cover image Homelands: A Personal History of Europe

Homelands: A Personal History of Europe

Timothy Garton Ash. Yale, $35 (368p) ISBN 978-0-300-25707-6

In this insightful collection of more than 40 essays, Oxford University historian Ash (Free Speech) artfully weaves together geopolitical analysis with reflections on his travels throughout the European continent since 1971. Along the way, he probes the “paradox” of being a contemporary European: the sense of being “at home abroad,” or feeling like one belongs in countries radically different from their own. Ash, a Brit, traces his own trajectory of becoming “a conscious European” from sometime after “the first schoolboy inhalation of Gauloise tobacco smoke” through his work as journalist reporting from behind the Iron Curtain, peppering his account with fascinating snapshots of a 1978 luncheon at the French home of British aristocrats and notorious fascists Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford, a clandestine 1986 meetup with dissident Czech playwright (and later president) Václav Havel, a 1996 dinnertime chat with former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, and more. Throughout, Ash cogently ties these personal experiences and tidbits of European history to the sweeping changes that altered the continent’s political structure during these years: the creation of the European Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Brexit. As the subtitle suggests, this is not a comprehensive history of Europe, but it’s a scintillating one. (May)