Three very different books about central and eastern Europe during the darkest years of the 20th century stand out. Edmund de Waal's The Hare With Amber Eyes (Chatto & Windus, £16.99) beautifully evokes the rise and fall of a Jewish banking family, from 19th-century Russia to fin de siècle Paris and Vienna, and their dispersal during the Nazi years. Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands (Bodley Head, £25) is part of the fascinating rethinking of eastern Europe under Hitler and Stalin, and opens up a catastrophic landscape. Finally, Vasily Grossman's The Road (MacLehose Press, £20) is an astonishing collection of stories and articles by the Soviet Jewish writer, written between the 1930s and the Khrushchev years. Edited by Robert Chandler, it brings to life the Soviet 20th century. Grossman was among the first to describe the Holocaust. A superb introduction to one of the great writers of his time.