- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Serpent's Tail; Main edition (16 May 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1846688272
- ISBN-13: 978-1846688270
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 19.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 719,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Girl in Berlin Paperback – 16 May 2013
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This is a clever, well-written and carefully plotted novel in which class, hypocrisy, moral corruption, treachery and taboos ancient and modern are cunningly interwoven. (The Times)
The picture of an earlier era of austerity Britain has a confident sweep and truthfulness that establishes The Girl in Berlin as something rather special in the espionage genre (Independent)
Wilson's third novel has all the strengths of her others. She's great on style; atmosphere (the foul taste of smog in your throat); and how the covertly interlinked milieus that ran the country operated (Guardian)
Be careful who you bring when you come in from the cold ...See all Product description
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The plot is a little bit complicated, and the characters, especially the lesser ones, somewhat contrived. But I felt it worked - just about.
The central character is Jake McGovern, who works for the Special Branch. He is asked to do special work for MI5. McGovern is a good cop - familiar from any number of detective novels - with an unusual assignment. His task is to find out why a Communist, Colin Harris, has suddenly come back to Britain. Is he after the secrets of an aging scientist, Konrad Eberhardt? He claims he wants to marry a girl in Berlin and bring her to Britain and a better life - but Colin Harris is gay. Has he lost faith in socialism - does he want to become a double-agent? There is something fishy about McGovern's new boss, Miles Kingdom. Is he really on the level? McGovern finds himself in a world as dangerous as it is mysterious. Finding the girl seems to be the key. Can he trust her - indeed can he trust anybody? Can anybody trust anybody?! Elizabeth Wilson shows everyone has something they are hiding.
In the end McGovern finds some of the answers in the depravity and corruption of Berlin in 1945. The book is more than just a mystery, but about ideology and disillusion. Disillusions about the new worker states, cynicism about the promises of Western democracy and openness.
Just before we learn of the disappearance of the suspected spies, Colin Harris, a card-carrying Communist who has been living in Germany for some years suddenly turns up in London and makes contact with an old friend of his, Alan Wentworth, who works for the BBC. Whilst Colin is in London, a German physicist, Konrad Eberhardt, who left Germany in 1938, is found murdered, and it appears that Colin may have been one of the last people to see him alive. Interestingly, Alan Wentworth has recently interviewed Eberhardt for a programme for the BBC, and, even more interestingly - or perhaps entirely coincidentally - Alan's wife, Dinah, works at the Courtauld Institute, under the directorship of Dr Anthony Blunt, an old friend of both Burgess and MacLean. (I am not trying to reveal too much of the story here; the reader discovers all of this, and more, early on in the novel).
Meanwhile, Jack McGovern, working for Special Branch, is contacted by an MI5 agent, Miles Kingdom, who suspects there is a mole at MI5 and needs McGovern's help. One of McGovern's assignments is to tail Colin Harris but when Harris becomes aware that he is under surveillance he rushes back to Germany, and McGovern finds himself in Berlin on a mission for MI5 - even though he is not entirely sure what his mission is. And neither, of course, is the reader, because like all good spy stories this is a tale of deception, duplicity, betrayal and murder, where no-one can be totally trusted - maybe even those who you think are on your side.
This elegantly written novel is set against the atmospheric backdrop of post-war London and Berlin and, as a social and cultural historian, the author Elizabeth Wilson, has used her extensive knowledge of period detail to set the scenes of her story to very good effect. 'The Girl in Berlin' is an entertaining, absorbing and intriguing read and one I would recommend. I have Wilson's first novel: The Twilight Hour on order from Amazon and I am looking forward to reading and reviewing that one too in the near future.
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