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The Good German [Paperback]

Joseph Kanon
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
Price: £10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Jan 2004

Jake Geismar cut his teeth as a foreign correspondent in pre-war Berlin. When he returns in 1945 to cover the Potsdam conference he finds the city unrecognisable - streets have vanished beneath the rubble, familiar landmarks truncated by high explosive. But amongst the ruins Berliners survive, including some he knew and, miraculously, his lost love, Lena. But in the way she would not leave with him before the war, Lena won't join him now without finding her husband and Emil has disappeared from the safe care of the Americans who, turning a blind eye to his links with Hitler, want his expertise as a rocket designer for themselves. Trawling through the shambles of the city, through the illegal night clubs and the thriving black market, Jake discovers that the twilight war of intrigue between west and east has already begun and that he could quite easily be one of its first casualties.

This is a novel of war, an action thriller, a tale of raw emotion and survival. Above all it is a tour de force of the triumph of humanity over man's depravity.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere; New Ed edition (1 Jan 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0751534846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0751534849
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 88,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Magnificent (Minette Walters)

Kanon writes for grown-ups, not for day-dreamers. That's why he is so good. (Allan Massie, THE SCOTSMAN)

Provocative, fully realised fiction that explores, as only fiction can, the reality of history as it is lived by individual men and women. (NEW YORK TIMES)

A story of wondrous humanity in the face of insane savagery (SPECTATOR)

Book Description

July 1945. The Allies are posturing amongst the ruins of Berlin and marking out their territory for what will be the boundaries of the Cold War. And no German admits to being a Nazi, especially those whose skills can be sold to one side or the other.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful and thought provoking story 11 Feb 2004
Format:Paperback
This book has a murder investigation as its theme, but like all good crime books, that is a device to explore bigger themes. They don't get any bigger than in this story - what is guilt; why does a civilised society get sucked into genocide; does the justice of the victors obscure the real crimes because it is heavily influenced by self interest? These are just a few of the issues raised by Kanon. He addresses them using believable and varied characters. Many of the "baddies" are people you would enjoy meeting while many of the "goodies" have major flaws or past history which is very suspect.
I enjoyed this book more than most I have read in recent years. This is my first review on line - I've written it because I got such pleasure from this book!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than a who dunnit? 17 Jun 2002
Format:Hardcover
The slow beginning is designed to immerse the reader in the atmosphere of the Berlin of the early after war months. It is July 1945 at the time of the Potsdam Conference. Kanon is known for his ability to take you virtually by the hand and to lead you through a place. Here, it is particularly dramatic: ruins, bombed out houses, roads blocked by rubble, empty spaces where, before, Berliners had lived - and where the protagonist himself had lived as a journalist.
His search through the ruins, the alleyways, intent on finding his love of the happier pre-war days is increasingly desparate. Is she still alive? Where would she be? Finding a person in those early after-war months in Germany was almost impossible; no records were available, the houses where they had lived often destroyed and no forwarding address - unless you got really lucky. Kanon's description of Berlin is accurate - based on visits to the modern Berlin and his in depth research of the Berlin of 1945 and the changes since then. You could easily use it as a tour guide of a different kind.
But, of course that is not the story. The story of the returning US journalist and his German girlfriend represents the red thread through the book. Her family is mixed in with the plot. The description of day-to-day life gives the story reality and perspective. People do a lot for a package of cigarettes.
The story unfolds slowly, a hushed-up murder, and many dead-end leads. But things turn out to be a lot more complex as you go: more deaths and threats, intrigue and false allies. And the tension grows. It is a thriller after all: a thriller with political messages as well as interesting character developments.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging spy read, but a tad too long 18 Feb 2004
By Tim62 VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Despite my title, I think this is a rich and rewarding book, about cloak and dagger espionage amid the ruins of war-ravaged Berlin. It's summer 1945 and the Allied leaders are gathering for their Potsdam conference, when an American officer's body is discovered with rolls of banknotes stuffed in his pockets, floating in a lake in the Russian occupation zone.
Kanon is very good in his examination of the central issue -- which is what makes a good person in a totalitarian state? In Hitler's Germany, what made a good German? The trouble is, some of the discussions around this topic that he makes his characters have struck me as slightly repetitive. I felt -- particularly on reading the middle section -- that the book would have benefitted from some judicious editing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Authentic and interesting but overlong and slow 13 April 2008
Format:Paperback
This could have been a fine book but should really have been edited by around 100 pages or so. The plot is pretty thin to be dragged out to such a lenght as this. I have an interest in Germany and in 1930-1950 history which I think sustained me to the end, but I could easily have given up two thirds through. There are a couple of good characters and the central theme of morality vs expediency in the face of a new-world reality i.e looming east vs west cold war is reasonably handled.
Harder work than it should have been.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow but interesting 19 Sep 2007
Format:Paperback
I don't mind how long Joseph Kanon's novels are because they are all so well written and contain interesting information and some history, as well as being intelligent thrillers. For example, with 'Los Alamos' you get a good description of the place where the first nuclear bomb was tested. In 'Alibi' you get a picture of Venice just after the war; and the 'The Prodigal spy' covers the Macarthy period, to some extent. I especially like the way all his protaganists solve the mystery in each novel, slowly by piecing together the bits of the puzzle, and none of them are detectives ! Slowly is the word, however, so his stories are not really for those who want action on every page.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and smrt postwar thriller 21 Jan 2004
Format:Paperback
This is a gripping, well-written book that as well as being a page turning thriller also manages to paint a moving, evocative picture of post-war Berlin, a place where corruption and violence is rife and even the seemingly innocent may be compromised.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A complex moral tale 8 May 2007
Format:Paperback
As a few other reviewers have suggested, this is more than just a murder mystery/wartime thriller - although it succeeds pretty well on that basis also.

The recurring themes however, are moral and ethical ones: How did the German people allow the madness of the Third Reich to happen? How many people had to be "punished" before the guilt was avenged? Were the Soviet invaders any "better" than the Nazis? Were the Americans guilty of complicity when they "recruited" the German rocket scientists in readiness for the "Cold War"?

In this sense, the book reminded me strongly of "The Third Man" and other works by Graham Greene in a similar vein. I will be interested in seeing if the George Clooney film has retained this atmosphere on the screen, and will also be reading more of Joseph Kanon's books.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars First class read
Discovered this author by accident. A well researched and gripping novel that had me guessing to the end. His other books , as I have discovered are just as good.
Published 2 months ago by Ruth Willis
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning!
If you are interested in the II World War, this is a unique book to know about its aftermath in Berlin.
Published 5 months ago by Guifré Jordan
4.0 out of 5 stars atmospheric page-turner and thought-provoking read
The Good German has the feel of a Hollywood movie, blending a romance story with that of a thriller, accompanied by strong undercurrents of justice and morality during and after... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Rob Kitchin
1.0 out of 5 stars This is a very poor book
This is a very poor book, written for a readership of remarkable ignorance. A conducted tour of the ruins of Berlin at the time of the Potsdam conference; a parade of well-known... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Saggitarius
4.0 out of 5 stars "- if you made the crime big enough nobody did it"
I could only get this book from the Library as a large print and this didn't help with the daunting prospect of 803pp of moral decay and ugly stories about the men and women living... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Eileen Shaw
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a Good Book
An American soldier's body is found floating in Berlin shortly before Churchill and company arrive for the 1945 postwar conference. Read more
Published on 16 July 2010 by G. M. Sinstadt
4.0 out of 5 stars Do not confuse with the film.
Joseph Kanon is a very good author. 'Los Alamos' and 'A prodigal spy' seemed better-than-average. 'Alibi' was head and shoulders above those. 'The Good German' is the best so far. Read more
Published on 14 July 2009 by Phil
4.0 out of 5 stars Guilty Pleasure
I have to echo the other reviews in that this is an engaging and powerful study of guilt and what it means to have been involved in the Nazi attempt to occupy the free world, but... Read more
Published on 3 May 2009 by Captain Pugwash
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm really glad I bought it
Hi,

I'm from Spain and first of all I have to say that I received the book very soon after I bought it. Read more
Published on 8 April 2009 by Eli
2.0 out of 5 stars repetative and slow
I gave up at page 354 out of 518 I just couldn't stand it any more!!!!
Never has a book dragged out a plot like this one. Read more
Published on 2 Jan 2008 by Boo Kmark
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