I didn’t plan on reading this book, because it’s not really my kind of thing, but the author offered it to the Awesome Indies reviewers free in return for an honest review and when I heard that it was pretty good, I thought I’d take a look. Before I knew it, I was almost half way though the book and I didn’t stop until the first bit of torture. That reminded me why I don’t like to read thrillers. And the brutality and prejudice growing in the German population reminded me why I don’t like to read about the rise of Nazi Germany. I decided to stop reading at that point, knowing there would be worse to come, but the next day, I realised that I couldn’t bear not knowing what happens to the characters, so I picked the book up again and read until I’d finished. The fact that I did that is a tribute to the skill of the author. Given my general predjudice against thrillers, it wouldn’t have taken much for me to set it aside, but I didn’t.
The book hooked me and didn’t let go. Even at the end I’m keen to find out what happens next. That shows how talented the author is. This sits at the top of the category of novels of Nazi Germany.
I can’t say I enjoyed the book. It’s not possible for me to enjoy other people’s fear, misery and twisted minds. I don’t like bullies, especially ones sanctioned by the state as in Nazi Germany, and I can’t abide cruelty, especially torture and sadism. So why did I read this book? Because it’s brilliant; not nice, not entertaining – at least for me – but well-written, riveting and intensely moving.
Books like this need to be read to remind us what can happen when people lose their sense of empathy, when they let prejudice hijack their humanity and allow bullies to run their country. This book shows us what true courage is, and what true evil is in a man. When the writing is powerful and immediate and characters are as real and believable as these ones are, our compassion is aroused and our heart opens. This is the beauty of this book.
Though Nazi Germany is no more, still people suffer similar fates in countless countries around our planet, and perhaps reading this will help people to care about those that suffer. We may be able to do little more than pray for them, but it is better than nothing. Awareness of other’s suffering is the first step.
We come to know the characters so well, that we care deeply about them. Their fear becomes our fear, their horror, ours. The skilfully executed prose brings you right into the vibrant beating heart of Berlin in the thirties. I could smell it, see it and taste it.
Plot wise, the book is gripping; the pacing is steady and speeds up at the end to a dramatic conclusion. Not quite what I was hoping for, but well done and with hope for the future.
I give it 5 stars on behalf of the Awesome Indies. This book will be wearing the AIA Seal of Excellence before long.