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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and uncompromising. A revelation.
Leo's diligent investigation of his family's roots prior to and during the existence of the GDR is a remarkable story with a raw honesty and criticism I had not expected to find. Indeed, had I not been lent the book I would never have opened it. Now that I've read it I've had to buy it. This is an exceptional piece of writing and a necessary piece of writing...
Published 18 months ago by CMSN

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fathers and sons
Maxim Leo is editor of the Berliner Zeitung. He was born in 1970, in East Berlin in the middle of the GDR's short life. This memoir covers more than those four decades. It takes us back to the eve of the First World War - to the farm of his greatgreatgrandfather. We pass through the generations - his grandfather Werner and then his own father, Wolf. He traces maternal...
Published 14 months ago by gerardpeter


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and uncompromising. A revelation., 2 Oct. 2013
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Leo's diligent investigation of his family's roots prior to and during the existence of the GDR is a remarkable story with a raw honesty and criticism I had not expected to find. Indeed, had I not been lent the book I would never have opened it. Now that I've read it I've had to buy it. This is an exceptional piece of writing and a necessary piece of writing.

Whether you are interested in the decidedly unsexy history of the ex-GDR or not is to a large extent immaterial as regards reading this book. Leo's literary style and narration is second to none in weaving through his tumultuous family history from mainly the 1930s, through WW2, the post war reconstruction and up to the fall of the Berlin wall. It is about personal romantic dreams and betrayal between people and between people and society. It's about what happens when a whole population becomes subjected to a few visionaries' narrow and uncompromising dream from which nobody is expected to ever wake.

For someone whose experience of the liberal arts was a landslide of leftist theory and dewy eyes when thinking about the great Communist ideals and its demise, this read was a breath of fresh air. However, this in no way some crude gloating right-wing, socialist-bashing exercise. When finished it I felt refreshed and upbeat despite the smothered hopes and wishes of two generations of his family and broader GDR society. Leo's story offers inner reflection, doubt and confession. Leo's family saga could so easily have been that of most people reading it.

It should be required reading in school.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fathers and sons, 9 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Red Love: The Story of an East German Family (Kindle Edition)
Maxim Leo is editor of the Berliner Zeitung. He was born in 1970, in East Berlin in the middle of the GDR's short life. This memoir covers more than those four decades. It takes us back to the eve of the First World War - to the farm of his greatgreatgrandfather. We pass through the generations - his grandfather Werner and then his own father, Wolf. He traces maternal ancestors to Dagobert, then Gerhard and then his daughter and Maxim's mother, Anne. To recover them the book uses published memoirs, unpublished diaries, interviews and even Stasi files.
These people certainly lived through interesting times. The book is certainly readable. Some of the "memories" I suspect are, if not invented, then embellished. However, there are bigger issues. Firstly, where are the women? Wolf was brought up entirely by his mother, Sigrid, who gets a page or two only. She fares better than Gerhard's wife, Norah - who barely gets a mention. Anne is discussed almost entirely through her relationship with her father and his alter ego, the East German state. Secondly, as Maxim does admit, his parents were more privileged than most East Germans, his family not typical. When Anne resigns from her magazine she is funded [by the state!]to do a doctorate on Spanish trade unionism. It is painfully ironic that when Maxim is rejected for the Abitur, his mother is utterly distressed because her son is fated to be a worker. In Maxim's East Germany we notice the working class but fleetingly - sleep walking their way to the factories with pale faces and distant eyes. Thank God for the intelligentsia!!
The author retails familiar anecdotes [true/false/exaggerated?] set against a standard western view of East Germany - a grey landscape, populated by working class ghosts and the shadows of the informers. To get a better understanding of family life there watch the film Good Bye Lenin! [DVD] [2002]
However, between the lines and in the family photographs there is another story, which Maxim appears not to have noticed. The marriage of his parents was clearly not a happy one. When the Wall came down Wolf soon enough found a much younger partner, very much like his father, a serial philanderer, had done before him. A sadness and distance is always so apparent in Anne's eyes - but I don't think that Karl Marx can be blamed for that.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Red Love by Maxim Leo, 1 Dec. 2013
Being Eastgerman myself and born the same year as Maxim Leo I can say this is the best personal account of this part of German history I have ever read. Well researched, intelligently analysed, nicely written. Even with a different social or historical background this book will genuinely open up a time and country that has now long vanished - or so it seems. And by looking at the past so intensely it also shows what the presence really is for us, what the meaning of the Now is and how easily we ignore it and how little we probably actually learn despite of where we come from and despite of how we were shaped by our upbringing. This is a positive book though and my only criticism is the English translation in parts - what is a " fat blanket" or a " tooth mug" or "raffish"? Not a good advertisement for the Goethe Institute...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love's labours lost, 3 Sept. 2014
By 
F Henwood "The bookworm that turned" (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
As the author of this book reached adulthood, the country in which he grew up, East Germany, vanished from the pages of history. Now, moving into middle-age, he reflects on his family’s history, particularly the biographies of his parents and his grandfathers, and what their stories can tell us about the nature of the relationship between the defunct East German state and its former subjects. It neither seeks to exorcise or denounce the past nor wallow in nostalgia for the supposed comforts the former welfare-police-state brought. It corrects the casual impression we get that East Germany’s inhabitants fell into two camps: the dissenting minority and the apathetic, conformist majority. There was more to it than that, at least as far as some of the author’s relatives were concerned.

What more was there? His maternal grandfather, a half-Jewish scion of a prominent bourgeois family, became a committed anti-Nazi on seeing his father roughed up by a bunch of Nazi thugs, went into exile in France, participated in the French resistance (and survived a spell of torture as a captive of the Gestapo) and went on to participate in the founding of the East German state. His own mother was socialist in her conviction and believed in the idea of the East German state but was frequently outspoken and vocal in her criticism of it. Her status as the daughter of a party comrade with unimpeachable anti-fascist credentials protected her from recrimination (though she did not know that; only after the Wall came down and the Stasi archives were opened up did she realise how much she had skated on thin ice).

His paternal grandfather, the son of the worker, was more pragmatic in his choice of affiliation: the impression one gets is that the paternal grandfather needed a cause to which to belong, and he would go for whatever cause happened to be on the winning side. So it was Nazism until 1945, Communism after that. His father repudiated his grandfather, was more the overt rebel, but a rebel that didn’t know what it was he was fighting for, and, like many rebels, may have been more tempted that he would have liked to have admitted to have fitted in. There is one episode when his parents were almost recruited into the ranks of the state’s informers, by an ingratiating member of the secret police.

The 20th Century’s totalitarian regimes commanded the enthusiasm of vast numbers of young people. The fascist regimes (Spain and Portugal aside) didn’t reach old age. The communist ones did. The founders grew old and tired. Their children just mouthed the slogans. Some, like the author’s father, chafed against it, others, like the author’s mother, struggled to purge the system of its idiotic accretions and revive its founding ideals. The grandchildren could not care less. As the author writes, ‘For both grandfathers, the GDR was a kind of dreamland, in which they could forget all the disappointments they had experienced before. They were the founders. Their children had to live with it, but much of the power and euphoria of their fathers’ fervour had gone …’

As for the author, the GDR of his youth was not so much a totalitarian monster but a medley of ‘small minded prohibitions, petty principles … the energy of the state had been used up in three generations. The GDR remained the country of old men, of the founding fathers, and their logic no longer made sense to anybody (p. 176). The author notes with a wince of pain that his children are bored of the stories that he has to tell. But he shouldn’t be so hard on himself. Growing up in ordinary circumstances of peace and freedom, they take it for granted. One day, they will be interested in this book. After all, it’s their history, too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great intergenerational account, 19 Oct. 2014
By 
John Hopper (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Red Love: The Story of an East German Family (Kindle Edition)
A fascinating account of the life of several generations of an East German family. Maxim Leo is a young man when the Wall comes down in 1989. This is a fascinating account of the differing attitudes and assumptions of generations of his family. His great grandparents suffered (or otherwise) under the Nazis (one of them died in Auschwitz and another spent time in Oranienburg concentration camp). His grandparents' generation fought in the war as young adults, one of them being in the French resistance, and later were members of the idealistic generation that founded the German Democratic Republic. However disillusioned they later became, they generally retained a fundamental loyalty to the concept of their state as a bulwark against supposed fascism in Western Germany. Between this generation on the one hand, and, on the other hand, Maxim's generation with little or no loyalty or feelings towards their state, was the generation of Maxim's parents Wolf and Anne, who were small children when the GDR came into being, so were children of this system, with some of the instinctive loyalty of their parents, but with a growing wish for a wider variety of experiences in life and work than their state would permit them, culminating in the relatively sudden explosion of desire for freedom that caused the Wall to fall and the GDR to collapse in that heady autumn of 1989. A great read with a lot to say about generational attitudes and how they are shaped by external circumstances as well as the personae of the individuals themselves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, 20 April 2014
By 
Matthew Hosier (Poole, UK) - See all my reviews
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I am the same age as Maxim Leo, like him born in 1970, and reading his poignant memoirs of an East German family was like entering a strange parallel world. In stark prose Leo spells out the terrible social and psychological dislocation caused by the upheavals of the '30s and WWII. The heroism and compromise of his family members as combatants on opposite sides of the world war and then as citizens of the GDR is grippingly told. Because of our shared age I felt emotionally caught up in the tale as Leo describes visiting the West for the first time as a 17 year old, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 - it took me back so vividly to those extraordinary days. A wonderful and compelling story. Read it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living in the East from a different angle, 12 Dec. 2013
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I love books on the old Communist Bloc and E Germany (E Berlin) in particular. There is a tendency to believe that everything was wonderful in W Berlin and that everyone wanted to come from the East and stay. The real characters in this book, I suspect, provide us with a greater picture of the truth which, in effect, shows that things were not that simple. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling!, 23 April 2014
By 
R. Fried "Theatrepursuits" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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It is a compelling insight into the make up, machinations and systematic dehumanisation process of the citizens of the German People's Republic by the state. It is being told through the personal frank experiences of the author's family - a journey of falling in and out of love with the state and communism.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good insight into a less well known part of German history., 6 May 2014
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This review is from: Red Love: The Story of an East German Family (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed this book. It looks at the beginnings and some of the inspirations for the people who were initially supporters of the German Democratic Republic and how people's attitudes changed over the decades. It's written with pace but also gives time to the motives of the individuals concerned.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars extraordinary, 7 Dec. 2014
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What a revelation to see the communist world through such sympathetic eyes....gripping. it has an unusual tone and turn of phrase too.... this is not just the translation, as I speak German and can imagine the original.... much is written in the present tense, this lends realism & immediacy....and makes the reader feel such empathy for the various protagonists and their predicament of living in a world of double-speak.
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