In this work of travel literature, Robert Kaplan provides his readers with insight into the notorious world of the Balkans. In his trips through the former Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece, Kaplan speaks with a variety of people, natives of these troubled lands. He remains relatively neutral about these struggles and their causes throughout the book, speaking with clear historical authority. Kaplan discusses the conditions currently faced by these peoples, including the roles of the local churches and the effects of the most poverty stricken neighborhoods upon their inhabitants. From the top of the political hierarchy to the bottom of the social ladder, Kaplan makes sure to include people of all strata of this region. However, Kaplan does not focus solely on the current conditions of the Balkans. He also describes how the past continues to affect the mindsets of the area's citizens. Through his conversations with various people, he displays the strong feelings of nationalism of these countries, including a reactionary anger of each country at the others for wrong done in the past. All throughout the course of history, all of these countries focused on the lands that they believed were rightfully theirs, and were always prepared to go to war in order to regain these lands.
The reader can also learn more about life under the communist regimes that ran this part of the country until the late twentieth century. Kaplan talks about the black market on the streets as people struggled to survive the severe shortages of food and other essential products. He even describes the desperation of women submitting themselves to prostitution in order to get by. Life under communism was a day-to-day existence, and Kaplan chronicles this life well. Balkan Ghosts is an intelligently written, highly readable work of literature. In this historically accurate, brutally honest, and entertaining book, Kaplan evokes a variety of responses from readers, encouraging them to think more fully about his region and its implications on the rest of the world.