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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This hits and hits again.
I was encouraged, recently, to reread this book when someone voted it the best constructed book that they had read. I had forgotten how skilfully Michael Arditti weaves the harsh realities of the Third Reich and its devastating aftermath with the initially innocent activities of the jeunesse doree at Cambridge and with the clear-eyed observations of the author's creation...
Published 19 months ago by Sadsack

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3.0 out of 5 stars You sometimes wonder and you sometimes wonder
For a brief while in the mid 1970s, Germany was an alternative, interesting place. There were bohemians, drugs, art, electronic music and a strange left-wing terrorist movement called either Baader-Meinhof or the Red Army Faction. It all reached a crescendo in late 1977 (the German Autumn) with a high profile kidnapping and murder of Hanns Schleyer, an ex-Nazi who had...
Published 16 months ago by MisterHobgoblin


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This hits and hits again., 9 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Unity (Paperback)
I was encouraged, recently, to reread this book when someone voted it the best constructed book that they had read. I had forgotten how skilfully Michael Arditti weaves the harsh realities of the Third Reich and its devastating aftermath with the initially innocent activities of the jeunesse doree at Cambridge and with the clear-eyed observations of the author's creation of himself. As horrors mount, the reader is taken to many uncomfortable places but the pace never slackens and the authenticity of these characters is never in doubt. This is a fine, interesting and stimulating book which raises many questions about political commitment, moral obsession and the fragility of dreams. Don't miss it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant novel about film and fascism, 7 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Unity (Paperback)
I was gripped from the start of this brilliant novel that explores some of the darkest moments of the 20th century - 30s fascism and 70s terrorism - through the prism of an international film about the relationship between Unity Mitford and Hitler.

Richly observed characters, both real and invented, and fascinating themes of politics, morality and art are expertly interwoven in a bold and experimental structure. Remarkably, it is interlaced with mordant wit and genial humour.

An outstanding novel to read and re-read!
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3.0 out of 5 stars You sometimes wonder and you sometimes wonder, 20 Jan. 2014
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unity (Kindle Edition)
For a brief while in the mid 1970s, Germany was an alternative, interesting place. There were bohemians, drugs, art, electronic music and a strange left-wing terrorist movement called either Baader-Meinhof or the Red Army Faction. It all reached a crescendo in late 1977 (the German Autumn) with a high profile kidnapping and murder of Hanns Schleyer, an ex-Nazi who had become President of the German Employers' Association. But because Baader-Meinhof lacked any coherent agenda, it became a kind of flag-bearer for various anarchist, communist and neo-Nazi groups across Europe. Chumbawamba still sang about them years later.

So, Michael Arditti chooses this intriguing and bizarre time as the backdrop for his own terrorist story. The basic idea is that Felicity Benthall, a university friend of Arditti's, had become involved with a terrorist faction and carried a bomb into a memorial ceremony for the Israeli athletes who had been murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympiad. Felicity had been engaged to play the role of Unity Mitford, the 1930s British socialite and friend of Hitler, in a film being shot in Munich by an alternative director, Wolfram Meier. The film, whilst subversive, was the real deal with proper funding and high-ish profile actors.

The novel is very carefully structured to appear to be a collection of contemporaneous documents and more recent interviews and correspondences involving some of those who had worked alongside Felicity. Hence, we get letters sent at the time to Ardetti from his university friend Luke Dent, the writer of the film. We have a diary kept by Geraldine Mortimer, one of the stars on the film. We have other snippets and reminiscences, all with copious footnotes and commentary to add verisimilitude.

Unfortunately, for all the care and work that has gone into creating something that looks so authentic, Arditti contrives to make it a dull story. Yes, there is some question as to Felicity's motivation - who was driving her? Why did she depart so radically from a life of privilege in the establishment? What was the object of the bomb? But mostly, the novel is bogged down in quasi-philosophical discussion on the nature of violence and "evil" with copious illustrations from the Third Reich. It just becomes dry, with page after page of pontificating. There are differences in viewpoint between the various contributors so this is not just a case of Arditti putting his own beliefs into his characters' heads, but it does feel dry and staged. Moreover, the points of difference are esoteric and although they may point to different causes and motivations, it takes a pretty focused mind to stay on top of it. Most of the characters are dull and hard to tell apart; where they do have distinguishing traits they tend to be so extreme as to feel like they belonged in a Carry On film.

The final section, narrated by an Auschwitz survivor turned pornographer (and funder of the film) does have some powerful images and does tighten up some of the thinking - his section is mercifully short. This does leave the reader feeling more positive about the experience than the reader might have been expecting, but it is still not enough to really lift the book or deliver on the potential of the ideas. The period in time; the politics, the bombs and the Nazi legacy offered so much potential and it does feel as though, in Unity, Michael Arditti has let a chance slip.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 13 Sept. 2005
By 
A.G. (Dallas, TX) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Unity (Paperback)
It's a compelling story to begin with: a woman turned terrorist. But the magic lies in the storytelling. Arditti first gives the story a cusory look, a "what the world saw" in the introduction. Then you get the story in full--but a wonderfully biased, completely compromised view. After that, the book slowly introduces more facts, from less-than-perfect viewpoints. The whole story? You wish--you're left grasping at the straws provided.
The format's a refreshing change from the novel. There's no twist ending. You're not trying to figure out what happened; you're trying to figure out why. You're never fully satisfied, there's no easy answer at the end. Instead, you're left with much to ponder.
And isn't that a better feeling, anyway?
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars theatrical, 16 April 2012
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This review is from: Unity (Paperback)
I thought the novel was about Unity Mitford, whereas in fact it is about a (fictional) film of her life called Unity. The novel is populated by a variety of characters drawn from alternative cinema and politics in the 1970s, particularly in Germany. I guess that that they are based, wholly or partly, on real people from the period, their vices and failings somewhat exaggerated. The story centres on the motivation behind a bombing carried out by the actress playing Unity - this is not a spoiler, the act being described at the outset. Different people reflect on this either later in interviews or contemporaneously (in diaries/letters). Stylistically it is interesting, but the book fails as an analysis of evil and wrong, simply because the characters are too extremely drawn. Even for actors and artists they are too dramatic and theatrical!
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Unity by Michael Arditti
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