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Night Falls On The City: The Lost Masterpiece of Wartime Vienna [Paperback]

Sarah Gainham , Kate Mosse
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

6 Sep 2012

Vienna, 1938. Beautiful actress Julia Homburg and her politician husband Franz Wedeker embody all the enlightened brilliance of their native city. But Wedeker is Jewish, and just across the border the tanks of the Nazi Reich are primed for the Anschluss.

When the SS invades and disappearances become routine, Franz must be concealed. With daring ingenuity, Julia conjures a hiding place. In the shadow of oppression, a clear conscience is a luxury few can afford, and Julia finds she must strike a series of hateful bargains with the new order if she and her husband are to survive.

A highly acclaimed bestseller when first published in the 1960s, Night Falls on the City is a true lost classic, and an unforgettable portrait of wartime.

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Night Falls On The City: The Lost Masterpiece of Wartime Vienna + Rosie's War: An Englishwoman's Escape From Occupied France + A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival in Auschwitz
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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (6 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349000336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349000336
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 18.6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A pleasure to read . . . a compellingly intimate portrait of Vienna from the Anschluss to the end of the Second World War, which captures its atmosphere of fear, mistrust, corruption and ultimate collapse. There are no heroics; instead Sarah Gainham offers a scrupulously detailed story of individuals forced through barbarism into chaos. (Helen Dunmore, bestselling author of The Siege and The Betrayal)

Brilliant and moving. (Simon Mawer, Man Booker-shortlisted author of The Glass Room)

A rare novel of beauty and scope and ambition ... without doubt Gainham's masterpiece (Kate Mosse, bestselling author of Labyrinth)

Thrilling. (Fanny Blake Woman & Home)

Brilliantly captures the mass confusion, corruption ... and the mistrust of even friends and family engendered by the occupation. Leaves you with an indelible impression. (Val Hennessy Daily Mail)

One of my favourite books . . . The story of Julia's double life is moving and memorable. (Jessica Mann Literary Review)

A vivid picture of war . . . Gainham is a master storyteller. (David Herman Jewish Chronicle)

This arresting book, saturated with a sense of place, paints a compelling portrait of a society swiftly descending into chaos. (Good Book Guide)

One of the most rewarding novels I have ever read ... It is all done with a sure, confident but restrained hand, which make the terror and horror of it all the more potent. I feel confident in recommending it to anyone who prefers a big serious subject wrapped in a sparkling, alluring parcel of well-plotted, well-told and exciting fiction, as I do. (Peter Hitchens Mail on Sunday)

Book Description

The gripping lost masterpiece novel of wartime Vienna.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Wonderful unexpected masterpiece. A different angle on a piece of history we think we knew about. Never before have I read anything that so successfully conveys the feelings and fears of those who live with war. Spellbinding storytelling - a real discovery.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Book 4 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is not often - read never - that I like a book so much I could start it again as soon as I finish it but this one I could. The descriptions of Vienna were amazing. The atmosphere would ebb and then build until you felt you could not stand it(the round up in the market I nearly could not stand)! The character of Julie who was so brave throughout the book as were other characters. the story of how you survive something when you have to, when others depend on you was inspiring. At first I found the writing technique a little strange perhaps because it was written so long ago but once you get the ear of the thing you cannot put it down.

I loved it and have recommended it to my family and friends.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting and astonishing 17 Jan 2013
By L Hill
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Depiction of life just before and after the Anscluss, when the Nazis simply walked in to Austria and the life-changing events that ensued. Compelled to keep reading to see what would happen to Julia, Franzl and Fina, instinctively knowing the outcome would be bad. Gainham manages to capture the essential terror and stress human beings can feel when they are oppressed,, and also its relentless pressure. Julia Homburg's character development is masterful. Recommended to anybody fascinated by that period in human history where the civilised world fell apart and how small insignificant humans took a stand and the ingenuous ways people defied or circumvented the system to survive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Impressive But Dull 7 April 2014
By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER
'Night Falls on the City' has been marketed as 'the great lost masterpiece of wartime Vienna'. It certainly presents a different angle on life under the Nazis to most stories about this period, showing how divided the Austrians were about Hitler (some felt invaded, others rushed to welcome him) and how, even under extreme circumstances, much of life for the upper middle classes continued as normal - at least on the surface - well until the last years of the war, when it became clear Hitler would be beaten and the Russians would enter Vienna. It also makes one realize how very certain a lot of the Viennese were that Hitler was going to win the war - at least until 1943.

Gainham's heroine is Julia (always called Julie) Homburg, a beautiful actress, and star of numerous plays at Vienna's Burgtheater. As the Nazis prepare for the Anschluss with Austria, Julie and her friends realize that her Jewish husband Franz is in terrible danger. An attempt to smuggle him out of the country fails, and he ends up hiding in a small back room in Julie's flat, cared for by her maid Serafina. Julie goes through a dramatic process of getting a divorce in absentia from Franz (as non-Jewish spouses were required to do from Jewish partners under the horrific Nazi regime) and, to avoid suspicion (or perhaps because she likes him) begins an affair with a young aristocrat, Ferdinand 'Nando' von Kasda. Meanwhile her journalist friend Georgy von Kerenyi is helping keep Franz's secret and laying plans to get Franz's latest writings published abroad, while also hiding one of Franz's young relatives. Life continues at the Burgtheater, where actors either struggle against the regime, try to ignore it or (particularly in the case of the young actresses) embrace it and try to establish partnerships with Nazis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great novel - I felt like one of the family 7 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was a good story about life in wartime Vienna for people who didn't fit in the Nazis' view of the world. The character development was good (the city of Vienna is one of the characters) the writing excellent, and the plot also engaging. I have bought the sequel "A Place in the Country" and am looking forward to reading it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Goodnight, Vienna 26 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
"There is nothing we can do, except survive".

"Night falls on the City" is a sweeping, insightful story of Vienna under the Nazis, from the 1938 Anschluss to the end of the Second World War. The story is told through the main character Julia Homburg, a successful actress, and her group of friends and associates. The city of Vienna itself, with its "steely sky, sentimental chestnuts and lilacs" is almost like a central character, rather than a mere backdrop.

I particularly enjoyed the "grown up" feel to this story. There is no manipulation of the reader or false heroics. The ends of the story are not neatly tied up, as in a lot of fiction, and the reader is left wondering what will happen - or has happened - to the characters. What is not said or stated is as important as what is. The writing is honest and authentic, and does not shy away from documenting the almost sexual thrill of power that Nazism presented to the Austrian people in 1938.

The story catalogues the disintegration of society through an order imposed from outside, which destroys the natural, organic order of the city. This imposed order is described almost in terms of a disease - Gainham writes of a "pathological society". Gradually, the characters become trapped in a web of hopelessness and helplessness, held together with lies and deceit. The weariness of continually living a lie, and losing the discriminatory power to ascertain what is lie and what is truth, is almost palpable.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Historical Fiction
Excellent a modern War and Peace type novel. The Characters are very real and cross all devides. Not a fast read but one you need to refer to the legend for the first 150/200 pages... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Charlie Nelson
5.0 out of 5 stars Book club choice
A superb story, written with such feeling. It brought to life the hardships of life for everyone at that dreadful time.
Published 7 months ago by glenda white
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought as a Gift
Have not read it as it was a gift. But the recipient said they enjoyed it and it was avery good read
Published 13 months ago by A. D. Taylor
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, atmospheric book.
This is an unusual book, it has a tension and portrays the fears of those who were ethically unacceptable in Europe during WWII.
hard to put down.
Published 14 months ago by H. A. Hayne
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, thought provoking and powerful
I first read this book by borrowing it from the public library not long after it first came out. It made a strong impression on me then and I was delighted to find it had been... Read more
Published 15 months ago by GL
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
This is a book I had difficulty putting down, it iis well written and draws you into wartime Vienna in a different way to most books . Read more
Published 15 months ago by Poshpenpusher
1.0 out of 5 stars Basically, a waste of my money.
I found this book very well written - but oh so boring. I found it hard to ' get in to ' and quickly found myself
scanning ahead to see if the storyline improved ; which it... Read more
Published 20 months ago by sunbird
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