Anne Applebaum

Surviving the Polish Horror

The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945


Gollancz 224pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

The Ice Road


Mainstream Publishing 384pp £15.99 order from our bookshop

In an era when the adventure story has been subsumed into the concept of the Hollywood action thriller, when endless scenes of things blowing up and people chasing one another are considered the height of excitement, it is a relief to read these two books: two real-life adventure stories, packed with genuine danger, near escapes, fantastic coincidences and bizarre twists of fate which save the characters’ lives. Together, they provide proof – and nowadays, proof is needed – that real life is much more exciting than anything any group of film moguls could collectively invent. Read together, they also describe the double tragedy which took place in Poland during the Second World War, and I don’t mean the watered-down, clichéd version of the story that most Westerners know, or even the somewhat different, equally clichéd version that has been absorbed by many Poles.

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