. All the men who scrounge around these not- yet- at- war countries have some lame excuse for not actually joining in the fight against Hitler's armies. They're doing "important work supporting the war effort" like teaching English to Jewish students so they can better negotiate life in England or America should they miraculously happen to get to one of those places. Or they're doing something "hush-hush" they couldn't possibly discuss between cadging drinks, meals and lodging from fellow ex-pats while their clothes steadily degrade into rags. Then there are the left-behind women, elderly widows and spinsters who've lived their entire lives abroad dutifully tending now dead husbands and fathers who have left them tiny pensions on which to eke out their bravely genteel lives until they expire in poverty, alone, unloved, unremembered.

Manning sees her characters through a devastatingly clear eye - their foibles, pretensions, viciousness, sadness, humor, fear, hopes - and no one is let off the hook. At the centre of this trilogy is the portrait of a marriage. Guy and Harriet Pringle meet and marry in the space of Guy's summer break from his work teaching English - as an employee of a British Council-type organization - in Rumania. They are, of course, unprepared for each other and for the marriage which sways and flounders as they struggle to survive as civil society (such as it is) in the Balkans crumbles.

In all, a fascinating account of civilian life in middle-Europe on the brink of war, informed by the author's own experiences as the wife of a British Council employee in Bucharest during the war.
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By Beach Guy on February 5, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been rereading books lately, and this was one. Having traveled through the former Yugoslavia, Greece, and The Ukraine in recent years, I have developed a keen interest in this part of the world. First Class!!!!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Wall Street Journal did a brief article on Olivia Manning which drew my attention to this book. Her descriptions of characters are original and rather British. Her stories are based on her career as a wife of a British diplomat.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Carlson on August 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book with wonderful detailed descriptions of civilian life during the early years of World War II in the Balkans. I loved the characters in the book, especially the Pringles and Prince Yakimov.
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