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I downloaded this independently published ebook from Amazon’s Kindle Store in order to have something to read on the plane. I always like to have something to read in my phone-cum-Kindle, as that means I’m not dependent on having access to wi-fi, and I don’t have to carry a paper book with me. It’s taken me some time (years, actually) to get used to the idea, but I find it’s an invaluable addition to my ability to never being without something to read at hand.

I chose this book by Rebecca Cantrell because it promised to describe what life was like in Berlin in the early 1930s. I was not disappointed. Apart from the somewhat lurid plot of the novel, the book contains a vivid account of the way Berliners lived and loved at that time, the rising political power and physical presence of the Nazi party and – in a particularly sensational way – the life of the homosexual community there.

In the author’s afterword she details the sources of her very extensive research into the time and place she describes in the novel, and I personally found this very impressive. She watched movies, read books, interviewed people and undoubtedly invested an enormous amount of time and energy into extending her knowledge of pre-war Berlin. It would seem that she spent several years at high school in Berlin, so that her knowledge of the German language obviously helped her in establishing the setting of her story.

Although I found the book enjoyable, serving to provide both entertainment and information, I came across occasional linguistic lapses in the English, lapses that could only have been made by a non-native speaker. The text flows well on the whole, but when the narrator, who is the main character, talks about “a dress I wore” rather than ‘a dress I was wearing’ and similar occasions when a continuous construction is required rather than the past or present simple, it constitutes a jarring disruption of the flow of the text. That kind of thing should have been picked up by the book’s editor.

Notwithstanding, I have downloaded the two subsequent volumes in the series, which follow the fate of the main character, Hannah Vogel, as the atmosphere in Germany under Nazi rule becomes ever more ominous. Although Hannah is not herself Jewish, the sense of menace overshadows the daily life of all Germany’s denizens, and especially those who do not support the Nazi party. The danger to Jews and foreigners is also evident throughout, and the sense of ever-increasing peril assumes increasing prominence.

So I’m looking forward to my next flight, or possibly even my next visit to the doctor, both of which will inevitably leave me with time on my hands, and the chance to read what I’ve downloaded onto my phone.

 

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