Based on three snapshots, one taken in 1983, one in spring 1990 and the last in spring 1991, each longer and more detailed than the previous one, Sommer gauges the spirit of the Czech and Slovak peoples before, during and after the 1989 revolution. He builds his account almost entirely from personal observations and conversations with a range of contacts, some of them reasonably high-level officials, some simply extraordinary personalities. (In early 1990 he and his wife also made a trip to Moscow and Leningrad, which provides a revealing counterpoint.) Were Sommer not such a fine and elegant writer, however, this would be merely another example of a genre that seems to have become the most common way of writing about this region. But because the writing is so graceful and fluid and the conversations so well reconstructed, the reader will find the book an effortless way to participate in the "exhilaration and anguish" of the period.