I essentially agree with the Publisher's Weekly review of this volume, but feel that perhaps the reading public would be better served if the book were called *Berlin: The Auden and Isherwood Years.* It is a portrait of the city found in Isherwood's writings, not a biographical work or portrait of the authors.
The bulk of the book involves a painstaking painting of Berlin, as obsessively detailed as a Civil War reenactor's map-poring. The chapter titles convey the author's approach: Berlin Faces (biographical sketches of sex researcher Magnus Hirschfeld, archeologist and bon vivant Francis Turville-Petre, anthropologist John Layard, critic Gerald Hamilton and others); Berlin Places (which compulsively recreates the architecture of Weimar era streets and buildings); Weimar Cinema (film in Berlin); Writing (where Page examines the works of the titular authors). It can be seen that there is little biographical coverage of Auden and Isherwood here.
These four chapters are prefaced by a strange, conflicted review of Auden's and Isherwood's sex lives in the city. This would be the most biographical material in the volume, except that Page can't decide what attitude to take as author. He wants to poo-poo the conservatives who disapprove of either discussions of the men's homosexuality or the sexual orientation itself. Yet Page writes with judgmental though entranced language recalling Maggie Smith's best stiff-upper-lip line readings (copulatory pinewoods, soldiers' trousers stretched tight over chubby buttocks, exploration of low-life, irresponsibility, prudence, lurid etc). He comes off as neither credible academic nor gay history buff but rather pained outsider.
It's interesting that the Acknowledgements don't contain a nod to an editor. Editing could have helped. In a 3-page epilogue Page introduces the premise that should have informed every preceding chapter (how the Berlin experiences reflected crucial aspects of both mens' personal and professional lives). Editing would have revised the personal conflicts revealed in Page's pursed-lip language. Editing could have broken up some of the 50-, 60- and 70- word sentences to avoid benumbed reader concentration. All in all, a work for researchers rather than lay readers.