Although the memoir of Marion, Countess Dönhoff, takes place in East Prussia, now an exclave of Russia, her experiences shed light on what life was like on the great estates of Mecklenburg, as well. “Before the Storm: Memories of My Youth in Old Prussia” becomes a page-turner as she flees the advancing Red Army on horseback, accompanied by hundreds of thousands of others seeking refuge farther west. Although she had worked with the anti-Nazi resistance, she knew the Soviets would not look kindly on her German aristocratic heritage. But before recounting her harrowing journey, Countess Dönhoff describes innumerable happy hours exploring the countryside, a rural idyll of old forests, rolling pastures and interconnected lakes not unlike Mecklenburg. Her enthusiasm for the beautiful landscape is infectious. It was also a joy to read about the seasonal rhythms of life on her estate, where in the winter, cutting ice blocks out of the pond inevitably turned into a party (schnapps kept the workers warm and in good spirits), and summer days were spent riding, hunting and foraging for berries and mushrooms. Despite the sad fate of her ancestral home, which was burned to the ground, her writing is free of self-pity. Instead, her goal is to leave a record of a lost way of life she deeply treasured.