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The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House
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The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House

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4.17  ·  Rating details ·  217 ratings  ·  65 reviews
A masterfully told and immersive narrative about the last hundred years of European history, as seen through an extraordinary mansion – and the lives of the people who called it home

When Norman Eisen moved into the US ambassador’s residence in Prague, returning to the land his mother had fled after the Holocaust, he was startled to discover swastikas hidden beneath the f
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Hardcover, 416 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Crown Publishing Group (NY)
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Katie B
3.5 stars

There were a couple reasons I was interested in reading this book. The first being I got to visit Prague a few years ago and it really is a beautiful city. Second, back when my husband and I lived in Germany, we loved going to see the different castles and palaces so I was intrigued by the description of this particular palace being perhaps the last one built in Europe. Sadly, I do not remember if I saw this one during my trip to Prague, at most it would have only been a quick glance du
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Lorna
The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House was a moving and beautiful memoir in which author Norman Eisen relates how financial magnate Otto Petschek had a dream to build a beautiful palace unlike any other for his family in the heart of Prague following World War I, and as a testament to freedom and democracy. Otto Petschek was mindful that his father and uncle had fled to Prague to escape a pogrom and were fearful of anti-Semitism. As a young boy Otto was ...more
Bob H
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book covers the life and times of a great house in Prague, amid a tumultuous century for the city and the country. It's worth noting that the book comes to print at a time of several anniversaries: 50 years after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and the crushing of the Prague Spring; 80 years after the September 1938 Munich conference and the abandonment of Czechoslovakia to Nazi occupation; 100 years after the end of World War I and the proclamation of Czech independenc ...more
Tony
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
THE LAST PALACE. (2018). Norman Eisen. ****.
This turned out to be a chatty review of the history of Czechoslovakia and the rest of Europe during the turbulent period after WW I up to the present day. The author was the U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 2011 to 2014 and has a solid background in its history. About the last quarter of the book is devoted to the ambassadorial reign of Shirley temple Black, who Mr. Eisen obviously highly respects. My memory kicked in for a while, but his review
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Meryl Landau
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Norm Eisen's The Last Palace is a fascinating look at 20th century Europe. This history unfolds through the inhabitants of a singular palace in Prague, built after World War I by a Jewish banker and industrialist, confiscated by the Nazis during WWII, then lived in by three consequential American diplomats--Eisen among them. When I turned the page after reading through the first three fascinating people, I expected number four to be a boring placeholder until we get to Eisen; imagine my surprise ...more
Maine Colonial
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thanks to the publisher, Crown, for providing an advance reviewing copy.

I like histories told through a place. And what a place in this case. Just imagine a Jewish man who grew up poor becoming a wealthy industrialist and deciding to build a grand, palatial house in the heart of Prague, one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Otto Petschek was well known, an influencer and financier, and a German speaker, as most important people in Prague were at that time. He was ebullient, full of confidenc
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Jill Meyer
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The city of Prague is geographically in the middle of what we used to call "Eastern Europe". The city, now the capital of the Czech Republic, has long been a magical, mystical place and its history is pretty much the history of the whole area. I am half-Czech, like former US Ambassador Norman Eisen, but my family immigrated to the US three or four generations ago. He has a more immediate connection with the country as his mother was a survivor of the Holocaust. Eisen's mother left Czechoslovakia ...more
Michael
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received this book through a GoodReads "First Reads" Giveaway. "The Last Palace" was built in the 1920s by Otto Petschek, a wealthy Jewish financier and coal baron. Through the lives of Petschek and three other former residents of the palace, Eisen takes the reader through Prague’s dramatic and tempestuous 20th century, including the German occupation during World War II, the crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968, and the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Besides Otto Petschek, Eisen’s brisk and enga ...more
Terzah
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very enjoyable history lesson disguised as a great yarn. I learned much about 20th century Europe though the stories of one palace and its occupants.
Jonathan Tennis
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Norman Eisen’s story about the Petschek Palace is fascinating. Well researched and told, these five lives fill the pages and help show what history those walls hold. Great read. Even better audiobook with Jeff Goldblum narrating.
Kelsey
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating story by the former US Ambassador to the Czech Republic. Every US ambassador lives in this beautiful palace in Prague and have done so for many years. THE LAST PALACE takes the reader through the history of this famous building; we learn about its creation, role in World War II, and how it came to be the residence of the US Ambassador. Norman Eisen also weaves in the story of his mother's life as she was a Holocaust survivor from the former Czechoslovakia. This is not the ...more
Larry Hostetler
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, 2018
Would give this 4.5 stars if I could, only because the title somewhat misleads. It is not so much about “The Last Palace” itself (the content about the structure was five star worthy) as about Prague and the political world around it sine the Palace was conceived. I also found the opening section (about the individual behind its construction and his family) to be too lengthy to keep my interest.

But once the subject (the subtitle is more accurate than the title) got into the construction it becam
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Laura B
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read this year. A rich, intimate history of Prague, its people, and architecture. Highly recommend this book, the writing was beautiful.
Lewis Szymanski
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, giveaways
I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House is the history of Otto Petschek's palace. This is the history of how the palace was built, who lived in it, and what they did while living there. It's also the history of Prague, Chekoslovia, and Europe in the 20th century.
Edna Axelrod
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book, a meticulously researched and detailed work of non-fiction that is written with the pace of a thriller. Spanning more than a century, the historical events related here are inherently gripping. The people who built, inhabited, occupied, preserved, and labored in “The Last Palace” come alive on the page. And laced throughout are two important themes: the importance of moral integrity and the precariousness of freedom. Highly recommended. (Note: I read an Advance Readers ...more
Brenda Schneider
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this fascinating story. The history was great. I won this book through goodreads.
Mike He
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not only is Norman Eisen a skilled diplomat representing the US interests in the Czech Republic in the Obama administration, but also he is a great story teller as evidenced in The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House. The well-researched book, intertwined with the ordeal of the author's Czechoslovakia-born mother during World War II, is a saga about the so-called "The Last Palace" in Prague, built and re-built by a wealthy Jewish banker in the 1920's who ...more
Argum
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I won a free copy of this book from Goodreads First Reads.

The former Ambassador to the Czech Republic tells a brilliant story of European wars, a single house, a single family, and what democracy means. As the child of a Czechoslavakian Holocaust survivor, he returned to the most famous Czech Jewish industrialist amazing house - not the US Ambassador's home in Prague. The story focuses on the life of his mother, the original home owner/builder, Shirley Temple Black a former ambassador who was th
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Kayla Tornello
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book offered a look at Czechoslovakia's history. It centered around the opulent palace built by Otto Petschek. After the Jewish Petscheks fled the country on the brink of WWII, the palace was occupied by Germans during the war and eventually became the residence of the U.S. ambassador. I enjoyed learning about the individuals who occupied the palace and also the history of the country. Any history lover should pick up this book!

I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. Yay!
Judy
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
Thank you Penguin Random House for sending me this good reads give away. Mr. Eisen does a fantastic job of telling the history of Otto Petschek's "palace" in Prague. The reader follows along the rise and fall of European good and bad guys from WW1 to the present while showing the lives of the inhabitants of the Palace. A very interesting story especially with our politics today.
Sara
The Last Palace presents the history of Prague and Czechoslovakia through the lens of the Petschek Palace and the residents who occupied it. The palace, the most opulent in Prague, was built after WWI by a wealthy Jewish businessman, Otto Petschek, to his unique and demanding specifications. When the Nazis come to power, the Petscheks escape, leaving the palace to the occupancy of a Wehrmacht commander. Finally, thanks to the efforts of the post-War US ambassador to Prague, the Palace becomes th ...more
Kelly
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Norman Eisen’s The Last Palace is a beautiful and personal story of Czech history over 100 years, told through his perspective and that of four previous occupants of the Petschek palace (later home of American ambassadors to the Czech Republic) as well as his own mother. It starts with the early life and then adult successes of Otto Petschek, a Jewish business magnate in Prague. His financial success leads to his decision to build his own personal palace. The Petschek family flees when the Nazis ...more
Terri Wangard
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the biography of a palace and the history of a nation in the twentieth century. The story of Otto Petschek is fascinating. His father sought to keep a low profile, but not Otto. Building himself a palace proved to be folly for him, estranging his children, bringing himself to the edge of ruin, and fueling dissent against him. And he only lived there for four years. Especially interesting to me was Shirley Temple Black’s association with the palace and Czechoslovakia. Remarkable book.
Diane
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent story of palace built by a man who made a family fortune in the coal industry during WWI. Describes the many years he took to bring his creation to fruition, how he lost it when his family had to leave Prague during WWII because they were Jewish. Years later it becomes the home of the American Embassy. Told by an American Embassador to Prague. Well documented and researched volume.
Margo
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nate
Aug 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
3.5 stars
The Last Palace is a book covering the politics of Prague in the most recent century through the eyes of the residence of Otto Petschek's magnificent palace: Otto Petschek himself, Rudolf Toussaint the German who tried to keep himself clean of Nazi crimes while in the army, Laurence Steinhardt the rescuer of the Palace from Soviet hands, Shirley Temple Black the ambassadress during the Velvet Revolution, and the author another ambassador from the US. It also includes two chapters about
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Karyl
I heard about this book on NPR during one of my marathon ironing sessions, and considering that I'm fascinated both by the Holocaust and by Europe in general, this book seemed right up my alley. It still boggles my mind that in my lifetime, eastern Europe was behind the Iron Curtain, and only a lucky few were able to defect to the West. Along these lines, I recently watched the movie The Lives of Others, about the lives of East Germans under their repressive regime.

Unfortunately, I couldn't lov
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Koen
Exhilarating read by former Czech republic ambassador for the United States and Ethics Tsar for the Obama administration Norman Eisen.

The Last Palace is a history of Czechoslovakia in four acts with a building at its centre. When Jewish financial baron Otto Petschek built his Petschek Palace after World War I it almost ruined him financially. Such was his commitment to building this marvellous building which would be his legacy and is said to be the last palace build in Europe.

In less than a dec
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Laurie
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Last Palace isn’t a palace in the meaning that a ruler lived there. It was originally a private residence, built by Otto Petschek (who made his fortune in coal) after World War 1. He never finished the building; he was picky to the point of obsession. Once, after it was supposedly finished, he had most of it torn down and restarted. He spared no expense, and brought luxury items from around the world. It’s an amazing place. During WW 2, the Petschek family had to flee. The house was then use ...more
Marie Look
I was excited to receive my ARC of The Last Palace from Penguin Random House's First To Read program, however I was ultimately disappointed in this book for two main reasons. First, its cover and summary had given me the impression that the incredible house itself would be a character in the book, or at least a focal point, but that turned out to not be the case. I felt this book turned out to be more of a history of Prague from the 1920s to the 1960s and the house served as very loose connectiv ...more
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Ambassador Norman Eisen is the author of The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House, forthcoming on September 4, 2018. He is a senior fellow at Brookings, a CNN political commentator, and the chair of the government watchdog group CREW. Eisen served from 2009 to 2011 in the White House as President Obama’s “ethics czar” and as the U.S. Ambassador to the Czech ...more