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3.8 out of 5 stars12
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 18 December 2005
I thoroughly enjoyed this work - I read it for interest rather than for studies. It describes the ordinary East germans perception of every day life in East Germany, the good and the bad. It also describes the genuine attempts by the Party members some way below the "magic circle" to improve and assist the difficult aspects of life in the GDR with the exception of foreign travel- which was beyond their control.It describes the hard life of the non - government party members who had to live up to high ideals, work punishing hours, deal with all the complaints but without access to the perks of the Politbureau. Even the leadership had its aspirations for the people and improving their lives - again these seem to be genuine - but the cost of fully implementing the majority of this paternalistic strategy was economically impossible to achieve. It answers for me why there has been an outbreak of ostalgie and why some look on the old days with real affection. Comparisons are also usefully made with other western countries - the chapter on health reminds me of the NHS in the 60s!
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on 3 July 2008
I supposed my greatest praise of this book lies in two main areas

1. Firstly you really get a feel of what East German society and life were like, very much removed from the usual stereoypyes that are so often the norm. But please don't think this author is an apologist for the regime or makes any partisan political viewpoints either way. The book is grounded on excellent and paintaking research and this shows up all the way. Hence you do end up agreeing with her conclusions of normal everyday life in the GDR

2. Although the writer is a respected academic and as mentioned the book is thoroughly well-researched it reads very well indeed and doesn't get bogged down as some texts of this nature do. This is one of the main highlights of the book together with its highly interesting subject matter. Combining academic rigour with readability is a real skill and is to be applauded in this case.

I got this book from my local library, but would certainly not begrudge buying it - and theres plenty of times when you could'nt say that!
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on 26 April 2006
Yes, many of us suspected that life behind the iron curtain couldn't have been quite the absolute hell it was described in the west, before and after the collapse of communism.

Surely GDR survived for four decades not only because the iron hand of the regime was too heavy to fight but also because this very hand was creating a social environment where most citizens of the country could lead a "perfectly ordinary life"

Excellent work by the author, shows that historical books can be more authoritative when they present both sides of the argument.
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on 20 October 2008
It may seem strange to describe a book about the GDR as a 'brilliant read', but this is what it is. Mary Fullbrook has certainly done a lot of research into the workings of the People's State, both the bad and the good, and reminds us that not all about the GDR was bad. To anyone old enough to remember the times before Thatcher in the UK, much will be familiar with much of that described in the book. Much of industry in the UK was state owned, overstaffed and failing, and the economy found itself in a very similar situation to that of the GDR just prior to the fall of the Wall. Importantly, much is made of that which was good about the GDR. That basic living standards were protected, and that people's basic needs were taken care of is a quality of a society that is not to be sneezed at. Many of the problems of maintaining such a system will be familiar territory to anyone who has grown up in a country where social welfare is regarded as important by government, and will probably be looked upon with envy by those not fortunate enough to be born into as caring a society. Many millions of people in, for example, the USA, have not had the 'luxury' of having anything worthy of comparison.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in how societies are governed, as it points out the pitfalls of political constraints, as well as the problems of allowing too many 'freedoms' (such as the 'freedom' to starve?). It also highlights concerns over state surveillance, which will strike a chord with recent developments in the UK with ever increasing state surveillance, and erosion of civil liberties.
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VINE VOICEon 25 November 2006
Well, yes it is a well documented book and as one reader very rightly said it.. This is NOT an easy read.. It's heavy, long and there are time where you wonder what the author is trying to prove... or fail to prove,
the 2nd page said it all.. analyse of a dictatorship.. so, if you are looking for a neutral point of view of what life was in the German Democratic Republic, then ..i m not sure this is the book to read. More than an analysis about what life was in GDR, the author extends her study about the daily conflict between people and the famous or should I write, Infamous Stasi

I m not convinced simply because i lived in East Germany a whole year, with East German, in one of these massive stalinian communist blocks of flats that one can see in the masterpiece "GoodBye Lenin:..
i lived there, i went to school there, i mingled with east germans and yes, probably like everybody, i must have the Stati on my poor back as well.. but i was only 19 yo, and the Stasi was the least of my concern at that age

i m sorry but I do not always recognise what the author describes as being part of the daily life of every citizen of the GDR..
that s why I give it only 3 stars..
because, in the end.. this is a book that is joining the lot of other books trying to describe East Germany as Hell on Earth, instead of describing the country and the way people used to live there... the way it really was
I know that it is common belief to describe East Germany as Hell, a country almost as bad as North Korea... That was and still one of the conflict between east and west germans at the moment.. One side claiming the right to exist and keep their history while its western counterpart is working on erasing all traces of what was once an independent nation
If I can give you a suggestion.. There is, in fact, a really GOOD BOOK that deal with the topic of life in East Germany.. it s been written by a native german who grew up behind the Iron wall.. the book is available here on Amazon .
I give you its reference... it is The iron curtain kid by Oliver Fritz...
before you buy is.. if you want to have a glimpse if what this is all about ... humour included..
get a look at his website [...] that will start to give you another vision of East Germany.. a vision that matchs the one i had when i lived there
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VINE VOICEon 16 April 2010
This book chronicles (by theme) the development of East Germany from 1949 to 1989 through the medium of society. When we in the West think of communist Eastern Europe, we often think of just the dictators, the repression of society, food shortages and queues, grey grey grey worlds.

We forget the people. We forget that these countries were populated by actual people, just like us, with their own hopes, dreams, fears, romances, families, ambitions... Fulbrook - an extensive and experienced author/lecturer on East German history - paints a picture of lives just like ours but a little different. We learn about the GDR's school system, how the unions and societies worked, industry and work, family, marriage and divorce, and the role of women (much more advanced than in the West, in a lot of ways).

Best of all, the book is accessible. It is primarily a history textbook but it's written in very easy language, almost with anecdotes and stories. This makes it quite possibly the best history book I have read; the GDR suddenly became a very real place for me - and made me realise that "they" were just like "us".
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on 15 December 2011
Monotonous, dense, repetitive, no change of pace.....

There may be some good material here but this author's inability to put it across in a readable, interesting, way reduces the appeal of this book dramatically. Buy it if you suffer from insomnia.
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on 4 November 2014
Rather denser and more academic than I was expecting. A fair amount of concentration required in order to obtain the best from it.
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on 8 October 2009
I have read several other books on this topic and I did appreciate the way the author presents some good points about the GDR, especially the feeling of security people gained from having a job and a home. However it did take me quite a time, and some determination, to read.It also downplayed the role of the Stasi. It was more like background reading for a University course than something most people would read for pleasure.
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on 10 July 2013
The author may be an eminent historian but has a lot to learn about writing an historical narrative. This is by far the most boring, turgid, badly written and uninteresting book I have ever read (or started to read as I gave up after about 40 pages) about the GDR. The sentences are so long that one cannot remember what was at the start when one gets to the end. I cannot imagine the immense waste of time and effort by the author in researching this book only to see it all wasted by an obvious inability to impart knowledge in an understandable , clear and interesting style.
If you are interested in GDR history as a topic put this book last on your list or better still do not put it on any list at all. Sorry to be so negative, but I would not like to see money wasted on such a poor effort.
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