The great synthetic works making sense of communism's collapse or taking the measure of the political revolutions that followed do not yet exist. However, this extraordinary decade has produced a number of superb firsthand accounts of what it was like to be in history's shadow -- in Gorbachev's Soviet Union, in Eastern Europe, in Russia during and after the 1991 putsch. Ash's was the first and in many ways the best of this genre. With strokes as spare and elegant as a Chinese watercolor, he carried the reader into the breathtaking rush of events in Poland, Hungary, Germany, and Czechoslovakia from the early summer months of 1989 to the pinch-me-it-can't-have-happened denouement that autumn. Because he was so emotionally committed to the Michniks, Kurons, and Havels and even personally involved in the events, historians may wonder how fair he, like many of the other writers on the spot, was to everyone else in the play, some of whom were also architects of change. None, however, will fail to appreciate the touch and feel of events this gifted author conveys.