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3.9 out of 5 stars14
3.9 out of 5 stars
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 30 December 2013
Christopher Isherwood's style is unassuming but flows very well and is always evocative without over-reaching itself. It makes this book a particularly enthralling read if you have read the fictions based on it, that he actually wrote first, namely Goodbye To Berlin, Down There On A Visit, and Prater Violet, and possibly others I don't know. If you have read them it is like a palimpsest of those experiences, drawing you back into memories of those novels which you thought you had lost sight of. It's a bit like watching a film several years later and remembering things only as they occur, but unable to recall what will happen next. You get a very good sense of Auden and Stephen Spender, both of whom he knew very well, and other figures like E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf are given in deft portraits; equally it gets the feeling of being in Germany, England, Portugal, Denmark, and other countries in the 1930s - China too - and the feeling of dread at the approach of war. How this was felt in everyday life comes across better in this book than almost any other I have read, yet it has the casual tone of a diary we are privy to. There is a thoroughly engrossing section about his German friend Heinz and how they went around Europe trying to get a residence permit for him abroad. Everything he tells about remains totally vivid and compelling.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 January 2016
Immediately prior to reading "Christopher and His Kind" by Christopher Isherwood I read, and really enjoyed, "Mr Norris Changes Trains”, so I was excited to find out more about Christopher Isherwood’s life during the 1930s.

"Christopher and His Kind" is an autobiographical account of Christopher Isherwood's life from 1929, when he left England to spend a week in Berlin and decided to stay there indefinitely, through to 1939, when he arrived in America. I hoped "Christopher and His Kind” would provide new insights into both Berlin in the 1930s and, in particular, the events related in "Mr Norris Changes Trains".

The first thing that struck me was the use of the third person. Christopher Isherwood wrote "Christopher and His Kind" in the early 1970s and so I assume he decided to treat “Christopher” (his younger self) as a separate character. If so, whilst I understand the rationale, I found it both distracting and confusing.

Christopher Isherwood explains how he kept himself out of the Berlin stories as he thought his homosexuality would distract from the narrative and, understandably given the attitudes of the era, he was guarded about being explicit. There is no such evasiveness or coyness in "Christopher and His Kind" - he is frank and open about his sex life and his relationships. As such "Christopher and His Kind” also reflects the era in which it was written (the early 1970s) as gay liberation was gaining momentum whilst Isherwood was writing this book.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I hoped or expected. As always, Christopher Isherwood writes beautifully about the pre-war era, however it was too detailed for my level of interest and, as I said at the outset, the use of the third person did not work for me.

I enjoyed reading about Gerald Hamilton, the real life Arthur Norris from "Mr Norris Changes Trains", and who was every bit as venal and morally bankrupt as his fictionalised version, and there are also some interesting anecdotes involving Isherwood’s friends W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and E.M. Forster.

Overall though I was less captivated than I had hoped and expected.
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on 26 June 2015
I agree with some other reviewers that this book is extremely interesting, especially if read alongside the Berlin stories and other Isherwood fiction. The picture of 1930's Berlin and some of Isherwood's other destinations is fascinating. Some of the great characters of English literature are observantly drawn. Most of all, the comparisons and contrasts between two versions of the same events, one autobiographical and the other fictional, is enthralling for anyone interested in the process of creating fiction and the impact of social and political factors on that process. "I am a camera" the narrator states at the beginning of the Berlin Tales, establishing an objective, non-judgmental approach to what follows. When we read Christopher and his Kind, we finally realize just how often Isherwood the narrator stepped on front of the camera to participate in the events he was describing.

Ultimately, however, I was left feeling quite uneasy. Isherwood may have been almost scientifically objective in his narration. I could not achieve that same detachment in reading Christopher and his Kind. I was disturbed by the unevenness of the power in the relationships formed with the street boys of Berlin. Yes, Isherwood clearly had strong and genuine attachments to some of these boys and some of them teased him cruelly. But ultimately, the distribution of power, wealth, education and social class was all in his favour in these relationships. The boys were invariably penniless, powerless, on the fringes of society and desperate. Of course, unlike the boys, Isherwood also had a British passport and could skip out of Germany at the right time, which he did, moving to America at the start of WW2.

It all seems just a bit exploitative. There are other words I could have used to describe these relationships. But to judge this book totally from the perspective of 2015 is not relevant to them as books about an earlier time. Enjoy them for what they are, a fascinating account of a fascinating time and life.
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on 28 January 2014
Isherwood was gifted and his books travel through time and are relative to the ages of today and tomorrow, emotion, intellect and the challenges of living in difficult times are so vividly expressed that I I highly suggest his books to anyone. he doesn't lie nor mince words and his care for the reader despite those who would prefer lies, Isherwood's writings are magical.
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on 22 April 2013
I was expecting this to be like the Matt Smith programme about Berlin in the 1930s, but its so much more. this book goes into the story of Christopher Isherwood not just in Berlin,but to many other places he travelled to and his meetings with authors like E.M Forster etc. good bedtime reading.
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on 16 May 2015
Top tip for this biography: Don't skip the intro, it's written by Gore Vidal. This autobiography is pure Isherwood and pure delight. Written in the third person throughout gives the narrative a charming quality as it observes the author's journey from England to Berlin to various European capitals to England again and finally ending with Ellis Island and his first steps on US soil.
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on 5 September 2015
Well written and very interesting for anyone interested in the history of the 1930s including morality, attitudes and the decadence from an
author with experience.
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on 4 February 2013
The best and easiest way to describe the witting is sumptuous. We follow Christopher Isserwood through his movents and affairs in 1930s Berlin. The constant changing of point of view (1st to 3rd person) can initially be distracting, but you soon get used to it and it only ands to the story.

Absolutely first class.
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on 11 December 2015
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on 27 April 2015
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