Like many of James A. Michener’s other bestselling novels, Poland is a story about fictional characters whose lives allow Michener to show how historical events affected and were influenced by the real people who lived in that real place.
In Poland, the opening and closing chapters are set in 1981 as farmers in a fictional Polish farming community along the Vistula River try to organize a union, which the Soviets oppose: A union would give Polish farmers too much control over Russia’s food supply.
In the chapters in between, Michener traces Polish history forward from the 13th century when invaders from the East under Genghis Khan ravaged Poland.
From that period through 1918, Poland’s rulers kept its peasants tied to the land, little better than slaves.
Various of Poland’s neighbors sought to influence, control, or eliminate it in accordance with their own political aspirations: Poland disappeared entirely from the map of Europe for 123 years.
Russia succeeded after World War II in turning Poland into a Soviet satellite.
The sweep of the novel, the difficulties of Polish names, and the strangeness of Poland’s political system make for challenging reading, but it will reward readers with a better understanding of the corner of Europe that Vladimir Putin dominates today.
Poland by James A. Michener
Random House. 1st ed. ©1983. 556 p.
1983 bestseller #2. My grade: A
©2019 Linda G. Aragoni