In the summer of 1993, Thomas Harding travelled to Germany with his grandmother to visit a house by a lake. It had been a holiday home for her family, that she had been forced to leave as the Nazis swept to power.
As he began to piece together the lives of the five families who had lived, he realised that this house had witnessed violence, betrayals and murders, had withstood the trauma of a world war and the dividing of a nation.
©2015 Thomas Harding (P)2015 W F Howes Ltd
"A gripping thriller, an unspeakable crime, an essential history." (John Le Carré on Hanns and Rudolf)
I am a linguist fascinated by anything and everything, especially things that are a bit German or Indian or have something to do with a cat!
Mark Meadows narration is excellent. It is clear throughout and his pronunciation of German words/terms is spot on, which I appreciation.
This book is actually very unique in my opinion in that it is the history of a century told from one central location, a small house in the village of Groß Glienicke close to Berlin. However, it is also a history of the village itself, and of Berlin and of Germany. I also think that the best history books are those that tell the story through they eyes of the people who experienced it, which this book does brilliantly.
I felt a lot of the characters touched me in their own way. The Jewish Alexander family, who bought the house as a family retreat, only to have to abandon it following anti-Semitic persecution by the ruling Nazi party. Then the famous German composer Will Meisel and his famous actress wife who also abandoned it following Soviet occupation of East Germany. Then Kühne who lived their probably the longest but could never look out and see the lake due to the Berlin wall blocking the view. It is fascinating how world events outside had such an impact on all who lived in the little house.
I felt quite amazed toward the end of the book, just looking back at how time passes and life goes on. I did feel quite emotional after finishing the book and then looking online at the restoration project, Alexander Haus. There are some videos on that site, one is filmed when Elsie Harding (one of the Alexander daughters) then elderly returns to the house and meets Wolfgang Kühne who then shows her around her past childhood retreat. Elsie recalls how it all used to be, and I felt a tear well up then.
This is a very special and important book in European, and indeed, world history. I speak German so I was able to understand the occasional German word. This isn't essential but it is nice to understand the title of a song, or something written on a sign, there aren't loads of these and the important ones usually have translation by the author. As someone who is very interested in Germany this was especially interesting to me. I also enjoyed learning about the composer Will Meisel, whose film scores I will now have to dig out and listen to! Overall this is a remarkable story of people and of a place that connects them all together throughout generations.
Brilliant! I have listened to this several times and have painted images in my head of the house, the people and Berlin ... Great that it is now listed and I want to visit sometime in the future.
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