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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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  • Will
  • Concord, MA, United States
  • 09-20-18

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.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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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.