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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant narrative, captivating prose and some really thought provoking passages.
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.
Published 23 months ago by Michael B Porter

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Impressive But Dull
'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...
Published 11 months ago by Kate Hopkins


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant narrative, captivating prose and some really thought provoking passages., 16 April 2013
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Impressive But Dull, 7 April 2014
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Night Falls On The City: The Lost Masterpiece of Wartime Vienna (Paperback)
'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. As security grows ever tighter, Julie and Georgy realize that they are in growing danger of being caught, and become ever more clever at tricking officials. And by 1945 (the novel covers the entire period from the Anschluss to the last days of World War II) two more threats are added - death by bombing or attacks by soldiers, and the dread of being under Russian rule.

Gainham, a journalist who lived in Germany and Austria for years, has certainly done her work thoroughly as regards the historical aspects of the novel - I imagine she'd have been a great researcher for television documentaries and the like. Unfortunately, this doesn't hide the fact that her characters are on the whole rather shallow, and (like the Czech writer Edith Templeton) her obsession with upper middle-class life leads her to be rather patronizing when she depicts working class characters, and to concentrate rather snobbishly on her characters' couture and dining habits, rather than examining what they really feel in terms of emotions. Julie, the heroine, is a rather stereotyped lofty beauty (we hear over and over again how stunning she is), who comes across, despite her heroism as regards her husband, as rather cold and self-preoccupied. I don't believe if she was such a good actress she could have no imagination, either, as she claimed. Gainham never bothers to really explain either her relationship with her husband Franz (I couldn't work out why they'd stayed together so long, as Julie didn't really seem that interested in him) or why she launches into an affair with the vacuous Nando - is it to avoid enquiries as to why she's not married after her divorce, or because she's attracted to the man due to his fine, careless lifestyle? I couldn't understand Kerenyi's relationship with Ruth - one minute he was reluctantly helping her and the next she was carrying his baby - or what he really felt about the regime. With the exception of the genuinely rather lovable Hansi, all the ambitious young actresses and boozy actors of the Burgtheater all blurred into one, as did the noble aristocrats such as Nando's family and the Krassnys. Some scenes I just found improbable - Julie's inability to feel grief after she'd received some shocking news, for example, or her actions after being caught in a bomb blast - finding a bottle of Rhine wine beside her and drinking it down! Was it really so easy to hide people as it seems for Julie? And for a novel set in such turbulent times, actually not a lot happened for long stretches - there was yards of dull small talk, and a great deal of repetition (did we really need it asked so many times why Julie wasn't going to marry Nando?). Ultimately, although I found the novel interesting from a historical point of view, I felt no empathy for any of the characters (apart from possibly Franz), and felt the book was too long. By the end I was wading through looking forward to finishing.

An impressive achievement in certain ways, but I can see why the book fell out of print for such a long time (as well as why it was initially a great success). I can't say I'm hurrying to read either of the sequels.

Three and a half stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, thought provoking and powerful, 20 May 2013
By 
GL (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Night Falls On The City: The Lost Masterpiece of Wartime Vienna (Paperback)
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 republished. I was not disappointed. It is a powerful and gripping story of how people's lives changed under Naziism and how attitudes and behaviour were affected.

It opens as the Anschluss happens and Austria is taken over by Nazi Germany. Julia Homburg is a well-known actress who has paid little attention to politics. But her husband is not only Jewish but also a left wing politician who fails to escape and quickly has to go into hiding.

One is sucked into the story of Julia, her friends and colleagues and how they cope with life under the Nazi rule and then with the effects of the war. There are many masterly descriptions of the compromises that ordinary and well meaning people have to make, the constant worry and subterfuges needed as well as some powerful descriptions of events. It is not all doom and gloom though - there are lighter moments and times of hope. But it ends with crisis of the Russian capture of Vienna.

This is a powerful novel that both gives a great story and leaves you wondering what you would have done. If you read it you will not forget it quickly.

And it left me searching for the sequel (it is the first part of a trilogy) and I am eager to know what happened next. Amazon - please note!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting and astonishing, 17 Jan. 2013
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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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Book, 4 April 2013
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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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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
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This review is from: Night Falls On The City: The Lost Masterpiece of Wartime Vienna (Paperback)
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
"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.

Julie's husband, Franz, who is a Jewish liberal politician and must therefore be concealed, becomes a symbol of the old city with its natural order: "without being aware of it, Julie was changing the living man into a symbol of what must be rescued and what had value in the senseless tangle of intrigue and struggle that enmeshed her."

The closing phases of the book are relentless in their harrowing depiction of the advance of the Russian forces, while the people of Vienna wait for "an end, any end, better a frightful end than a fear that never ends."

"Night falls on the City" is not an easy read - it is a long book with a multitude of characters, and not something you can pick up and put down lightly. But it is highly recommended as an involving, authentic and thought-provoking study of a dark period in Austria's history.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Night Falls on the City, 24 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Night Falls On The City: The Lost Masterpiece of Wartime Vienna (Paperback)
I bought this book due to the recommendation from Kate Mosse, I love all her novels.
I also love Vienna, and I am fascinated by all different perspectives from all the countries involved. I found this story to be beautifully written and it swept you back in time. You can just imagine living in that period of time, and how dangerous it must have been to open your mouth so many informers around.
If you love historical fiction you will love this novel. I highly recommend it especially now the nights are drawing in. I can't wait for your next novel Sarah!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Historical Fiction, 6 May 2014
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This review is from: Night Falls On The City: The Lost Masterpiece of Wartime Vienna (Paperback)
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 as the characters are intertwined. You can not wait to follow the fortunes of all the characters. Also very good historically and it gives a good idea of the war time in Austria.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 15 May 2013
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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 .The central characters are actors and it is not the usual Jewish resistance type novel although it is very subtle in the way that the German treatment of the Jews is woven into the story.
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Night Falls On The City: The Lost Masterpiece of Wartime Vienna
Night Falls On The City: The Lost Masterpiece of Wartime Vienna by Sarah Gainham (Paperback - 6 Sept. 2012)
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