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In Europe


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This book appears at first to be a detailed piece of travel writing, documenting Dutch journalist Geert Mak's year long journey around Europe. But there is much more to it than that. Mak spent the entire final year of the 20th century re-tracing the places and events that shaped the continent over the previous 99 years. As such, the book is packed full of historical detail, recounting events that are both familiar and obscure, all of which helped to create the continent as we know it today.

 

I think the book does a fantastic job of covering many of the defining moments of the last 100 years. Despite the huge scope of the book, Mak's eye for detail lends it an intimate feel, which draws you in to each location like good travel writing should. The most comprehensive section is that coving the Second World War and it is here that the book works best, but there were numerous other well researched chapters which were perhaps more eye-opening.

 

I think the book works on two levels. It can be read as a whole, giving a 'bigger picture' overview of European history and a back-drop to the potential problems a united Europe may have in the future. But it also works as a series of individual studies and could almost be viewed as a reference tool if you wanted to refresh your knowledge on a certain subject matter.

 

I'd definitely recommend the book, especially as it is so easy to dip in and out of if you don't fancy reading it all in one go, although I did find it very rewarding to do so. If you're looking to brush up on European history, this is a nice way of getting both a historical and contemporary perspective.

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