A Rhodes scholar from Canada, European historian Eksteins is also Latvian by birth, tied to the upheaval that beset his people before, during, and after this century's two great wars. He weaves together his family's story with the history of much larger travails, going back to his great-grandmother. This "girl with the flaxen hair," daughter of tenant farmers, bore a child to the nineteenth-century German baron whom she served as chambermaid. With a poet's sense of evocation, Eksteins makes the human dimension poignant by mingling family episodes with the traumas of rebellion, war, and revenge. This gives a palpable character to his history, but the author does not -- nor does he pretend to -- do analytical justice to the broader social and political history that lies beneath and behind this autobiography qua history.