Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning

The Balkan Trilogy (original 1960; edition 1988)

by Olivia Manning

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6691814,333 (3.99)183
Title:The Balkan Trilogy
Authors:Olivia Manning
Collections:Stockcheck, Your library

Work details

The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning (1960)

Recently added bylaytonwoman3rd, maryclarel, Urban_Forsum, Marie_Powell, MrCurl, twp77, private library

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 183 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I did my best to put myself off this trilogy - firstly by watching the TV series before reading it, and secondly by making myself read all 3 books back to back (they were sold as one book - it felt like giving up to take a break after each novel). As a result, I was stuck with Emma Thomson and Kenneth Brannagh in my head playing Harriet and Guy - the fact that this rarely jarred as I read is a tribute to the adaptation.

The series is well-written and enjoyable, but I agree with other reviewers in that there is something lacking in the characters. Harriet is particularly frustrating - she's an intelligent woman, so why doesn't she do anything?! Admittedly, she is constrained by her inability to speak Romanian or Greek, and by expectations of women at the time, but I still couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed in her.

Despite the disappointments, I still enjoyed this trilogy enough to read the sequel. ( )
  cazfrancis | Jun 2, 2014 |
I really like the series, and the front half of it is more thrilling than the last. The widely ranging characters, their great depth and the skilful weaving of all sub-plots are entrancing! I admit to having seen the TV Mini-series first, but the prose format allows for greater depth. I wasn't conscious of the pacing, so it must have been great, Was Guy a spy ,or not? ( )
  DinadansFriend | Sep 25, 2013 |
The Balkan Trilogy goes very well with Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy and the war movement of Powell's A dance to the music of time as a view of World War II as seen by a middle-class, not very bellicose, British intellectual of liberal/conservative leanings. There's the same puzzled attempt to come to terms with what it means for a civilised person brought up in the liberal-humanist tradition suddenly to find themselves in the primitive state of war, the same sense of being on the outer periphery of big events that are happening somewhere else, even the same trilogy format and some of the same characters. Prince Yakimov could step into any Evelyn Waugh novel with no questions asked, and he would be just as much at home attending one of Anthony Powell's bohemian parties.

So what does Manning provide as added value to make us read this doorstop as well as the others? The background of the fall of Romania and Greece, for one thing. There aren't all that many first-hand accounts of this in English, and not even that many second-hand accounts (Captain Corelli's Mandolin is just about the only one I can think of). Manning was one of a handful of British people who remained in Romania after the outbreak of war, and seems to have been the only one to write a novel about it. This personal experience makes her account very interesting, but it also means that she has a tendency to forget that she's writing a novel and drift into memoir mode, leaving her characters stranded for a while.

The book should also be very interesting as an account of the war from a woman's perspective, but I found this aspect of it a little disappointing. Her central character, Harriet, is too narrow and limited to carry a novel of this length. Essentially, she is an automaton programmed to do three things: to observe political events inefficiently; to feel vaguely disappointed in her husband; and to form sentimental friendships that lead nowhere with animals and good-looking men. She does these three things repeatedly in all three parts of the trilogy, but she doesn't seem to develop at all between summer 1939 and Easter 1941. Even when she finds a job for a while, her duties seem to consist exclusively of lunch dates with a good-looking man. Harriet doesn't get very far in forming friendships with other women, and she only has very limited direct contact with people outside the "British community" in Bucharest and Athens. So, while it's a book that confirms that war and international politics are not to be seen as exclusively male territory in literature, apart from this it does about as much for the feminist cause as the film Brief Encounter.

Despite these limitations, the book is very agreeable to read. Manning's style is clear and fluid, there's a lot of striking visual description, and the characters, whilst repetitive, are often amusing. A very good novel, but less than I was hoping for, somehow. ( )
2 vote thorold | Jul 16, 2013 |
This is the first book in the series [The Balkan Trilogy], by the British author [Olivia Manning]. In this trilogy Manning follows the wartime lives of several characters, mainly Harriet and Guy Pringle, as they move from one country to another avoiding the Nazi invasion. The [Fortunes of War] finds Harriet and Guy living in Bucharest, he a teacher of English and she a housewife. They are recently married and she is new to Romania although he has been teaching there for a while. They are surrounded by an interesting cast of characters, mainly British although a few are Romanian or other nationalities.

Their lives develop in the time that Nazi Germany began to flex its expansionary muscles and started invading one country after another. We hear the news as they came in to Bucharest, confusing and never very clear. Some people continue to believe that Romania would be spared, since the Nazis were focusing North (Poland, Denmark, Netherlands) and East (France). But the country is supplying great amounts of feed to Germany, thus the latter is highly dependent on Romania. A few other characters are more realistic and know that Romania will eventually fall in the grasp of the Nazis.

Manning portrays her characters very well, and they are interesting to follow. Harriet is a plucky British girl, with a bent towards independence, although she gives up to her husband even though she often knows that he is wrong. Guy, on the other hand, seems a more flighty character. He is talented and has a good heart, but tends to ignore the long-term consequences of events that are unfolding around him (mainly the German threat). Both of them, however, appear to be fit well together.

I am eagerly anticipating what will happen in the next novel in the series, [The Spoilt City].

[Olivia Manning] followed [The Balkan Trilogy] with a second one called [The Levant Trilogy]. I am curious to find out about it, and it seems that it's not as popular as the first one since it's not mentioned as frequently in LT. ( )
1 vote xieouyang | Jun 6, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
SOMEWHERE NEAR VENICE, Guy began talking with a heavy, elderly man, a refugee from Germany on his way to Trieste.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

Living and working in Rumania, Guy and Harriet Pringle are forced to evacuate to Greece before the steady advance of the German army. 'The Balkan Trilogy' is the portrait of their marriage, a haunting evocation of a vanished way of life and an ironic comedy of manners in a breaking world.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1 avail.
76 wanted
2 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.99)
1 2
2 2
2.5 3
3 16
3.5 11
4 58
4.5 16
5 27

NYRB Classics

Two editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590173317, 1590177037

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 93,373,704 books! | Top bar: Always visible