Robert D. Kaplan is one of my favorite authors and I’ve read all his books and many of his magazine articles. I especially enjoy the way he examines a region or locale by blending history, current events, politics, and interviews with residents ranging from government officials to clergymen — all the while in the guise of a curious traveler.
In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond marks Kaplan’s return to Europe after an extended run of primarily focusing on Asia. In many ways this is a bookend to his breakout Balkan Ghosts, as he explains how he came to travel through the region in the first place. I have Romanian in my ancestry, but admit to knowing less about the country than I would like. I greatly enjoyed filling in some of the blanks with Kaplan as my guide.
Other reviewers have noted Kaplan’s strong, vocal support of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and expressed the opinion that his stance effectively disqualifies him from serving as any kind of expert on foreign affairs. I’d counter that he has repeatedly acknowledged he was wrong about Iraq and his recent writing, especially this book, demonstrates a determination to identify and inform on emerging trends and locations of potential interest without drawing too many conclusions. In my (obviously biased) opinion, he is too valuable a source to ignore; whether I agree with his views or not, I always learn a lot from him.
NOTE: I don’t spend as much time on reviews of traditionally published books as I do for Indie authors.