I know I’m not alone when I say I love a good book. I also have become fascinated with history as I get older. I’m so fascinated with history that I can’t seem to stay off of Ancestry.com researching my family history.
So when I won Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon through Goodreads.com, I was thrilled. Not only is it set in Berlin, Germany in 1949, right after World War II, it also has been getting lots of buzz in the news.
This is my first Kanon book and I was pleasantly surprised at what a fantastic storyteller he is. Kanon does a wonderful job of taking the reader through some dangerous situation s while educating them on what happened after the war ended.
The main character is Alex Meier, a Jewish journalist who escaped Berlin before the war and headed to America but is back in Berlin as a spy for the CIA. He soon encounters old friends from a family who he was very close with growing up. There is Erich, who has been hidden away in a prison work camp but his family thought he was dead or had escaped. Erich’s sister Elsbeth who is married to Dr. Gustav Mutter who is trying to stay out of trouble with the State Police and does not help Jews or escaped prisoners.
Their sister Irene is Alex’s old love and really the only woman he ever truly loved. She is currently living with a German soldier who Alex has asked her to spy on for him. Then there is another childhood friend, Markus who works for the State Police and is very suspicious of Alex. Markus keeps showing up in the strangest places and is trying to prove himself as a good soldier to the cause.
Berlin was very dangerous right after the war and there was still a lot of watching the citizens to make sure they are not speaking against the East Berlin Government. This really brought home that even though World War II was over Berlin was a very dangerous place to live.
It also made me think of my office building front desk security guy, Harold, was in Berlin after the war. Ass I was reading this book, I kept thinking about Harold and what he might have gone through and if he even dealt with some of these types of characters. I don’t know if he would ever tell me stories about what it was like in Berlin then. It would be very interesting to get a first-hand account.
If you are fascinated with anything about World War II and that era, pick this one up. You will be pulled into a story where you will be cheering for the different characters to succeed and survive and cheering when things go wrong for the not so nice characters.
The acclaimed author of The Good German deftly captures the ambience (The New York Times Book Review) of postwar East Berlin in his thought-provoking, pulse-pounding (Wall Street Journal) New York Times bestseller a sweeping spy thriller about a city caught between political idealism and the harsh realities of Soviet occupation.
Berlin, 1949. Almost four years after the war’s end, the city is still in ruins, a physical wasteland and a political symbol about to rupture. In the West, a defiant, blockaded city is barely surviving on airlifted supplies; in the East, the heady early days of political reconstruction are being undermined by the murky compromises of the Cold War. Espionage, like the black market, is a fact of life. Even culture has become a battleground, with German intellectuals being lured back from exile to add credibility to the competing sectors.
Alex Meier, a young Jewish writer, fled the Nazis for America before the war. But the politics of his youth have now put him in the crosshairs of the McCarthy witch-hunts. Faced with deportation and the loss of his family, he makes a desperate bargain with the fledgling CIA: he will earn his way back to America by acting as their agent in his native Berlin. But almost from the start things go fatally wrong. A kidnapping misfires, an East German agent is killed, and Alex finds himself a wanted man. Worse, he discovers his real assignment to spy on the woman he left behind, the only woman he has ever loved. Changing sides in Berlin is as easy as crossing a sector border. But where do we draw the lines of our moral boundaries? At betrayal? Survival? Murder? Joseph Kanon’s compelling thriller is a love story that brilliantly brings a shadowy period of history vividly to life.
Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat