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VINE VOICEon 19 October 2014
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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on 20 April 2015
This book winningly tells the true story of the two sides of the author's family, the grandparents who helped found the GDR after their prewar and wartime experiences, and their children, who came to view the East German state rather differently, as well as his own experience as one of the third generation. A book both warmly human and clear-sighted which gives an excellent insider's view of this now vanished German state. Recommended! The English title is perhaps a bit daft.
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on 16 June 2017
This classic tale of life in East Germany uses the tribulations of the Leo family as a metaphor for a controlled and confined society where people mouthed platitudes for a quiet existence. As the story unfolds, the demise of the GDR seems inevitable as the original support slumped into apathy.
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on 20 April 2017
this book is amazing. Everyone should read it. Best purchase of the year.
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on 11 April 2015
fascinating and interesting story of what life is like for ordinary people
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on 2 October 2013
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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on 22 July 2015
I was really intrigued by the fascinating stories experienced by this family. This book is brilliant! I was expecting a book just about the DDR and instead found how experiences of a generation affected by Nazism and the war had a significant impact on life in this intriguing country confined to the history books. A well written account and a must read for people interested in this period of history.
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on 9 January 2014
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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on 21 June 2014
While the world cup is on, I have reading Red Love The story of an East German Family. Maxim Leo was the winner of the European Book Prize. The story has been translated by the German Shaun Whiteside. What I liked about this story was how Maxim has included some photographs in the chapters for us readers to see. The whole story I found beautiful and supremely touching. It is a story of people who love one another but are doomed never to get along, and it is also an unbearably description of a world that no longer exists.
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on 15 April 2015
Good content but tedious reading and gave up when only half way through.
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