Yes, I know it's been a while since my last book review - Alone in Berlin is a long read (568 pages) and didn't exactly hold my attention, hence the 11 days it took me to read. Still better late than never, here is the .......
37th book read for the ....
Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear.
In the house at 55 Jablonski Strasse, the various occupants are all trying to live under Nazi rule in their own different ways: the nervous Frau Rosenthal, the bullying Hitler-loyalists the Persickes, the retired Judge Fromm, and the unassuming working-class couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangel's receive the devastating news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France.
Shocked out of their quiet existence, the usually taciturn factory foreman Otto is provoked into an action that will endanger his life. With his wife's help, he begins to drop hundreds of anonymous postcards attacking Hitler in buildings all over the city. If Otto and Anna are caught, they will be executed for treason.
As the couple's silent campaign escalates, the cards come to the attention of the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich, and a deadly game of cat-and-mouse develops between them. When the petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, blackmail, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, gradually tightening the noose around the Quangel's necks.
........ From the inner front cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): The postwoman Eva Kluge slowly climbs the steps of 55 Jablonski Strasse.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 186): The receptionist comes in, and she has plenty to say. She describes the creep - her term - with a venom that seems out of proportion to the crime of two harmless smoking episodes in the toilet.
KEEP IT OR NOT?: This will be returned to the readers group. I have no plans to buy a copy.
Written in 1947 and only recently translated into English I Read Alone In Berlin (Jeder stirbt für sich allein in Germany, Every Man Dies Alone in the US) for of my reading groups though I had in fact considered buying a copy as it sounded just like my kind of read.
A tale of breathtaking suspense, self-discovery, helplessness and hope, there were several elements to this book that I found totally fascinating, its just that I found it too long and peopled by too many characters.
Based on the real-life exploits of Elsie and Otto Hampel, this is without doubt an engrossing novel of wartime Germany - the sense of suspicion and paranoia amongst people both palatable and claustrophobic.
I loved the main characters, Otto and Anna, who were really well written and totally believable - the fact that they were such well-rounded characters I found particularly enjoyable, and, seeing so many sides to Otto's nature, nothing short of riveting. However I would question the need to go into the in-depth stories of so many other characters as I'm really not too sure this added to the story as opposed to making it unnecessarily long and, at times, quite daunting.
Not so likable or indeed believable were the police/gestapo who I to be almost laughable cartoon-like caricatures - Inspector Escherich reminding me of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau of The Pink Panther fame.