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Then We Take Berlin Hardcover – 5 Dec 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press (5 Dec 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611856124
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611856125
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 59,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Aug 2013
Format: Hardcover
British writer John Lawton - the author of the Inspector Troy series - has produced a new novel that might drive the reader totally crazy. I am going to compare this latest - a sort of "stand-alone" - with Lawton's previous work, not with spy novels in general.

John Lawton is an excellent writer who wraps meticulously researched history around his fictional characters. He writes about wartime England and the post-war years. "Then We Take Berlin" is not a continuation of the Troy series, though there are several characters from those books who "pop up" in "Berlin". The main character is a young man - John Holderness - who has mastered criminal activity like robbery and selling stolen goods on the London black-market during the war years. Too young to fight, he's drafted after the war and winds up the "glass house" of jail for actions unsuitable for an army private. He's saved from prison by a posh officer who recognises his innate intelligence and sets off polishing young Holderness and turning him into an intelligence operative in Germany. Holderness - who has acquired the nickname "Wilderness" from his many lady friends - is a value to the British secret service in post-war Germany, while conducting smuggling operations in his off-time. Author Lawton sets "Wilderness" off on a great many adventures - some legal, some not - while hatching the most audacious plan for June, 1963.

Okay, here's the problem with "Then We Take Berlin" - the ending. I've read the ending several times and I don't understand it. Did Lawton's publisher take out a couple of - really crucial - pages? Is this novel the first of a series? Am I a complete dimwit? (Probably).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rob Kitchin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 14 Dec 2013
Format: Hardcover
The first third of Then We Take Berlin is a wonderful read. John Lawton provides an engaging introduction to John Holderness early years growing up in East London during the war, that of Nell's in the last days of the war in Germany, and Holderness' recruitment into military intelligence. The characterisation is keenly observed and there's a strong sense of place and context. In the middle third of the book the narrative starts to become more bitty with many short sections charting Holderness' time in Hamburg and then Berlin as he becomes involved in the black market and starts a relationship with Nell. The final third moves the story through the 1950s up to 1963 and Kennedy's visit to Berlin, and Holderness' attempt to extract someone from East Berlin. Here, the narrative is a little sketchy, Nell largely disappears from view, and it's really not clear what Holderness' motivations are. There is an odd and confusing timeline shift, with some scenes from 1955 inserted between the transition from 1948 to 1952 for no apparent reason, but the most disappointing aspect is the ending. The story just stops. It feels as if at least twenty odd pages are missing. The novel as a whole reads as if Lawton wasn't sure where to take it, or quite how to deal with the twenty year span of time. This was a shame as the start was excellent and Holderness and Nell are attractive creations. It'll be interesting to see how Lawton develops the series.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Prenzlberg on 28 Feb 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a keen historian who has spent many years living and working in Berlin I have to say that I was pulled in by Lawton's brilliant characters, good historical understanding and perceptive description of the mindset and human foibles that prevailed in the post-war period (on reflection I don't suppose things have changed that much really). His writing is effortless and his cynicism and wonderful (in my humble opinion) sense of humour makes this a great read. I have read hundreds of books about this period, this is up there with the very best. Despite the chronology switching around, the narrative still flows. Don't get hung up on this, just let the story grab you and enjoy the ride.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By alan on 9 Dec 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another outstanding book by this author, He must be head and shoulders above the competition in this genre, It grips you from the first page to the last, Just when you think you have worked it out it takes you in another direction, I'm not going to write endless paragraphs about the characters or the plot as some people seem to do as it's not necessary Just get the book and find out for yourselves, you will not be disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Roving Chester on 28 Nov 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an effortlessly expert piece of writing, only to be expected from the author of the 'Inspector Troy' series. For anyone with an interest in the final days of World War II and the Cold War years that follow, this is a riveting read, offering a cast of raffish characters and storylines that cover cat burglary, black market shenanigans, people smuggling and the murderous trade of the international spy. Beautifully written, yet it cracks along at a fine pace. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James Bennett on 1 Feb 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Slow to get going but once into the story it absorbs and dramatic into all of the characters.A good tale well told.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. E. Parry VINE VOICE on 11 Jan 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. It kept me hook from start to finish and brought back images of several visits to Berlin. I'm so impressed that I'll now be buying more of his books.

You can feel the mystery, desolation, suffering and hope that Berlin must have had at that time. Wilderness, the protagonist, is a lovable rogue, Frank a typical manipulative coward and Nell a very fine po-faced, heroine.

This is as much a tale of 2 people and a city, as a spy story or that of a black market trader. The characters are well developed, sympathetic, or not, and evocative of the period.

I'd recommend this as a very well written book that you'll enjoy.
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