Wednesday, June 26, 2013
G93 Book Review of Push Not the River by James Conroyd Martin
Author: James Conroyd Martin
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Part of a Series: Push not the river
Type of book: Poland, Russia, Partition, 1779, 1791-1794, loyalty, secrets, betrayal, war, conflict, love triangle, feminist, destiny, fate
Year it was published: 2003
A panoramic and epic novel in the grand romantic style, Push Not the River is the rich story of Poland in the late 1700s--a time of heartache and turmoil as the country's once peaceful people are being torn apart by neighboring countries and divided loyalties. It is then, at the young and vulnerable age of seventeen, when Lady Anna Maria Berezowska loses both of her parents and must leave the only home she has ever known.
With Empress Catherine's Russian armies streaming in to take their spoils, Anna is quickly thrust into a world of love and hate, loyalty and deceit, patriotism and treason, life and death. Even kind Aunt Stella, Anna's new guardian who soon comes to personify Poland's courage and spirit, can't protect Anna from the uncertain future of the country.
Anna, a child no longer, turns to love and comfort in the form of Jan, a brave patriot and architect of democracy, unaware that her beautiful and enigmatic cousin Zofia has already set her sights on the handsome young fighter. Thus Anna walks unwittingly into Zofia's jealous wrath and darkly sinister intentions.
Forced to survive several tragic events, many of them orchestrated by the crafty Zofia, a strengthened Anna begins to learn to place herself in the way of destiny--for love and for country. Heeding the proud spirit of her late father, Anna becomes a major player in the fight against the countries who come to partion her beloved Poland.
Push Not the River is based on the true eighteenth century diary of Anna Maria Berezowska, a Polish countess who lived through the rise and fall of the historic Third of May Constitution. Vivid, romantic, and thrillingly paced, it paints the emotional and unforgettable story of the metamorphosis of a nation--and of a proud and resilient young woman.
The characters are well-rounded and complex. The women are not two-dimensional and they do make mistakes and have distinct personalities. It was hard for me to decide whether or not to like or hate Zofia or Anna for that matter. Both women make mistakes, both women try to make up to one another and its amazing how one could relate this book to modern times, or what is going on today, and the story takes place in 1700s! The men aren't as complex as women characters, but they are important as well, and its odd that a book written by a man has women that are multi-layered and complex, yet the men seem to be, well, two dimensional. To be brief, Anna is best described as a traditional young lady who yearns for love and family and she can best be described as good, sweet, loyal and patriotic. In my mind, I often link Zofia to Catherine of Russia, for Zofia is more an interesting character out of the two. She breaks traditions, manipulates men, and is best described as self-centered and somewhat selfish. Her worst fears are being married to Antoni Gronski and to lead a boring life. She is a party girl through and through. She a complex antagonist. Unfortunately the men didn't really stand out for me.
Keep your personality and convictions no matter what
Its written in third person narrative primarily from Anna's, Jan's and Zofia's points of views. I found the story to be compelling, suspenseful and well-written. If there were mistakes or faults, I didn't notice them because I was busy caught up with what would happen next, although if I might be honest, I would have liked to get to know Zofia more and be more inside her head. Half the time I couldn't believe that so much has happened to Anna from 1791-1794!
About this author
James Conroyd Martin is the author of Push Not the River, a novel based on the diary of Anna Berezowska, a Polish countess who lived through the rise and fall of the Third of May Constitution. After working on the project for some years without raising interest within the publishing community, Martin self-published in 2001. Just one year later, St. Martin’s Press purchased the book and released a hard cover edition in September 2003. Polish and German rights sold almost immediately.
The Polish edition, Nie ponaglaj rzeki, was released in May of 2005, became a bestseller and sold out in a matter of months. Anna's story had come full circle: Polish to English to Polish! Pod purpurowym niebem, the translation of Against a Crimson Sky,also became a bestseller when published in December of 2007.
Martin, who holds degrees from St. Ambrose and DePaul Universities, is a longtime English and creative writing teacher at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois. He is working on his third novel, The Warsaw Conspiracy, a political thriller that will complete the trilogy.
I am flabbergasted at this book, in a good way. I found it compelling, amazing, suspenseful, thrilling and beautiful. Not to mention its written by a man completely from two woman's point of views, yet the women were written beautifully and realistically.(If you want to write from a feminine point of view please read this book as to how to do it.) I had a great deal of pleasure from sitting down and reading it. There is some history of Poland, as it related to 1700s, along with culture and Polish superstitions which I found fascinating. I might be from Russia, but I suspect that I have Jewish ancestors that lived in Poland at one time or another. There is barely any Polish history prior to 1700s, and the issue of Russia and other empires desiring Poland seems to be one-sided in my opinion. I recall a history teacher told my class at one point that Poland itself attempted to conquer Russia multiple times. Also, what has been neglected is that the partition of Poland was used for Pale of Settlements for Jews if I'm not mistaken, or at least they were established by Catherine during that time.
Quick notes: I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read and review the book.
5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)