Eisen, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is a meticulous researcher, and his fascinating book brings together new interviews, diaries, letters, archival research and freshly declassified documents ... Reading this book, you are reminded of the many missed opportunities that the United States and other Western allies had to encourage and assist democracy in Central Europe. It is not clear that we have learned from history as we are once again confronting nationalist, nativist and anti-democratic politicians and movements backed or amplified by Russia in Europe and beyond.
It’s a deft and fascinating narrative ... The Last Palace is steeped in politics, military history, architectural lore and anecdotes. Mr. Eisen has combed state, private and military archives across Europe, the U.S. and Israel for his material. He has employed teams of research assistants, interviewed dozens of witnesses and Petschek descendants, and read numerous memoirs and war-crime trial files. The Petschek family documents in Prague, scattered in various locations, occupy several hundred boxes. The book’s detailed source notes alone, downloadable online, run to almost 200 pages and are a proof of what there is to be found, in the telling of history, for someone with time, energy, resourcefulness, contacts and money. If it seems churlish to mention that, for all the vast scholarship, the narrative is peppered with historical details the author cannot possibly have known, it is also true that Mr. Eisen’s easy, fluid style and the richness of his material make for very pleasurable historical reading.
Eisen, ambassador from 2011 to 2014, has written a genuinely exciting history of the era, seen through the lives of Frieda and four people who lived in the mansion ... Based on voluminous research, the book offers a detailed, novelistic view of stirring times and impressive characters. For all his riches, Petschek is ultimately a sad figure, unable to understand the fragility of his world.
Debut author Eisen (senior fellow, Brookings Inst.) tells the history of a remarkable mansion and its times through the eyes of its owners and guardians ... Nazi General Rudolph Toussaint and U.S. ambassadors Laurence Steinhardt and Shirley Temple Black subsequently lived in the villa. It is through their experiences that events such as the Nazi occupation, Soviet dominance, the Cold War, the Prague Spring, and the Velvet Revolution unfold ... This fascinating work will appeal especially to those interested in 20th-century history and architecture.
When President Obama named him ambassador to the Czech Republic, Eisen found himself resident in a spectacular palace designed and built in the 1920s by Otto Petschek, a coal baron and banker and one of Prague’s richest citizens ... Eisen casts each successive caretaker of the palace as uniquely heroic and in so doing writes a wonderfully human history of twentieth-century Czechoslovakia.
In this engrossing tale by Eisen, former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, the changes of 20th-century Europe are illuminated by the stories of one historic Prague building ... Together their [the building's owners] stories illuminate the ebb and flow of totalitarianism, painting a picture both hopeful and disheartening. This action-packed yet lyrically written page-turner confers a fascinating human understanding of Europe’s past and present.
Eisen, a senior fellow at Brookings, also introduces us to...occupants, including Col. Rudolf Toussaint, who worked tirelessly to avoid war, and American Ambassador Laurence Steinhardt, who brokered the simultaneous withdrawal of Russian and American troops and secured the sale of the house to the State Department in return for wartime loan forgiveness. Even more interesting is the story of Shirley Temple Black, who was there for the Prague Spring in 1968 and the Velvet Revolution in 1989. A well-told story for readers interested in Czechoslovakia, its creation, its fall to fascism and then communism, and rescue from both.