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The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning

The Balkan Trilogy (1960)

by Olivia Manning

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From the first sentence, this book is so real because it is so detailed. How does one tell the story of a war except to have it pervade the lives of your main characters? A mismatched couple struggles to make do (and stay together) through the trials of war (WW2). First in Bucharest and then in Athens, the garrulous husband surrounds himself with friends and the more withdrawn wife tries to sniff out her own companions – all the while fighting off feelings of abandonment. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
A set of three novels: The Great Fortune, The Spoilt City, and Friends and Heroes, published between 1956 and 196. They a gripping account of the life of Harriet Pringle and her husband, Guy, in Bucharest and Athens during the first half of WWII. Settings and characters are brilliantly evoked, and the folly and prejudice of both socialist and conservative Englishmen abroad rings horribly true. Yakimov is the most memorable character, but all of significant figures linger in the mind. The alien - alienating - nature of Bucharest and the Roumanians , as Manning depicts them, makes an interesting contrast to Patrick Leigh Fermor's travel writing about them. There is a preoccupation - often comical, because of Yakimov - with food that seems to be one of the key features of the writing of those who lived through the war. Her writing about the nature of marital relationships and their revelations, accommodations and trade-offs rings true now. ( )
1 vote Litotes | Aug 27, 2015 |
The Great Fortune
Yakimov, a naturalised British White Russian, and Guy and Harriet Pringle, as newly married English couple, arrive in Bucharest as the Second World War starts. Yakimov is escaping from a Poland being overrun by Nazi Germany and Guy Pringle is returning to teach English at the university with his new bride, Harriet. This is part of the history of the Second World War that I did not know.
The story is told alternatively by “poor Yaki” and Harriet. Both Yakimov and Guy have annoying personalities, representing extreme self-interest and selflessness, with Harriet observing matters as a more typically “bourgeois” viewpoint.
The book ends with the set piece of an amateur performance of Troilus and Cressida put on by the British, which helps Harriet understand Guy better and brings out a more likeable side of poor old Yaki, following his fall portrayed throughout most of the book. Overall I felt that this book fulfilled less than its potential and this is perhaps due to the lack of empathy that you feel for the main characters. ( )
  CarltonC | Nov 20, 2014 |
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 |
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SOMEWHERE NEAR VENICE, Guy began talking with a heavy, elderly man, a refugee from Germany on his way to Trieste.
Pinkrose stared at it, his lizard mouth agape. ('The spoils city', chp.20)
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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)

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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590173317, 1590177037

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