Monday, 10 September 2012

Alone in Berlin - by Hans Fallada - review



Its Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of their quiet existence, they begin a silent campaign of defiance, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between the Quangels and the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich. When petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, tightening the noose around the Quangels' necks...

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I thought, for some reason, that this was a fairly modern book. That'll learn me for judging it by it's cover. This book was, in fact, written and publish in 1947 by an author who never learnt of it's success.

I was sucked into this novel, well and truly. I was behind the main characters, The Quangels, from the get go, often willing them on and in turn, internally pleading with them to stop.

But there were other characters that I found myself intrigued by. Esherich, the man who has a job to do and would quite like to just be able to get on with it. Kluge, the petty criminal who pays a hefty price. Trudel, a young woman who tries to make a stand.

Germany under Nazi rule is something that I have been learning more about over recent months. The other side of the history, away from the well known markers, has always interested me. What was it like? What was the real reaction of the German public? Were there pockets of resistance? What happened if you were caught?

Weaved into this novel, answers were touched upon for me. It made me think about how much of the population, or Berlin at least, was in fear and maintained a "head down" attitude. Even those perceived to be at the top, were someone else's punch bag.

But, there were people who found the strength to fight back in bold and covert operations, sometimes with many participants, sometimes with a pair.

I could not put this book down, and I heartily recommend it to you with a rare

9/10




15 comments:

  1. read this last year (amazing how an old writer like Fallada suddenly re-appeared again) and was intrigued as well. Well written, amazing chracters and all in all extremely thought provoking and emotional.

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  2. Been on my list for a while but not bought it yet. Can't remember if I mentioned "On The Other Side-letters to my children from Germany 1940-46" to you, very good. And there's "Manja" too but that is fiction, although still very good, written by an Austrian playwright in exile.

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    1. Thanks for those - I have added "On The Other Side" to my wish list :D

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    2. And on a completely different subject but something I've just read, "Keeping Up appearances-Fashion and Class Between The Wars" Some of it taken from Mass Observation records, about people's, particularly the socially insecure middle classes, attitudes about the "right" clothing, but also dandies and bohemians. Some great photos, old cartoons and drawings in it too. An interesting insight to the times.

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    3. Oh, and the Persephone Post has been posting pictures of the WAAF this week. Sorry to colonise this space!

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    4. Colonise away! I have ordered On the Other Side (took some tracking down for it at the right price) and I shall now investigate Keeping up Apperances! x

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  3. This looks right up my street and what's more I think we have a copy in our back room. Have you read A Woman in Berlin (Anonymous)? You should. Written in the first few months during the fall of Berlin. A very brutal and honest account of life for this woman (and others) during those horrific times.

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    1. A hoy! I have indeed read and reviewed A Woman in Berlin ~~> http://bit.ly/TFJTWK - loved it :) - well - as much as you can love a book like that. Thanks for reminding me about it though x

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  4. I must look out for this. I was born in Berlin as my Dad was stationed there with the RAF. Whilst I've a british passport the place of birth is listed as East Germany!

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  5. Sounds good! Another one to add to my wish list..... I was given The Sugar Girls for my birthday which I've just started reading :) x

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  6. Was reading my Pretty Nostalgic mag last night when who should I see on one of the pages?.......
    Lisa x

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    1. Hey there Lisa - oooh, really? In what context? I am not a subscriber and am nothing to do with the mag - so I am really interested to see!

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  7. I'm a huge fan of books in this era (although I cannot curl my hair to save my life!), so I'll add it to my Amazon wishlist. Also going to check out Pretty Nostalgic now to see if I can spot you!

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I'd love to hear what you think so feel free to comment away!

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