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Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe Hardcover – January 21, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (January 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374175292
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374175290
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #542,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
How can one person have so much history and minutiae in his mind? I learned so much about the Habsburg lands which, as Winder points out, get less attention from English speakers than their Northern German speaking neighbors because the Empire never had a truly antagonistic relationship with the UK or the USA and they barely fought during the major wars even when members of opposing alliances. Winder has written a truly engrossing, serious yet frequently hilarious narrative from a non-academic viewpoint. These sort of books are rare. Usually non-academic history is either at best breezy and popular or long form cliff-notes. I wish there were more people like Winder that could write similar history/ travel books like Danubia. In fact, I wish there were more people like him in real life that I could talk to about this stuff.

The style of the book is somewhat original (or depending on your point of view idiosyncratic). I can imagine some readers will not appreciate the sudden changes in focus from a panoramic view of the grand stage of European History to a minute discussion of some museum piece or work of art. For example he goes from discussions of urbanization's effect on Nationalism in the late 19th Century to a description of a guinea pig village in a zoo in Budapest. The reader has to use his mind to find the links which I am sure exist, but nevertheless is not a mental exercise that I feel has much urgency nor resonance for the average contemporary reader. Danubia defies easy categorization and it's a book about a somewhat obscure section of Europe for most English speakers produced in an age when interest in foreign lands and their history seems to be in decline.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The subject matter is truly interesting and Winder's use of language is excellent, but this book totally lacks any sense of cohesion. One minute Winder is discussing listening to music at home, the next he's talking about Franz Joseph, then nationalism, then wooden villages in Poland, then you're in a 21st century museum in Vienna.

I love history and majored in it, but I rarely had any clue what period Winder was discussing, he jumps around so much from the present to the past and all over the world with no sense of reason. This book is often brilliant, but it can also be very challenging and not in the best way.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Winder pens a historical travelouge, a perfect history of the Habsburgs, who squated over
Central Europe for centuries,,, odd people, clinging to antiquated ideas, WInder takes you to
Galicai, BOhemia, Slovakai, Vienna, Brno, Prague and Krawkow. a perfect history, rich, colorful,
violent, only beef is needs MORE MAPS ! buy this and book a trip to Budapest !
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
But far too clever for me...

Beware; the title states 'Danubia. A Personal History of Habsburg Europe'. With emphasis on 'Personal'. Much of the book deals with the author's visits to places mentioned in the history and his personal reactions. And discussion of his reaction to the music and literature of the times and area.

There's a lot that's worth reading, such as the penultimate chapter dealing with the collapse caused by the Great War. There's also a lot of padding, which is tedious to read. And also careless errors, such as the statement that von Schlieffen died in 1906 (he actually retired then and actually died in 1913).

The book, at least in the eBook version, would be considerably improved if the author had set up a website with photos of the locations he describes. And provided links to the website in the text.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Simon Winder has written a vast and sprawling history of a part of Europe most of us know relatively little about, a region defined by the Danube River, which flows though or is adjacent to most of it, and by its association with the Habsburgs, a weird family which ruled all or most of this area, usually ineptly, for half a millennium until deposed at the end of World War I in 1918. What makes "Danubia" different from many histories is that Winder wanders throughout the region, acquainting the reader with the ebbs and flows of conquest, the religious battles and the cultures of the different parts .And he does so with a flair.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
HIdden inside the Soviet block for many years, this part of Europe has a forgotten history that is very relevant to our world today.

Winder's points out the dangers of petty nationalism while still engaging the reader in a lively history of a very dangerous part of the world.

The fact that two of my grandparents were born in the realm of the Habsburgs makes it all the more interesting to me.
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoy reading history through people's lives so I read a lot of biographies. I had recently finished Winston Churchill's 'The Last Lion' set and The Assassination of the Archduke by King and Woolmans so I thought I'd enjoy this book which I thought was a history of the Austro- Hungarian Empire through the ages.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get into it at all. I couldn't find any structure to it anywhere and I tried to start the book in several different places.

Personal is the word here. Although I'm sure there are plenty of facts, I found the authors scathing comments, about most things that occurred over several hundred years, rather irritating. I'm not sure what there is to enjoy about this book. After about 6 starts It got put into the charity bin..
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