Push Not the River (The Poland Trilogy Book 1)

Push Not the River (The Poland Trilogy Book 1)

by James Conroyd Martin
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Overview

Push Not the River (The Poland Trilogy Book 1) by James Conroyd Martin

A panoramic and epic novel, Push Not the River recounts the rich story of Poland in the late 1700s—a time of heartache and turmoil as the country's once peaceful people are being torn apart by neighboring countries and divided loyalties within. It is then, at the young and vulnerable age of seventeen, that young Anna Maria loses both of her parents and must leave the only home she has ever known.

With Empress Catherine's Russian armies streaming in to take their spoils, Anna is quickly thrust into a world of love and hate, patriotism and treason, life and death. Even kind Aunt Stella, Anna's new guardian, who soon comes to personify Poland's courage and spirit, can't protect Anna from the uncertain future of the country.

Anna, a child no longer, turns to love and comfort in the form of Jan, a brave patriot and architect of democracy, unaware that her beautiful and enigmatic cousin Zofia has already set her sights on the handsome young fighter. Thus, Anna walks unwittingly into Zofia's jealous wrath and darkly sinister intentions. Forced to survive several tragic events, a strengthened Anna learns to place herself in the way of destiny--for love and for country.

PUSH NOT THE RIVER is based on the true eighteenth century diary of Anna Maria Berezowska, a Polish countess who lived through the rise and fall of the historic Third of May Constitution. Vivid, romantic, and thrillingly paced, it paints the emotional and unforgettable story of the metamorphosis of a nation--and of a proud and resilient young woman.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780997894523
Publisher: Hussar Quill Press
Publication date: 05/01/2017
Series: Poland Trilogy , #1
Pages: 430
Sales rank: 152,750
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.96(d)

About the Author

James Conroyd Martin is the award-winning author of The Poland Trilogy. A longtime teacher of English and Creative Writing in the Chicago area, he holds degrees from St. Ambrose and DePaul universities. After his teaching career, he moved to Portland, Oregon, where he continues to write.

Read an Excerpt

PUSH NOT THE RIVER

A Novel
By James Conroyd Martin

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2000 James Conroyd Martin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-312-31153-2


Chapter One

There are three things that are difficult to keep hidden: a fire, a cold, and love. -A Polish proverb..

Halicz 1791

She stood motionless now, in a painter's tableau of flowers and grasses, a long distance from home, alone. It was only recent events-not the intervening years-that made Anna question her childhood attachment to the mythical. Today, in fact, the young girl who stood poised on the threshold of womanhood questioned the very world around her. The afternoon was idyllic, the meadow at midday a canvas of color and warmth. A breeze stirred the wheat and barley fields nearby, coercing the spikes into graceful, rippling waves. Next year the meadow in which she stood would be made to produce also, but for now it was thickly green with overgrown grasses and rampant with late summer wildflowers, birds, and butterflies.

To all of this Anna was coolly indifferent. She stood there, black dress billowing in the breeze, vaguely aware of a bee that buzzed nearby. In time, though, her eyes found focus as she observed a few fallen leaves hurl themselves at the trunk of the solitary oak, whirl away, and come back again. In them-their detachment and their restless movement-she somehow felt a comradeship. She was as mindlessly driven as they. And from somewhere deep at her core, a keening rose up, piercing her, like that of a mournful siren from some unseen island.

How had it come to this? Only months before, upon the passing of the Constitution in May, Anna's universe had been complete and happy. The reform seemed to place her father in a good disposition. The Third of May Constitution did not threaten him, as it did some of the nobility. Count Samuel Berezowski was of the minor nobility, the szlachta, his great great grandfather having been conferred the title of count when in 1683 he aided the legendary King Jan Sobieski and much of Christian Europe in keeping Vienna-and therefore Eastern Europe-from the Turks.

The count managed his single estate himself and he already allowed his village of twelve peasant families liberal freedoms of thought and action. It was a happy time for Anna's mother, too, not for any political reason, but because she was eight months with child.

As a young girl, Countess Teresa Berezowska had gone against her parents' wishes, foregoing marriage into a magnate family for the dictates of the heart. This did not preclude, however, her own ambition to bring into the world children who would go on to make matches that would distinguish the family. Though her heart had been set on a firstborn boy, she rejoiced with Samuel in the birth of their healthy, greeneyed girl, Anna Maria. She was confident that many childbearing years were left to her and that there would be a troop of boys to fill up the house. Instead, a succession of miscarriages ensued and her health grew frail, her beauty fragile. Still, the countess persisted, against doctors' advice, until at last-seventeen years after the birth of Anna-it seemed certain that she was to bring another child full term. Anna's relationship with her mother improved after the incident with the crystal dove, but a certain distance between mother and daughter remained. Anna came to realize that while she was loved by both parents, her mother was much concerned with bringing boys into the world. While Anna's father gave his love freely, her mother inculcated in her-through the spoken and the unspoken-a sense of inadequacy that sent her into herself, into her own realm of imagination. Alone in her books of fable and fairy tales and the myriad places they took her, Anna longed for a brother or sister to anchor her to the real world. But it was not to be.

Feliks Paduch, one of Count Berezowski's peasants, had always been trouble. Since adolescence he had been involved in numerous thefts and brawls. At thirty, he was lazy, alcoholic, and spiteful, a man who questioned and resented his lot in life. Some peasants whispered, too, that he had been involved in the murder of a travelling Frenchman, but no one dared accuse him. Countess Berezowska had encouraged her husband to evict Paduch, and he had nearly done so twice, but each time relented.

A few days after the passing of the Third of May Constitution, Count Berezowski set out for the Paduch cottage in response to a local noble's complaint that Feliks had stolen several bags of grain. The starosta should settle the matter, the countess insisted, but the count, claiming he was ultimately responsible for his peasants, would not leave the matter to a magistrate. It was on that day that life changed forever for the happy family. Anna was sitting in the window seat of her second-floor bedroom reading a French translation of A Midsummer Night's Dream when she heard the commotion below. She looked down to see eight or ten peasants accompanying a tumbril in which her father's body lay on a matting of straw. Because of the sincere mutual respect between the count and his peasants, this time they seemed unafraid to name Feliks Paduch the murderer. It was Anna who had to tell her mother, and who-in her own bereavement-had to listen to the countess mourn her husband while at the same time, in the same breath, rail against him for playing estate manager and attending to the most ignoble business, business well beneath his station, business like Feliks Paduch. Countess Berezowska was devastated. Anna believed that it was the traumatic effects of her father's murder that precipitated the premature birth of the baby. The boy lived only two days.

The countess never recovered from her husband's murder and the difficult birth-thirteen hours it had taken. After the baby's death, the countess stopped taking nourishment. A week later, in a delirium of grief, anger, and despair she died. And so it was that within a matter of days, Anna had lost everyone. The fabric of her peaceful life at Sochaczew had come undone, never to be made whole. She stood alone in her garden that day, the day of her mother's death, somehow unable to cry.

How her mother had loved the flowers grown there. In fact, Anna had taken to gardening, initially, to please the countess, who so loved to have flowers in the house. Her father had helped her start it that year, the year a five-year-old precocious child had brought home the crystal dove. She had been allowed to keep it and wanted so to please her mother by producing bushels and bushels of flowers. That was the way of it always, it seemed. Wanting to please her mother, yet never quite measuring up. The garden venture took no time at all to instill in Anna a passion for things growing. Her father gave her an array of bulbs, imports from Holland. She dutifully planted them in the fall, wondering to herself how such funny looking things could ever produce something delicate and pretty. But in the spring the green feelers peeked out of the brown earth, and amidst fine rains, reached brave, thickening arms upward. Anna had arranged them in neat rows, like soldiers, so that when the heads burst open with hues of reds, purples, oranges, and yellows she could scarcely contain her delight. It seemed a miracle. That first bouquet to her astonished mother was her proudest moment.

In time she came to see in the flowers an almost symbolic difference between her parents: while her father loved the living, growing flowers still rooted to the earth and warmed by the sun, her mother preferred them cut, placed in cool water, and set out in shaded rooms to be admired. Anna's lesson with the crystal dove so many years before had been a human one, one that provided a defining moment for her relationship with her mother. Anna persisted in her love for her mother, but its foundation seemed to be one of fractures and fissures which, while they never fully broke away, seemed always to hold the threat of doing so. The difficult truth was-in those intermittent moments when she remembered the dove- that she questioned her mother's love for her. The countess' love was a cool kind of love, taking the form of a nod or a light pat on the head, a love given out sparingly, like formal candies in tiny wrappings, and on occasions few enough for Anna to store away in a half-filled memory box. Anna, in turn, grew up confident only in her father's unconditional love, a love that radiated like sunshine. She came to fully place herself in his guardianship, so much so that at his death she found that her reservoir of trust had been emptied. Even he, in dying, had failed her. If what he had done was place himself in the way of destiny, no good had come of it. Just as she refused to shed tears in public, she vowed to trust in no one's love again.

The Countess Berezowska's older sister, Countess Stella Gronska, arrived with her husband and daughter Zofia for one funeral and stayed for three. When they left Sochaczew to return home to Halicz in southern Poland, they insisted on taking Anna with them. The count and countess would provide guardianship for her until she reached eighteen. At first, Anna was grateful. Her world shattered, she was happy to have someone deciding and doing for her. And her aunt and uncle were warm and loving people. Zofia, too, was welcoming.

Anna found her cousin very different from herself, so outgoing and worldly-wise. The Gronskis tried their best to be a family to her. But as the days at Halicz wore on, Anna came to miss her home and its familiar surroundings more and more. Sleep brought with it dark dreams of abandonment, of isolation. At night she sometimes awoke to her own voice calling out for her father. Her aunt and uncle responded to her melancholy with genuine concern, but she would only pretend to be comforted. What she longed for was the cocoon of her father's library, where she had spent countless hours of her childhood transported to other times and places by the stories on the darkly varnished shelves. And, most of all, she missed the opportunity to mourn at her family's graves, to touch the earth that held them, when she could not. Anna often wondered why it was that she survived. Had she done something to lose her whole world? Sometimes she found herself wishing she could join her family in the earth on that little hill where they and three other generations rested amidst daisies, cornflowers, and poppies. What did living have to offer now? Her life had taken on a tragic dimension, one that reminded her of the many tales and legends she knew. So often they, too, ended tragically. Why? In growing up, she would often read a tale only to the point when things went wrong. Then she would stop in order to provide her own, happier, ending. Her favorite story was of Jurata, Queen of the Baltic. If Anna could not quite identify with the mythical beauty of Jurata, she did acknowledge that they had in common their green eyes. What she admired most about the goddess was her passion. Oh, Anna wished for such passion in her own life. Jurata lived in a palace of amber under the sea. One day a young fisherman broke one of her laws, but the kind Jurata forgave him. Falling in love with the fisherman, the goddess courageously defied custom and law, swimming to shore to meet him every evening. Anna thought the myth very romantic. It was at this point that she chose to amend the story. She had no taste for the unhappy ending that went on to depict the god of lightning and thunder, Percun-who loved Jurata-flying into a rage because Jurata, too, broke a law: that magical beings marry only among themselves. Percun destroyed the palace with his thunderbolts and Jurata was never seen again. The pieces of the broken palace, then, accounted for the bits of amber found in the Baltic area. In Anna's ending, Jurata chipped away at her amber palace, breaking it down bit by bit, a mythical feat in itself. She then cleverly created among the gods and goddesses a great desire for the yellow stones. At last, she was able to assuage Percun's anger by presenting him with the largest cache of amber in the world, thus making him more respected and powerful. Jurata's passion was so great that she assumed a human form, giving up her immortality for the love of her fisherman.

Now, transfixed in the meadow, Anna was aware of the sights and sounds about her only in a peculiar and distant way, as though she stood-an intruder-in some French bucolic painting. She wondered if this panorama were even real. Perhaps her very life was no more than a dream. Might she be dreaming her life? Strange as it was, the notion caught hold in her imagination.

Was such a thing possible? Somehow, at that moment, it made sense. If only recent events were illusions, she thought.... If only- Suddenly a voice shattered the trance: "You must be the Countess Anna!" The deep voice jarred her into consciousness, and an instinctive, fearful cry escaped her lips before her mind could work. She wheeled about, shielding her face against the western sun, her eyes raised to take in the mounted rider. Her skin felt the full heat of the afternoon sun. His visage was at first little more than a silhouette cut against the sunlight, like a black on yellow paper cutting. Still, she knew he was not from the Gronski estate.

"It is a fine day, is it not?" He was smiling at her. A smile she could not interpret.

"Who are you?" She hardly recognized the voice as her own. It sounded distant and tiny. Her heart beat rapidly against her chest, and for a moment she thought of running.

"I'm sorry if I startled you." The smile was fading. "I assumed you would have heard my horse."

"You did-and I had not." Anna swallowed hard. She fought for composure. She would not run. "You might have called out from a distance."

"Truly, I am sorry. Really, Countess Anna-it is Countess Anna?"

She mustered decorum now. "Countess Anna Maria."

"Forgive me."

He was maneuvering his horse around her now. "Do you often go about sneaking up on people?" She lifted her head to him, feigning boldness. She found herself turning, too, in a half circle until it was no longer necessary for her to shade her eyes against the sun. She was certain that he had initiated that little dance for just that end. He was laughing.

"It's a habit I thought I had broken, Countess Anna Maria.".

His cavalier attitude was disconcerting. Anna chose not to answer. "And what," he pressed, "is it that brings you out here, my dear Countess?" Anna conjured up one of her mother's smiles that wasn't a smile.

"I might ask you the same question."

"Fair enough."

It was he who was shading his eyes now, but he took his hand away long enough to point. "Your uncle's land ends there to the west with that wheat field. This meadow is mine."

"Oh." Anna felt her confidence go cold and drop within her, draining away like a mountain stream. How neatly he had put her in her place. "I am nothing more than an interloper then, is that it? I'll go back immediately."

He smiled. "You need do nothing of the kind, Countess.

Continues...


Excerpted from PUSH NOT THE RIVER by James Conroyd Martin Copyright © 2000 by James Conroyd Martin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Jan Lorys

"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)

Jane Feather

".... 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)

Indiaer Edghill

"... River contains all the sweep and romance of the classic romantic epics... with a heroine who remains strong ...." (India Edghill, author of Queenmaker)

Jennifer Donnelly

".... 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)

Reading Group Guide

A panoramic and epic novel in the grand romantic style, Push Not the River is the rich story of Poland in the late 1700s--a time of heartache and turmoil as the country's once peaceful people are being torn apart by neighboring countries and divided loyalties. It is then, at the young and vulnerable age of seventeen, when Lady Anna Maria Berezowska loses both of her parents and must leave the only home she has ever known.
With Empress Catherine's Russian armies streaming in to take their spoils, Anna is quickly thrust into a world of love and hate, loyalty and deceit, patriotism and treason, life and death. Even kind Aunt Stella, Anna's new guardian who soon comes to personify Poland's courage and spirit, can't protect Anna from the uncertain future of the country.
Anna, a child no longer, turns to love and comfort in the form of Jan, a brave patriot and architect of democracy, unaware that her beautiful and enigmatic cousin Zofia has already set her sights on the handsome young fighter. Thus Anna walks unwittingly into Zofia's jealous wrath and darkly sinister intentions.
Forced to survive several tragic events, many of them orchestrated by the crafty Zofia, a strengthened Anna begins to learn to place herself in the way of destiny--for love and for country. Heeding the proud spirit of her late father, Anna becomes a major player in the fight against the countries who come to partion her beloved Poland.
Push Not the River is based on the true eighteenth century diary of Anna Maria Berezowska, a Polish countess who lived through the rise and fall of the historic Third of May Constitution. Vivid, romantic, and thrillingly paced, it paints the emotional and unforgettable story of the metamorphosis of a nation--and of a proud and resilient young woman.

Recipe

"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 attemptfailed, Push Not the River sings of a people's pride and indomitable hope."
- Jan Lorys, director of the Polish Museum of America

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Push Not the River 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't know how I'd take to this novel since it is of historical reference and me not being a 'history-buff'. However, I found that I couldn't put it down. I was fascinated how the perception for a woman's account was given by this male author. The only other time I was so impressed was when I read the 'Memoirs of a Geisha'. As I closed the book for the last time, I wished that it could go on. I wondered if there was a sequel and if not, it certainly should have one. I just learned that there is one, 'Against A Crimson Sky', and I am on my way out to get my copy NOW!
NH_Jan More than 1 year ago
If you like historical fiction, great characters and a book you can't put down--give this one a try. I admit you have to read the first five chapters or so to get into it, but it is worth it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book on a whim, the cover reminded me of another book's cover that I enjoyed. As soon as I started reading I couldn't put the book down, I read all through the night to finish.
Sveta85 More than 1 year ago
I am flabbergasted at this book, in a good way. I found it compelling, amazing, suspenseful, thrilling and beautiful. Not to mention its written by a man completely from two woman's point of views, yet the women were written beautifully and realistically.(If you want to write from a feminine point of view please read this book as to how to do it.) I had a great deal of pleasure from sitting down and reading it. There is some history of Poland, as it related to 1700s, along with culture and Polish superstitions which I found fascinating. I might be from Russia, but I suspect that I have Jewish ancestors that lived in Poland at one time or another. There is barely any Polish history prior to 1700s, and the issue of Russia and other empires desiring Poland seems to be one-sided in my opinion. I recall a history teacher told my class at one point that Poland itself attempted to conquer Russia multiple times. Also, what has been neglected is that the partition of Poland was used for Pale of Settlements for Jews if I'm not mistaken, or at least they were established by Catherine during that time. Quick notes: I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read and review the book. 5 out of 5 (0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book captivated me. It is a great story, all the more because it is true. I knew nothing about Polish history, and wouldn't have happened upon this book on my own. It was my good fortune to strike up a conversation with an interesting fellow in a crowded cafe in San Francisco. He told me his ancestors were Polish nobility, and that he had spent his years translating a diary from the 1700s. He told me it had been turned into a book, and I ought to check it out. For some reason I actually did so, and it turned out to be one of the best books I've read in a long time. Now I'm busy discovering more about Poland and its remarkable history. This book will lead to much richness of learning.
Dy More than 1 year ago
Learning about a country's past and culture from a history book is dry and oftentimes boring. Learning about a country's past and culture from a historical novel put together from actual events taken from an unpublished diary of Countess Anna Maria Berezowska is amazing. The life of Anna, her family, neighbors, and so-called friends during the tumultuous times in Polish history is rife with passion, romance, betrayal and hope for humanity. The survival and pride of the Polish people during the time of Russian domination by Catherine shines. I highly recommend this book not only people who enjoy a well-written historical novel but also to Poles who want to reconnect with their heritage.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished 'Push Not the River', which was recommended to me by a fellow book lover. It has replaced 'Wuthering Heights' as my all-time favorite book (an amazing feat as W.H had been my favorite since high school). This novel has all the passion, love, drama and betrayal of the best fiction books, yet it was based on an actual diary. I didn't want it to end but I couldn't put the book down. I found myself going back in time 200 years to the home of my ancestors, feeling the joy, heartache and terror they lived through. This book surpassed my expectations, and I anxiously await the sequel 'Against a Crimson Sky'!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was recommended this book by my sister and cousin and boy am I glad. It keeps you going through out the book and not at one moment will you know whats going to happen next. This is by far one of my favorite books and anyone who reads it will surly agree with me, it is so good i have no words to describe it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very good, its amazing that it is a true story, I cant belive all the things she went through!!! I cant wait till the sequal comes out!!! I would recomend this book to anyone!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had a really difficult time starting this book. I could only get through a couple of pages at a time. I am glad that I stuck with it though. There came a point when I couldn't put it down. It was interesting to see what happens to the main character, especially knowing that the book is based on real life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is the 1790s and we are in Poland as the country tries to defend itself against Catherine the Great, the Prussians, and the Austrians while internal strife is weakening the military and the power of the king. James Conroyd Martin is a skillful writer, a tremendous researcher, and in young Anna Maria Berezowska he has created a character we learn to love and cheer for as she matures in this turbulent time. --Joci Tilsen, Valley Bookseller, Stillwater, MN BookSense, a consortium of 1200 independent booksellers, chose PUSH NOT THE RIVER as an October 2004 Recommendation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very good. Very exciting, too. The story moved along quickly because so much happened in Anna's life in a short time. It was interesting to see the way she handled the situations she faced. Then there was her self-centered cousin and party girl, Zofia (some really wild parties), but every once in a while a caring side of her emerged. I had such mixed feelings about her. I also liked the way that Polish history was intertwined with Anna's story. Anna has strong ideas about the political movements in her day and is willing to stand for her beliefs. The end of the book is very climatic and sad, but you know that there will be more to this story. I can't wait for the sequel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I graduated high school in 2003 and I had James Martin as my sophomore English instructor. I read the novel during that year. I can remember well the beautiful story that was captured and the in class discussions about the writing of the book. I read it for extra credit, but reading it gave me more than a few extra points. The allusions to mythological creatures captivated me and I would urge you to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
PUSH NOT THE RIVER is a very thrilling and highly entertaining novel set against an unusual historical backdrop, the fateful events and turmoil characterizing late 18th century Poland. The story is based on a real 18th-century person's diary and represents a fast-moving and exiting, yet touching and colorful, tale of a young woman's struggle to achieve her almost insurmountable personal goals. The story is built on a unique social setting and deals with the life styles at the time Poland's minor gentry against a tumultuous political climate that led to the collapse of the last Polish kingdom, that of Stanislaus II Poniatowski. The novel is duely reflective of the ethos that defined Poland's middle class in those days and accurately portrays the political events that engendered the kingdom's fall. The novel reflects the naivete and innocence of the heroine, Ania, a behavioral bent that represented a large part of ethical Polish society as it existed in those times. The story touches upon the ill-fated attempt of Thaddeus Kosciuszko, one of the hero's of the American Revolutionary War (the Polish military engineer who delayed and boxed British general Burgoyne into unfavorable conditions at Saratoga, ensured the success of the West Point fortifications, and saved Nathaniel Green's army from entrapment in South Carolina), to take charge and reverse the Russian takeover of the Polish kingdom. Not since reading Eric P. Kelly's tales about Poland in a historical setting have I experience something so exciting. And Kelley, like James Conroyd Martin, was a non-Pole too!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the finest works of historical fiction to come down the road since the likes of the Nobel Prize winners Henryk Sienkiewicz (Ogniem i Miecem [With Fire & Word], Potop [The Deluge], and Pan Wolodyowski [Lord Michal (Wolodyowski)], and Wladyslaw S. Reymont, Chlopi [The Peasants]and Rok 1794 [The Year 1794]). It is unique because the story captures the time and flavor of an era not otherwise covered by writers since Thaddeus of Warsaw was written in the mid-19th century. It is also well written and absent the editing booboos one is forced to swallow under the degraded publishing rules of late. The story of Ania (Anna) provides the reader with an insight to the conditions of the minor gentry during one of the most tumultuous periods in Polish history (The Partitions of 1772, 1793 & 1794)when the great American hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko had to take command of the country and make a bid for independence as he did at Saratoga and West Point. It accurately describes the individual naivete that existed in the philosophical beliefs of young women in 1794 and it paints vividly the panaroma of the conflict. This terrific true story will certainly enrich the reader with, not only entertainment, but a knowledge of a culture, history, and people not otherwise obtainable in such an enjoyable composition.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author of this book breathes new life into the horrifying and confusing history of Poland. The political turmoil seizes the imagination from the very first page. Two cousins represent all that is great in the people of that country. Ana seems to embody the loyalty, dignity, and strength of royalty, courageously holding on to tradition. Sofia uses wit, adaptability, and common sense to resist the Russians, allowing the greatness of Poland to survive the invasion. Based on a diary kept by a countess who lived through the partition, PUSH NOT THE RIVER recounts with vivid accuracy, the chaos survived by a nation. The metaphor that spans the length of the story is never more appropriate than in the scene at the River Vistula. Driven like cattle by the Russian Army, thousands upon thousands of Poles are forced off the bridge to their deaths. Some make it across. This story is about two who did.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Though the background is Polish history and the writing is clear and colorful, this book has lot of the trials and romantic tribulations of the Countess about it. Too much so for me. Low on action high on fashion and food?
Anonymous 3 months ago
Very informative and easy read. Great way to introduce a person to Polish History. It has it all. Romance, action, history and unexpected twists and turns. It was hard to put it down.
Anonymous 7 months ago
This is a wonderful historical book. The characters were brought to life from the pages beautifully. The author described the happenings , good and bad in detail. I highly recommend reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel uses romance to pull the reader into the heart of Polish history and spirit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book and all its characters. Very entertaining!
ResidentCat More than 1 year ago
Nothing transports me like a 19th century novel. I find books from this period irresistibly compelling; they draw me intellectually and emotionally, like a hypnotist draws her subject, into the worlds of the past. Whether the author is male or female, despite their country of origin, novels written during this era weave a magic spell over me. Very few modern authors have the same power to captivate. So, imagine my surprise when I read Push Not the River, the first novel in James Conroyd Martin’s Warsaw Conspiracy Poland trilogy, and found myself delightfully enchanted! Push Not the River, which is based upon the diary of a Polish countess who lived through the period of Napoleon’s failed Russia campaign, has many of the ingredients for a binding charm: the challenges of passion within strict societal constructs, the intrigues of politics in the era of the great Western empires, the stark income inequality between the classes, and an almost cinematic glimpse of earlier times. But don’t expect Victorian era prudery. This novel openly explores taboo issues that were often ignored or obscured in the great books written during the period: rape, promiscuity at court, domestic violence, the challenges of blended family, and more. Conroyd Martin handles these topics frankly, but deftly, so that the illusion of reading a much older novel is maintained. Perhaps because they are based upon real people, the characters in Push Not the River are complex and surprising the real people can be. The protagonist is not drawn from the clichés of the era. Even the antagonists in the novel have complex natures that kept me guessing. The novel ends with a cliff hanger that will send you rushing back to the book store for the sequels, Against a Crimson Sky and The Warsaw Conspiracy. As historical fiction, the trilogy provides a unique perspective on the Napoleonic wars and the evolution of the Europe that would spawn World War I and World War II. Despite the role that Thaddeus Kościuszko and Casimir Pulaski played in the American revolution, few Americans understand why great Polish military tacticians were fighting with us. Although Poland was at the epicenter of both World Wars, little is commonly known about how its pursuit of an American-style constitution and democracy led to its conquest and partition by its neighbors, who feared democratic revolutions within their own borders. The Warsaw Trilogy is a well-researched series that will broaden the average reader’s understanding of the intersection of American and European history. If, like me, Dickens, Zola, and Tolstoy bewitch you, you will be charmed by the Warsaw Trilogy. Recommend.
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