Meyer's book provides an often enthralling synopsis of the events that unfolded at the highest levels of Communist Eastern European governments at the end of the Cold War. Meyer was an on-location reporter at the time & the book reflects his embedded perspective on the events of the era. This is important to note -- Meyer emphasizes the actions undertaken by individual leaders and groups of leaders in the governments and resistance of Poland, Hungary, East Germany, and Romania in his analysis. This differs from the types of analyses that might be provided by academics who would examine the broad, underlying forces that contributed to the demise of the Eastern European Communist dictatorships.
The book is at its best when recounting day-to-day events and decisions. For example, Meyer's account of the efforts of Hungarian Communist officials to use a picnic on the Hungarian-Austrian border to accelerate the Fall of the Berlin Wall is absolutely fascinating. Few individuals other than Meyer have the knowledge of the history & personalities required to do the story justice.
One of the book's central themes is that the U.S. government contributed most effectively to the positive outcomes of 1989 (i.e., the relatively low level of violence and the speed of the revolutions) by diplomatic support for reformers like Gorbachev rather than active destabilization or military intervention. Meyer contrasts this with the policies of the George W. Bush administration & takes care to highlight that many of W's most interventionist leaders (e.g., Cheney & Rice) were among the most wrong-headed of George W. H. Bush's advisors. The book is least interesting to me when drawing these parallels, which could be usefully left to the reader.
Sala reads like an exasperated Clint Eastwood, grunting & sighing distractingly throughout. He seems to massacre European names, butchering German most severely.
Overall, a very interesting topic and useful complement to Anna Funder's Stasiland.
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