The twin counterweights of Europe have always been France and Germany but way back in time, even before the Normans Invaded us, the three grandsons of the great emperor Charlemagne met at Verdun. They were there to settle a long running feud over who would inherit the lands. They finally decided to split the land three ways. One grandson inherited the land that we now know as France, the second grandson was granted the land that was to become Germany and the third grandson received the land that split these two.

It was called Lotharingia.

It stretched from the mouth of the Rhine to the alps, and as a place, it doesn’t exist now; unless you know where to look. In this book, Simon Winder will take us back to the beginning when it was handed to the third grandson and bring us an irreverent and personal history of the towns, cities and new countries that we know it by today.

It is a wide-ranging book and sometimes I felt there was too much emphasis on the history of the region. I had hoped for more travel, especially as it was shortlisted for a travel writing prize and whilst there is some in here it very much plays second fiddle to the history.

I didn’t love it, but I did like the book. There were some amusing parts and thankfully he is quite an engaging writer, however, he does indulge himself in researching these places and people that shaped this part of Europe. He does say many times throughout the book that he could have written much more about particular subjects or people, but I felt it should have had a much stricter editor who could have made the prose tighter and shorter. I also felt that it lacked a cohesive thread, but then I suppose that reflects the mess that the place was until recently. If you have read any of his other books in the trilogy, Germania and Danubia then this is probably worth reading too.

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