The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House

The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House Review

A masterfully told and immersive narrative about the last hundred years of European history, as seen through an extraordinary mansion – and the lives of the people who called it home

When Norman Eisen moved into the US ambassador’s residence in Prague, returning to the land his mother had fled after the Holocaust, he was startled to discover swastikas hidden beneath the furniture. These symbols of Nazi Germany were remnants of the residence’s forgotten history, and evidence that we never live far from the past.

From that discovery unspooled the twisting, captivating tale of four of the remarkable people who had called this palace home. Their story is Europe’s, and The Last Palace chronicles the upheavals that have transformed the continent over the past century. There was the optimistic Jewish financial baron Otto Petschek, who build the palace after World War I as a statement of his faith in democracy, only to have that faith shattered; Rudolf Toussaint, the cultured, compromised German general who occupied the palace during World War II, ultimately putting his life at risk to save the house and Prague itself from destruction; Laurence Steinhardt, the first postwar US ambassador, whose quixotic struggle to keep the palace out of Communist hands was paired with his pitched efforts to rescue the country from Soviet domination; and Shirley Temple Black, an eyewitness to the crushing of the 1968 Prague Spring by Soviet tanks, who determined to return to Prague and help end totalitarianism – and did just that as US ambassador in 1989.

Weaving in the life of Eisen’s own mother to demonstrate how those without power and privilege moved through history, The Last Palace tells the dramatic and surprisingly cyclical tale of the endurance of liberal democracy.

Title:The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House
Edition Language:English

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    Some Testimonial About This Book:

  • Diane S ?

    Extensively researched, this fascinating narrative provides a look at the changing political climate in Prague. The palace was built by Otto Petschek, in the 1920's, his family was in banking and inve...

  • Katie B

    3.5 starsThere were a couple reasons I was interested in reading this book. The first being I got to visit Prague a few years ago and it really is a beautiful city. Second, back when my husband and I ...

  • Lorna

    The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House was a moving and beautiful memoir in which author Norman Eisen relates how financial magnate Otto Petschek had a dream...

  • Tony

    THE LAST PALACE. (2018). Norman Eisen. ****.This turned out to be a chatty review of the history of Czechoslovakia and the rest of Europe during the turbulent period after WW I up to the present day. ...

  • Bob H

    This book covers the life and times of a great house in Prague, amid a tumultuous century for the city and the country. It's worth noting that the book comes to print at a time of several anniversarie...

  • Louise

    The book covers the 20th century history of Czechoslovakia (now two countries) through the life of what was, most likely, the last palace built in Europe. The story begins with the Petschek family and...

  • Meryl Landau

    Norm Eisen's The Last Palace is a fascinating look at 20th century Europe. This history unfolds through the inhabitants of a singular palace in Prague, built after World War I by a Jewish banker and i...

  • Maine Colonial

    Thanks to the publisher, Crown, for providing an advance reviewing copy.I like histories told through a place. And what a place in this case. Just imagine a Jewish man who grew up poor becoming a weal...

  • Jerome

    As Norman Eisen mentions early in the book, Goethe referred to architecture as "frozen music". In a well-written and personal narrative, the author delves into the history of a building, where he serv...

  • Jill Meyer

    The city of Prague is geographically in the middle of what we used to call "Eastern Europe". The city, now the capital of the Czech Republic, has long been a magical, mystical place and its history is...