Review: Prague Spring by Simon Mawer [8/10]

Simon Mawer creates immersive character-driven novels of people intersecting with history, and “Prague Spring” is a wonderful example of his skill and humanity. In 1968, while President LBJ wrestles with the Vietnam War, in Czechoslovakia a flowering revolution of political and cultural openers, personified by Alexander Dubcek, moderate leader of the Communist Party, butts up against Leonid Brezhnev’s Soviet Union. Throw into this poised moment in history a mismatched hitchhiking couple from England and a young career diplomat in love with a Czech firebrand and you have the makings of either a turgid “based on a true story” recounting or something special, and Mawer achieves the latter. He effortlessly interweaves complex character plots with what happened leading up to the famous Soviet invasion. I felt I knew all the characters like my kin. England, Europe, and especially Czechoslovakia came alive to me, and I basked in reflections about that crazy Cold War era. I can’t speak highly enough of this unshowy minor masterpiece.

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