Praise for The Warsaw Conspiracy
“With The Warsaw Conspiracy, James Conroyd Martin concludes his sweeping trilogy of Poland in the 18th and 19th centuries in grand style. Blending memorable characters from Push Not the River and Against a Crimson Sky with fascinating new arrivals, Martin’s masterful story-telling is at its best. We are instantly thrust into the action as impetuous young military cadets conspire to overthrow the Russian oppressor and regain Poland’s freedom. While the ultimate outcome may be pre-ordained, the story unfolds with all the intrigue of an espionage thriller and the gripping tension of a heartfelt love story. This one is not to be missed.” –Douglas W. Jacobson, author of Night of Flames and The Katyn Order
“If you thought the first two installments of James Conroyd Martin’s historical trilogy were enthralling, wait until you read the third. More than a simple adventure or romance, The Warsaw Conspiracy is a heartstopping journey through post-Napoleon Poland as another generation of freedom-loving Poles resists the domination of a hostile neighbor. Martin’s uncanny insight into the Polish national psyche and his vigorous prose make this a compelling page-turner as we learn the fate of our heroines Anna and Zofia and their family. Historical facts and details of daily life combine to keep you riveted to the page.” –Leonard Kniffel, former American Libraries Editor-in-Chief; author of Reading with the Stars: A Celebration of Books and Libraries and A Polish Son in the Motherland
James Conroyd Martin’s many fans will be pleased to know that the third book of his trilogy, The Warsaw Conspiracy, like its predecessors, has the dramatic intensity and romantic style of Push Not the River and Against a Crimson Sky. The rich history and culture of Poland are again the backdrop of this final chapter of the lives of Jan and Anna Stelnicki. At heart this is a family drama inspired by the diary of a Polish countess, Anna Maria Berezowska Stelnicka: “Before there are nations, there are families” repeats Anna’s cousin, Zofia. And as in so many families there are sibling rivalries, family skeletons, betrayals, deceit, guilt, loss, estrangement and ultimately some measure of reconciliation and forgiveness. . . .
“The backdrop of The Warsaw Conspiracy is the 1830-1831 uprising, instigated by Polish cadets in Warsaw. Jan and Anna Stelnicki are in mid-life and the parents of four grown children – Jan Michał (step-son of Jan), Barbara, Tadeusz (deceased), and Józef (named after Józef Poniatowski, the last king of Poland). Like its predecessors, The Warsaw Conspiracy chronicles not only a period of war, but also the bonds forged between people, this time Zofia’s daughter Izabel and Anna’s son Jan Michał.
“The drive for an independent Poland has fueled countless uprisings and consequent repressions from Poland’s oppressors. In The Warsaw Conspiracy Poles are chaffing under the yoke of Russian rule; there are tensions among Poles, some of whom see accommodation and diplomacy, rather than armed conflict, as the better route to freedom. There are generational tensions; seasoned war veterans have diminished enthusiasm for battle, whereas the cadets are impatient and eager to test their mettle. Spies are a constant threat and secrecy imperative.
“The third of Martin’s series of historical novels, The Warsaw Conspiracy is written in four parts, plus a prologue and an epilogue, each section marked by a Polish proverb inscribed beneath a folk-art drawing. He orients his readers with a pronunciation key and a map of the Congress Kingdom of Poland, 1815-1831, and a concluding “historical note.” . . .
What is most fun about this book (and the others in the trilogy) are the encounters with, or references to, historical figures (Kościuszko, Czartoryski, Potocki, Poniatowski, Radziwiłł, Frederyk Chopin, Napoleon and others) and of course historical events. In The Warsaw Conspiracy Adam Czartoryski is a key player in the unfolding political intrigue; Józef Stelnicki is a protégé of Frederyk Chopin; Michał Stelnicki pines for Emelia Chopin.
“The book has the character of a spy novel. The cadets who instigate the November Uprising must plan in secret. Basia’s Russian-born husband plays a role in the ruling government and her brothers mistrust him. Family loyalties are tested and strained. The role of the szlachta (gentry) and the political machinations of the Sejm (parliament) are touched upon and perhaps might lead curious readers to further exploration.
“Jerzy, the peasant who rescued Zofia from drowning in Against a Crimson Sky reappears in this sequel. When Jan, Michał and Józef are dispatched to various parts of Poland to fight the Russians, Jerzy accompanies 65-year-old Jan. Michał is separated from them and from Józef whom he has vowed to protect. At Zofia’s townhouse in Warsaw, Anna and her daughter Basia worry about the fate of Jan, Michał and Józef. Will Jan survive a third war? Will Anna lose more sons, and Basia a father and brothers?
“In the end, the cadets are rewarded with neither independence nor glory. The Stelnicki family, along with thousands of other Poles including Adam Czartoryski, emigrate to France following the collapse of the 1830 Uprising. But, Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła – Poland is not lost; Poles live, and with them, their longing for freedom.
“The Warsaw Conspiracy is a satisfying novel, and a good read, especially in conjunction with Martin’s Push Not the River and Against Crimson Sky. Martin’s genuine fondness for his characters is apparent and the reader comes to know and love them, too.” –Reviewed for Cosmopolitan Review by Maureen Mroczek Morris
“Martin’s passionate saga of Poland and its long struggle for autonomy continues in The Warsaw Conspiracy. Here he examines the dreams and heartbreak of a brave insurrection against the Russian czars and the rise of Jósef Steinicki, one of those thrilling military warriors, uniquely Polish, called hussars.” – Karleen Koen, New York Times bestselling author of Through a Glass Darkly: A Novel and Before Versailles
Reading Group Guide Questions
- How do you interpret the first proverb, “Birth is Much; But Breeding is more”?
- Discuss the longtime relationship of cousins Anna and Zofia.
- How is Iza’s character illustrated? Does she change?
- How do Michal’s feelings about one brother impact feelings for the other?
- What does the story demonstrate about Poland’s national character?
- Is Jozef ’s quest to distinguish himself a universal one? What holds him back?
Is he ultimately successful?
- To what extent does the “outsider” theme play out?
- What are Viktor’s better qualities? Is he a hero is some way(s)?
- How true is the proverb, “It Happens in an Hour that Comes Not in an Age”?
- In what ways does Anna’s final letter to Zofia complete a circle?