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Against a Crimson Sky

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2006

    Against A Crimson Sky

    I read James Conroyd Martin's first novel, PUSH NOT THE RIVER, when it was released in 2001. I found it captivating and thrilling on the scale of Margaret Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND, which seems to be the benchmark for all epic novels (and by the way, any Hollywood producers reading this, PUSH NOT THE RIVER would make an equally thrilling and, I'm sure, lucrative film project as that book's film version). I was quickly caught up in PUSH NOT THE RIVER, a world I knew very little about when beginning the journey. I really could not put the book down and read it straight through. In the ensuing years, since reading Mr. Martin's first novel, the characters and their dramatic historic experiences never left me. Mr. Martin's characters visited my imagination from time to time over the last five years, when I least expected them. They were always welcome guests. Upon reading a press release that Mr. Martin was writing a follow-up book to PUSH NOT THE RIVER called AGAINST A CRIMSON SKY, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I wondered if he could match the high standard of writing he demonstrated in his first book, and if I would get as involved in its sequel. AGAINST A CRIMSON SKY did not disappoint. From the first page of AGAINST A CRIMSON SKY I had no doubts that Mr. Martin is not just a one-book wonder. I was drawn in from the beginning. It had been several years since I read the first book. Within a very few pages I was reminded who these characters were, and all they had experienced in the first book. I still knew these people and the Poland of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. And I cared about them deeply. Once Mr. Martin had quickly reintroduced me to his characters, the ride began. I was immediately swept into the chaos and madness of the Napoléonic vision for a new Europe, and that excitement lasted until I closed the book after reading the final page. I have no doubt that AGAINST A CRIMSON SKY would be equally as compelling and thrilling to any person who had not had not read the first novel. For anyone who enjoyed PUSH NOT THE RIVER, it's new companion book, AGAINST A CRIMSON SKY, is a welcome new friend. For those who are only acquainted with the second book, I have no doubt it stands as a complete work by itself. And I can't imagine those people not wanting to then read the first book. It holds up as a complete work in itself as well. I thoroughly enjoyed both. A few years ago, Polish jokes were taken for granted as humorous, harmless and accurate representations of Poles. Mr. Martin obliterates those stereotypes and misconceptions. After reading both PUSH NOT THE RIVER and AGAINST A CRIMSON SKY, and learning of the nobility of these progressive, proud and oppressed people, I'm ashamed of every Polish joke I ever told or laughed at.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a reviewer

    While fleeing the Russian assault on Warsaw, the arrogant Countess Zofia falls off a suburban bridge into the River Vistula only to be rescued by a teenage peasant and his grandfather. When she recovers, she returns to the capital to stay at the home of her suitor Count Pawel, whose previous offer of marriage she has rejected as Zofia plans to wed Napoleon. However, she is carrying a child so Zofia must modify her plans for now as the Little Emperor remains her ultimate objective.--------------- At the same time, Zofia¿s cousin Anna has married her true love Lord Jan Stelnicki, who tries to be a father to her son Jan Michal, an offspring of a rape (see PUSH NOT THE RIVER). Anna soon gives birth to their son, Tadeusz at time when supoerpowers Austria, Prussia and Russia divide the nation and force the Polish King Stanislaw into exile who seeks help from Napoleon. As Zofia, who has given birth to a daughter, manipulates her way up the aristocratic elite ladder, Pawel plots to place Tadeusz on the throne, and Jan joins the resistance while his wife worries and rusticates raising their two sons alone even as the years move on-------------------- AGAINST A CRIMSON SKY continues the saga of Anna Berezowska and her family as Poland is caught in a deadly vise from its more powerful neighbors. The story line provides a feel for the history, but is more a historical romance spanning over two decades of two people (Jan and Anna) trying to do what they feel is right for their country yet also keep their loved ones safe. In many devious ways Zofia is the star of the tale as a Lady Macbeth plotting at the cost of others (collateral damage) to achieve her goal. Fans of Polish historical tales and Regency era romances but in central Europe will enjoy James Conroyd Martin¿s fine sequel.------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 29, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Highly Recommended!

    Absolutely one of the best books I've ever read! It's addicting, thrilling, and just one of those books where you are instantly in love with the characters. Definitely read Push Not the River first... both amazing books!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2007

    Culture Website Review

    Historical fiction is my favorite genre-both for intriguing reading and for bringing a personal dimension to events that are usually portrayed in a dry, factual way. James Conroyd Martin's book, Against a Crimson Sky, is the best of all possible worlds: a well-plotted, well-written, fascinating account of a strong and unique heroine. The setting in Poland is the piece de resistance: my ancestors, while not of the nobility (minor or otherwise), were Polish, and Martin's book brings to life a time and place that has been difficult for me to imagine. Against a Crimson Sky continues the story, begun in the author's first novel, Push Not the River (St. Martin's Press, 2003) of Anna Maria Berezowska, an ancestor of Martin's friend, John A. Stelnicki. The Stelnicki family kept Anna's diary, written in her teens, sealed in wax for several decades and only recently translated it from the original Polish. Set in partitioned Poland in the 1790s, some of the events in Push Not the River seem hard to believe: Anna's dangerous winter journey and Zofia's promiscuous behavior among others. As the story develops, however, both the individual characters and the historical events taking place in Poland bring this important era in Poland's history vividly to life. As the book closes, Poland has been erased from the map of Europe by those who feared her Third of May Constitution, the first democratic constitution in Europe. Anna's stormy early years take a turn to what she hopes will be a quiet life with her handsome suitor, Jan Stelnicki. Against a Crimson Sky picks up where Push Not the River ended. Anna's diary did not continue past 1794, therefore Martin had to imagine Anna and Jan's life over the next 20 years. His imagination is more than equal to the events laid out for him in the diary: the emotion and turmoil of the first book are not abated in the second. Anna becomes Jan's wife and is mother to three children, only two of whom are Jan's. A strong Polish woman struggling during bitter and lonely times, Anna does whatever is necessary to keep her children safe from those who would manipulate or harm them. Her cousin Zofia's eyebrow-raising exploits add another bittersweet note to the story, and provide a glimpse into the life of the Polish szlachta (minor nobility) as well as some of the Polish social customs of that era. Poland's situation at the turn of the 19th century provides a riveting setting. It is the time of Napoleon, who plays on the hopes and dreams of the Polish people, promising much in return for their support of his ambitious plans. Hoping for a return to an independent Poland, Jan joins those who fight for Napoleon. Ultimately, his sons participate in Napoleon's ill-fated march to Moscow, where Poland's hopes of liberty are crushed along with Napoleon's reputation. While Anna and Jan's story will captivate any reader who enjoys historical fiction, Poland's story is even more compelling, especially for those of us whose ancestors originated there. The ideals and strength of these determined people, who vowed never to lose their national identity-and did not, through many years of partition and expatriation-will resonate with anyone of Polish ancestry. The Polish-American community has recognized Martin's contributions. The American Institute of Polish Culture recently chose him as a Gold Medal recipient, to be awarded in January 2007. But even beyond that, James Martin is a fine writer, whose skills in his first book are even more evident in his second. Whether or not he chooses Poland as the subject matter, I eagerly await his next book. Visit James Conroyd Martin's website. Reviewer: Nancy Maciolek Blake

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