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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Berlin: Imagine a City
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

on 12 May 2017
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on 10 April 2017
An interesting way of finding out about the city through the story of some of its inhabitants. I bought it as an an introduction prior to a vist and it has been quite inspirational.
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on 25 March 2017
Nice deal!
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on 24 April 2017
Highly recommend this book, extremely enjoyable read with some fascinating stories. Couldn't put it down.
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on 24 March 2014
I bought Berlin, Imagine a City primarily because I am a fan of the author, Rory Maclean. I've read four of Rory Maclean's travel books and love his sensitive, easy style of writing. But then I read the book description and bought it for the subject too. Berlin, Imagine a City hooked me from the first page. No boring history book, this. The author draws us, century by century, chapter by chapter into the lives of all those who played a part in the creation, downfall and rebirth of this great city. We meet Käthe Kollwitz (worth the price of the book just to read her story), Christopher Isherwood, Brecht, Marlene Dietrich and David Bowie. Yes, even the years of Hitler which I wasn't sure I wanted to read but when I did kept saying to myself, 'I didn't know that!' And if you are one of those who ask the question, 'How could the German people have allowed the holocaust to happen?' this book will answer the question. Rory Maclean's makes history accessible and fascinating and personal. A fabulous book.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 October 2014
British author Rory Maclean has written a "history" of Berlin, that is really not straight history. It is, instead, a series of short "glimpses" at the city and its people, beginning in the Middle Ages when Berlin was just a settlement. He continues in time to today, mostly focusing on the last four hundred years.

Maclean writes his story in both fiction and non-fiction; from straight prose to play-form he tells the stories of the unknown Berlin resident to the well-known Berliners who have contributed both the good and the bad to society. For every Fritz Haber - a converted German Jew who was the chemist who formulated poison gasses in WW1, leading to the gasses used in WW2 concentration camps - Maclean highlights the life of artist/pacifist Kathe Kollwitz, whose work was condemned to the fires as "subversive" in 1930's Berlin. (Ironically, Fritz Haber's development of Zyklon B was used to murder his own nieces and nephews a few years after his own death.)

Rory Maclean sometimes uses secondary characters to describe life in Berlin through the ages. For instance, when writing about the GDR, he doesn't use the life of Erich Honecker - the post WW2 Communist leader - but rather uses individuals, "the people", when describing life under Communist rule. A devout Communist "Wall-maker", Dieter Werner - son of a Nazi soldier - is profiled in that section. During the Nazi era, Maclean focuses on architect Albert Speer and propagandist Joseph Goebbels - rather than Adolf Hitler, to look at the both the grotesque use of architecture and mind-warping to involve Berliners in Nazi will. He contrasts Nazi film-maker Leni Riefenstahl, who glorified on film the excesses of Nazi rule to actress Marlene Dietrich, who fled Berlin in the early 1930's rather than work under the Nazi regime and who entertained the Allied troops and did other war-work to help defeat Germany in WW2. The choice of those persons highlight Maclean's work; the individual always seems less than the over-all city of Berlin.

Rory Maclean's book is one of the best history books I've read all year. But, it's not history-in-the-conventional sense, so beware of buying the book if you're looking for a straight history of the city. There are plenty of books for that by other writers; Rory Maclean's "Berlin" is about the city and its people.
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on 19 November 2015
MacLean clearly has a long and lasting love of his subject and this comes across nicely throughout the book. He does a fine job of bringing the history, legacy and culture of Berlin into sharp focus presenting us with the many varied faces of the city.

He goes back centuries to the story of Irontooth and goes forward to the reign of Frederick The Great through to the artistic and cultural influence of Kollwitz, Isherwood, Dietrich and Bowie. We also get a bleak and compelling insight into the world of Fritz Haber and then delve into the Nazi period focusing on the impact that Riefenstahl, Speer and Goebbels made.

He presents us with a city that has been blighted by Nazism and Communism but has risen time and time again to become the strongest economy in Europe. It’s a story of not just of the wall and the wars, but of the rich and the poor, of the immigrants, the patriots, the royals, the nationals, the workers, the soldiers and the artists who all helped to make Berlin the thriving cosmopolitan city of millions it is today. I learned a lot about the city and many of its people and MacLean succeeds in giving us a full and balanced flavour of this complex and compelling city.
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on 3 June 2016
I loved this book. Berlin is a city that has always had a strong hold on my imagination. I finally managed to visit recently and was not disappointed in its noir atmosphere and contrasting neighbourhoods. This book takes us through the history of Berlin from its origins in medieval times to the present day. Each chapter is the story of someone. You see the city as they see it. I particularly enjoyed the Berlin of the 20s and 30s before the War, the Berlin of Cabaret and Isherwood. MacLean writes very well with great sensitivity. Berlin is dark, tragic and brooding. I very much recommend you read this.
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on 26 May 2014
An excellent book for a great City. I could not put this book down and ended up finishing it whilst supposedly watching a live sporting event.

Rory McLean has invented a new format for this book. It is essentially a "biography" of Berlin in the form of 23 mini-biographies of people who lived in the City from the 15th century onwards. Some are famous (Frederick the Great, Goebbels, Dietrich, Rathenau, Brecht, Isherwood, JFK and many others); others were virtually unknown. The range of backgrounds is vast. So little is known about some of the subjects that their biographies owe as much to a fictional approach as to historical research. McLean uses a range of styles to tell the individual stories, so there is variety within the overall framework. Gradually, from these bios, a picture of a fascinating city emerges, sometimes a place of immense evil, sometimes endlessly creative, inordinately powerful, then reduced to its knees and to rubble; on occasions obedient to the point of obsequiousness, more rarely but periodically bolshie and challenging.

I've only visited Berlin once, quite recently and briefly, despite living in the old West Germany for a few years. I never really understood why on one such brief visit, I could become so entranced. Having read McLean's book, I begin to understand why. Like the muscular Austrian: " I will be back!"
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on 7 August 2014
If you have lived, visited or about to visit Berlin, then you must read this book. It is an excellent read that details Berlin for its glory and shame! Can not recommend this book enough. Five stars!!!!
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