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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Homage to Berlin, 10 Dec 2009
This review is from: Goodbye To Berlin (Paperback)
Apparently Isherwood intended this book to be much longer with many more chapters. It is a pity he did not manage to write more as each of the six chapters is excellent. They can be read separately and indeed some of them, including the best known 'Sally Bowles' were published at different times in other collections. I would suggest though that they work best together as each contributes to a wonderfully broad and deeply textured picture of life in Berlin in the 1930s. The first and last chapters are straight-forward diaries and detail Isherwood's living circumstances, the people around him and the mounting turbulence and then violence as the country slides steadily towards political and economic chaos. The last chapter in particular captures the mood of confusion and fear that spread across the city like a plague as the Nazis began to exert their influence.

The other four chapters explore Isherwood's experiences with specific people and families from different social, ethnic and religious backgrounds. The Sally Bowles chapter is fun and entertaining and exposes well the peculiar way that the vivacity and energy of some people are endlessly attractive to others despite, or perhaps in some cases because of, an accompanying selfishness and disregard for the feelings of anyone other than themselves. Sally exudes a kind of ethereal sexuality, echoed two decades later in Capote's Holy Golightly, that those around her seem to find irresistible.

The second chapter sees Isherwood exploring his homosexuality and the sexual mores of his contemporaries including the age-old issue of attraction between an older, cerebral man on the one hand and a younger, physical man on the other. Like Plato and Wilde before him Isherwood examines the specifics of such relationships, both positives and negatives and seems to conclude that, despite much passion along the way, they are always doomed to end unhappily as one or other party tires of the other.

The other two chapters cover Isherwood's time spent with two families, one wealthy, middle-class and Jewish and the other poor, working class and German. Gently and subtly he contrasts the two, exposing the nonsense of Nazi eugenic theories and the concept of the so-called master race. In addition to all of this though, there is simple good story-telling. You feel an affinity with these characters and want very much to know what will happen to them. Tragically, as the book ends, in 1933, a series of events ensue that we have come to know only too well.
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