Debuts as a BookSense pick, one of only 20 titles selected for August 2006!
“An enticing blend of history and fiction set in 19th-century Poland, with characters you come to care about as you share their joys and disappointments. James Conroyd Martin will please readers who might not usually consider historical fiction.” —Nicola Rooney, Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI, for BookSense, a network of 1200 independent booksellers
An “entertaining sequel that follows Anna through the chaotic years of the Napoleonic wars. . . . Martin provides a panoramic view of Europe during a time of enormous change and in all its sanguinary excesses.” Readers “will find much to enjoy in this sprawling epic.” ~ Publishers Weekly
“Polish history buffs will be riveted.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
“With Napoleon Bonaparte’s ill-fated campaign to conquer Russia as a backdrop, Against a Crimson Sky manages to turn the wily emperor’s exploitation of Polish patriotism into a classic read that lovers of Push Not the River will devour. James Conroyd Martin brings back the characters that made his first novel so compelling, deftly weaving their daily lives into the panorama of war and turmoil that consumed Poland in the early nineteenth century. What’s remarkable about Martin’s work is its authenticity, rooted in the actual diary of a Polish noblewoman. Martin creates a romantic canvas of epic proportions, bringing vividly to life seldom-invoked events in European history. He portrays a world of hardship and heart in marvelously rendered ‘little pieces of happiness stolen from a tapestry of turmoil, war, and separation.’”
~Leonard Kniffel, Editor-in-chief of American Libraries and author of A Polish Son in the Motherland: An American’s Journey Home
“I was both enthralled and educated by this story of a changing family in a changing Poland. You don’t have to have read Push Not the River to get the most from this sequel, but after finishing Against a Crimson Sky you’ll want to—just as you’ll be rooting for another book from James Conroyd Martin.”
~Suzanne Strempek Shea, author of Hoopi Shoopi Donna and Around Again
READING GROUP GUIDE QUESTIONS
- Against a Crimson Sky explores the theme of power—within and
between nations, within and between characters. Where does this
theme seem to resonate the most?
- Calling Paweł’s love for her a “God-like love,” Zofia wonders
how Paweł could still love her despite her many faults. Does his
unconditional love ring true?
- With the adoption of Anna’s son Jan Michał by Jan and the subsequent
birth of Tadeusz, a son of both Anna and Jan, are Anna’s concerns and fears
regarding a blended family valid? What about Jan’s fears and concerns?
- Anna recalls her Aunt Stella’s saying that “before there are countries,
there are families.” How does Anna’s evolving family affect her great
patriotism? How does her patriotism affect her family?
- Military service separates Jan from Anna for years at a time. How
does the separation impact their marriage? What does it take for a
marriage to survive prolonged absences?
- The proverb “Sweet to the inexperienced is war” opens Part Four. How is
this truism borne out in the novel? Does the statement resonate today?
- By the time Lutisha dies, death is no stranger to Anna. What strength
is Anna able to draw from the “darkness of death” that shadows her?
- Charlotte advises Zofia that if one thinks of the past without regrets
and the future without fear, she will be near contentment. Are regrets
and fears the cause of Zofia’s lack of contentment? Is she still likely
to find contentment?
- With the final Partition of Poland in 1795, Poland ceased to exist, only
to revive 123 years later, like a flower long dormant. What characteristics
of the culture and characters depicted in Against a Crimson Sky might
foreshadow such an amazing reemergence of a nation?