Top positive review
One person found this helpful
on 6 February 2018
The central theme is the experiences of a Berlin Jewish family and its close associates under the Nazis but BE draws on a wider canvas, stretching from 1920 to 1956.
In the course of it, through masterful writing, one can almost smell, see and feel the anarchy and lawlessness of the Freikorps era, the chaos and stress of the time of galloping inflation (this really resonated with me, as I remember Brazilian business acquaintances telling me how, around 1990, they had to pay their staff first thing in the morning and then let them go out shopping, because, by evening, their day’s pay would have been almost worthless), the self indulgence and libertarianism of the Weimar Republic, the creeping evil and oppression of the Nazi era and the renewed oppression under the Stasi and the DDR.
In the central part, BE answers the often asked question of why German Jews, once they saw the direction things were heading in under the Nazis, didn’t just pack up and leave; as he shows, first, the screws were tightened bit by bit and people told themselves at each turn that this is so bad and so inhuman that it cannot possibly get worse – each day it did get worse; second, it was difficult, if not impossible, to find a country that would take them; third, giving up everything, as people had to do to get out, is an enormous step and a step of last resort, when it was time for the last resort, it was too late.
I see that a number of reviewers criticise the language in the jazz scene part as being inappropriate for the time, not the words people would have used; it is correct that these are not the words people would have used (very few of the words in the book are, because they would have been speaking German) but I see this as part of BE’s accomplishment – the Berlin jazz scene would have had its own argot and by using the New York jazz scene argot, he recreates the atmosphere and ambience, without falling into the all too common writer’s failing of using the actual words in a pretentious, “look how clever I am” way.
This book really is outstanding and tells a great story