Janine Wedel, namesake of a famous chocolate-maker in Warsaw, takes the reader into Poland the way one takes a friend on a voyage of shared experiences. The easy flow of her narrative involves the reader to such an extent that one feels the physical fatigue of the long lines for meat, or elation on finding a source of coffee or toilet paper.
In spite of its engrossing readability, this is a serious piece of research by a Berkeley-trained anthropologist who first visited Poland in 1977 and lived there from 1982 to 1986. There are very few sins of omission, and these could be justified by the size of the book. Contemporary Poland rolls like a train on two parallel rails: the official rail of coupons, controls and propaganda, and the private level of an undercover, entrepreneurial economy with bartering of goods, services and information. It is on this level that most things are done or obtained. It is this "private economy" that confuses a visitor and creates both cases of conscience and variety of opinions.