Grove Press: Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley

Lotharingia: A Personal History of Europe's Lost Country

Author Simon Winder enthusiastically proclaims in his introduction, "This book is the completion of a trilogy!" Along with companion titles Germania and Danubia, Lotharingia explores a real but seldom mentioned historical region carved out of Europe after the Treaty of Verdun in the year 843--a moment that, Winder suggests, set the stage for the next thousand years of European history. While that might sound like rather heavy reading, the text stays remarkably light thanks to Winder's disarming humor and persistent irreverence. He describes, at various points, an ancient statue with "an undeniably Roswell alien-invader atmosphere"; the federal buildings of Bern's city center as "looking oddly like Queen Amadala's palace on the planet Naboo"; and the patchwork map of historical Europe "which looked like a jigsaw a dog had tried to swallow and then thrown up."

Winder's writing has a casually anecdotal feel to it; stories are loosely grouped and interjected with his own recollections of visiting archeological and historic sites across Europe. These are the most engaging moments, marked by the familiarity and affection of a lifelong traveler. His enthusiasm and respect for his material is obvious and infectious, as is his amusement at the occasional absurdities committed by historical figures. Through this personal and compelling account, Winder recounts a broad sweep of European history in a way that is not only vastly entertaining, but accessible for a casual audience. --Judie Evans, librarian