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April 28, 2020

The King of Warsaw by Szczepan Twardoch ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

My father was killed by a tall, handsome Jew with the broad shoulders and strong back of a Maccabi boxer. (p. 1)
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

April 2020; Amazon Crossing; 978-1542044448
audio, ebook, print (383 pages); historical fiction
Occasionally I like to read something a bit different. I've also tried to expand my reading horizons by reading some translated fiction. So when The King of Warsaw was pitched to me I saw it as an opportunity to accomplish both.

The King of Warsaw was originally published in Polish and has now been translated in English by Sean Gasper Bye. Being a Polish novel, the author writes of Polish history for an audience that is familiar with Polish history. As someone who knows little about Polish history besides a few WWII references, I had some trouble understanding the importance of ABC and Phalanx.

The novel is set a few years before WWII and focuses on the life of a star Jewish boxer who is also the muscle of a Polish gangster who is not Jewish. WWII-set fiction is one of my favorite genres and I'm always looking for different stories being told about this time period. While there are some political maneuvers mentioned that foreshadow things to come, they are not the prominent plot.

The writing style is a little too stream-of-consciousness for my liking, particularly in the first chapter or two. While I'm not a fan of this literary device, it does allow the reader to see early on that the narrator is not reliable. However, it isn't revealed until much later in the novel just how unreliable the narrator is. I was kind of shocked.

I was not happy that the Yiddish dialogue was not translated until the end of the chapters. I was reading the ebook which does not lend itself to easily flip back and forth like a print copy. I would have liked for the translations to be closer to the dialogue so that I didn't feel like I was missing pieces of the story. Interestingly, only the Yiddish dialogue is not translated into English. The Polish dialogue and the narration are all translated.

Boxing and gangsters are not topics I care much for, but I did come to care for the characters. It is a rough time in Poland. In a lot of ways, it was a fledgling country having only regained its independence in 1918. And Europe itself was still recovering from WWI. So while the characters are violent and corrupt, there is also something about them that make them sympathetic characters.

I wish I could tell you this is a happy story, but we know what happens to Europe just a few short years after these events occur. It is a difficult story, but one I'm glad I read.

Buy The King of Warsaw at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

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  1. Boxing isn't something that appeals to me, but the historical elements do sound fascinating. Thanks for sharing, and for visiting my blog.

  2. I also like to occasionally read something out of my orbit. Just yesterday a book by another Polish author came to my attention. It's called Entanglement, and I was able to download it for free on Kindle. If you're interested, it's free until May 1.

  3. I have to agree not my kind of read either, but credit where credit is due - and reading something different is always good!

  4. This doesn't really sound like my kind of read either. It does sound different though.

  5. This isn't really something that I would generally reach for but going outside my comfort zone has sometimes led to my absolute favorite reads so you never know!