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The Balkan Trilogy (1960)

by Olivia Manning

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Fortunes of War (1-3), The Balkan trilogy (1-3)

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1,1093118,285 (4.07)226
Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:

The Balkan Trilogy is the story of a marriage and of a war, a vast, teeming, and complex masterpiece in which Olivia Manning brings the uncertainty and adventure of civilian existence under political and military siege to vibrant life. Manning's focus is not the battlefield but the café and kitchen, the bedroom and street, the fabric of the everyday world that has been irrevocably changed by war, yet remains unchanged.

At the heart of the trilogy are newlyweds Guy and Harriet Pringle, who arrive in Bucharest--the so-called Paris of the East--in the fall of 1939, just weeks after the German invasion of Poland. Guy, an Englishman teaching at the university, is as wantonly gregarious as his wife is introverted, and Harriet is shocked to discover that she must share her adored husband with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Other surprises follow: Romania joins the Axis, and before long German soldiers overrun the capital. The Pringles flee south to Greece, part of a group of refugees made up of White Russians, journalists, con artists, and dignitaries. In Athens, however, the couple will face a new challenge of their own, as great in its way as the still-expanding theater of war.

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» See also 226 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Re-visited 2024 (this time in a radio adaptation, narrated by Joanna Lumley). Wonderful and sometimes satirical evocation of being a newly-married wife trailing her eng-lit teacher husband around Europe, trying to keep ahead of Nazi invasion.

Harriet is loyal to her husband, but increasingly exasperated by his neglect when it becomes apparent his time and loyalty belong seemingly to everyone else first. Guy is a good man, but myopic in every sense of the word.

Great characterisations & sense of being an ex-pat at that time in history. Loosely based on Olivier Manning’s own experiences in Europe during the war. ( )
  LARA335 | Jan 29, 2024 |
"Marry in haste repent at leisure"-- that's an old saying and in this case it's no less true. A young English woman named Harriet meets another young English person named Guy while on summer vacation and marries him a month later. His post is an English professor at Bucharest University in Romania. She returns with him to Bucharest when the fall term is to begin, and begins right away to find out who the man is that she really married. This is at the beginning of World war II, and it doesn't take long before they have to leave Bucharest with the threat of Germans invading hanging over them. Harriet manages to get on an airplane to Athens, and her husband trails her a month later. They're not done with war though--life in Athens is faced with an everyday worry that the Germans will appear there.meanwhile Harriet gets more and more disillusioned with her husband.

A wonderful description of Bucharest and its many types of inhabitants and Athens and the many historical sights of its surroundings. Superb on characterization, this book will have you chortling to yourself at the behavior of the many characters drawn from the real-life experiences dreawn from Manning's own life.

They don't give a damn about animal well-being in Bucharest in 1937:
P.132
"An assistant was shearing off the legs of live frogs, throwing the still palpitating trunks into a dustbin. Yakimov was upset by the sight, but forgot it at once as he peered into a basket of button mushrooms flown that morning from Paris." ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
fortunes of war, Harriet and Guy in Rumania and Greece in WWII, their love eventually confirmed
  ritaer | Apr 7, 2020 |
Realistic portrayal of diplomatic life in early WW2-affected Bucharest and Athens. ( )
  Kakania | Dec 21, 2019 |
Another keen observer of the human condition and esp humans in challenging circumstances (impending war and war) and foreign landscapes/cultures. While Manning provides a well painted landscape of the "Paris of the East", Bucharest, with its Brit ex-pats, British military and cultural organizations, and other assorted (mainly "upper crust") characters from various parts of Europe, she deftly also weaves in thought provoking observations about the late 1930s-early 1940s European world, its various political pts of view, the complexities of marriages in this society, and even elements of friendship, identity, even meaningful existence - and all of this against the backdrop (and it is the backdrop -not the focus) of the growing war between the Axis powers and the Allies. Her main narrator, a young, somewhat diffident English woman, Harriet, who has recently married Guy Pringle, an idealistic, gregarious professor of English language and literature, is the lens through which Manning achieves this scrutiny, and gradually draws us readers in. It reminds me so much of the better black & white classic films from this time-period, with many colorful characters, all mixing it up in foreign clubs/bars, circling each other as they respond to the swirling events of European capitals & their response to the growing reach of Nazi Germany (yeah, like Casablanca!) but without the overwrought emotions...well, not at first. Manning does allow Harriet her moments of despair, passion, tearful grief - but this is such a British mid-20th century novel, even the horrifying or potentially romantic (hint of sex) moments are couched in restrained prose. And what wonderfully varied prose it is- this authors knows how to provide a fully descriptive passage, or convey a wealth of insight through tense, realistic, clipped dialogue. Nevertheless, her observations about life, death, what sort of marriage emerges for a young couple, the idiosyncrasies of one's friends and acquaintances - all are explored while we barrel through the disintegrating peace for Romania, and then Greece- among other nations which succumb to the Axis threats, and eventually military advancement. The Balkan Trilogy ends with Guy and Harriet escaping Athens with one suitcase apiece, on a rusty commercial steamer with other British nationals, hurriedly rounded up and deported to safer territory: Cairo, Jerusalem, etc - I'm looking forward to the next trilogy to see how these two survive and build their lives together, in spite of being so (to Harriet's great chagrin and despondency) incredibly different in temperament, political & spiritual beliefs, and insights into various individuals they encounter. Not for the faint of heart: this trilogy is 924 pages long. Yep. It's a winter read book... ( )
1 vote BDartnall | Nov 26, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Olivia Manningprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cusk, RachelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lokka, PirkkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smiley, JaneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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SOMEWHERE NEAR VENICE, Guy began talking with a heavy, elderly man, a refugee from Germany on his way to Trieste.
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Pinkrose stared at it, his lizard mouth agape. ('The spoils city', chp.20)
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Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:

The Balkan Trilogy is the story of a marriage and of a war, a vast, teeming, and complex masterpiece in which Olivia Manning brings the uncertainty and adventure of civilian existence under political and military siege to vibrant life. Manning's focus is not the battlefield but the café and kitchen, the bedroom and street, the fabric of the everyday world that has been irrevocably changed by war, yet remains unchanged.

At the heart of the trilogy are newlyweds Guy and Harriet Pringle, who arrive in Bucharest--the so-called Paris of the East--in the fall of 1939, just weeks after the German invasion of Poland. Guy, an Englishman teaching at the university, is as wantonly gregarious as his wife is introverted, and Harriet is shocked to discover that she must share her adored husband with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Other surprises follow: Romania joins the Axis, and before long German soldiers overrun the capital. The Pringles flee south to Greece, part of a group of refugees made up of White Russians, journalists, con artists, and dignitaries. In Athens, however, the couple will face a new challenge of their own, as great in its way as the still-expanding theater of war.

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