Danubia

A Personal History of Habsburg Europe
Narrated by: James Cameron Stewart
Length: 22 hrs and 11 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (78 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the end of the Middle Ages to the First World War, Europe was dominated by one family: the Habsburgs. Their unprecedented rule is the focus of Simon Winder's vivid third book, Danubia

Winder's approach is friendly, witty, personal; this is a narrative that, while erudite and well researched, prefers to be discursive and anecdotal. In his survey of the centuries of often incompetent Habsburg rule which have continued to shape the fate of Central Europe, Winder does not shy away from the horrors, railing against the effects of nationalism, recounting the violence that was often part of life. But this is a history dominated above all by Winder's energy and curiosity. Thrillingly informative, Danubia is a treat that listeners will be eager to dip into.

©2013 Simon Winder (P)2018 Tantor
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Magnificent history of the Habsburg Empire

First of all, I want to say that the narrator is terrific, as is this book. I had been looking for a history of Austria for some time, and Simon Winder's spellbinding history of the Habsburgs is perfect. Before reading it, I had some reservations as I thought it was a mix between a travel book and a history book, but the reality is that Danubia is a history book in which the author happens to travel to some of the most significant places of the former Empire and see history for himself in person. The travel part always support and reinforces the main narratives.
Additionally, Winder is a witty, sarcastically and erudite narrator, who provides some ironic comments now and then, but his voice never overwhelms the history being told, which is nothing less than fascinating. The Habsburgs were at the heart of Europe for centuries, in the middle of the religious wars, preventing the Ottomans from overwhelming the Continent, decisively tied to the history of Spain, fighting the Napoleonic Wars. As Winder points out, most of them were bores, but the history of the Empire was never boring, as from the beginning the Habsburg King was also the King of the Holy Roman Empire (until Napoleon and then Bismarck ended that). Winder not only recounts the history and the politics, but he is also immensely knowledgeable on the culture of the Empire, from the operas and the music created during the reign of Marie Therese and her son Joseph, through the novelists (like Zweig and Joseph Roth) and composers (Janacek) who witnessed the catastrophic end of the Empire.
Winder covers the immensity of the Empire, making stops in Hungary, the Balkans, Galizia, Bohemia, all places which were part of the Habsburg empire and which to this day are heirs to its greatness and haunted by its collapse.
I can't recommend this highly enough. Although I recently listened to Iron Kingdom, a history of Prussia, I can`t wait to listen to Germania. And then again, pay no attention to the guy who said the narrator is terrible, James Cameron Stewart does a great job, he is authoritative but sarcastic and witty when the narration calls for it. Perfect book.

17 people found this helpful

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The Hapsburgs in all their glory!

I have read (literally!) hundreds of historical books, but nothing quite like Simon Winder's captivating romp through German et al history. Winder intertwines historical events and activities, with his own personal reflections on the locations and buildings present today. This fresh approach, combined with his A+ humor, has made books 1 and 2 of this trilogy utterly delightful! I can hardly wait to begin book 3! (side note: I love these books enough to own both audible AND print versions!)

2 people found this helpful

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History and Hilarity

This book catches one by surprise. Within the first few minutes, the dry wit of Simon Winder is on full display. And it is a fun, fantastic ride. Who knew the now deceased Hapsburg empire was such a funny subject? It's his observational humor that is so spot on, and it makes the history of this monstrous empire a very amusing ride. James Cameron Stewart provides the vessel for the wit to come through with gusto. It's truly a spectacular read for any history buff who wants something more than a stuffy textbook read.

2 people found this helpful

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Informative and Entertaining

I throughly enjoyed this book both for it’s level of detail and it’s entertaining presentation. I found the author’s personal interjections and observations quite humorous and providing a dry wit that I very much appreciated. I had to refer to maps several times in order to remain situationally aware of the story and would highly recommend having a map handy as a reference while listening to this book. I am looking forward to listening to the author’s other works.

1 person found this helpful

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great historical read.

loved every bit of this book. well written and full of facts. I have new knowledge of Europe.

1 person found this helpful

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Superb narration

Winder’s erudition and droll humor find their perfect expression in Stewart’s understated delivery. Highly entertaining.

1 person found this helpful

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like a fever dream

I think I'll dig it more in the second listen but this book jumps from history to opinion to guide book. definitely not the place to start if new to all this or even just passing through. if you're hardcore go for it, I'll probably give another one of this guy's books a try. strangely entertaining.

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Ruined by the Narrator

I was interested in this topic, and the fact that the author took extra effort to make it readable and funny was a real bonus. It seems, however, that the crusty, British narrator is dead set against history being enjoyable and decided to totally undermine the fun part by sounding as pained and boring as humanly possible. It's agonizing to listen to. I would rather hammer a wooden spoon handle into my ear, snap off the end and jam the jagged part into the other ear rather than finish listening to this book. Returning it right now... and good riddance.

12 people found this helpful