Brown says this is the last book he will write on eastern Europe. If so, it is a fitting valedictory. In sweeping, effortless fashion, he locates the revolutions of 1989 in the stream of the twentieth-century forces that buffeted this region. Brown means to explain events rather than immerse himself in the excitement of change or wax poetic. He does this not through elaborate social science theories or broad philosophical speculations but through a thick weave of lively and provocative judgments. The writing is relaxed and the analysis straightforward. From the missteps of the interwar period to NATO expansion, from the economic disabilities of communism to the hazards of the postcommunist transition, Brown offers bluff, unapologetic opinions. He melds together large area-wide themes with succinct country-by-country portraits. His is a broad, packed primer on an area that, as Brown sees it, may at last be transcending the traits and experiences that long defined it.