Shop now Shop now Shop now See more Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
91
4.3 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 5 February 2013
This is a fascinating portrait of a society crawling out of chaos. It's not just the buildings and bridges that are reduced to rubble and ruins in post-war Berlin. The Americans are playing all sorts of games, some of them aligning themselves to ex-Nazis and the black market in order to fight the invisible war against the Soviets, whilst others appear to be totally unaware of what life was really like under Hitler's regime. The British are imperialists hanging desperately onto power, the stern teacher in the school corridor. The French are seen as inconsequential and no-one understands why they're running part of the city anyway. The Russians are playing a game of winning hearts and minds without realising that they lost them when they raped their way through the cities... as if they really care because they seem to be the only ones who have a plan. The Germans come across as befuddled victims surviving by the skin of their teeth and confused as to how all this happened in the first place... and the Jews come across as confident and fighting fit... realists in a new world.
Interesting.
I like David Downing's Berlin series. They're gripping adventures set in a dirty world. Now the war is over it's not got any cleaner and our hero, John Russell, finds himself used as a pawn by both the Soviets and the Americans. All he wants to do is survive... like most of the other characters in the novel. This isn't easy when the world is on the brink of collapse. Cigarettes are the only real currency, everything is on ration, gangsters are having a great day, peoples are in flux as they move about Europe - this is true post-apocalyptic stuff when you think about it.
It struck me, as I was reading, that I can't think of many books set in the immediate post-war period in Central Europe. Obviously there's Graham Greene's "The Third Man", Andrzejewski's "Ashes and Diamonds" and Philip Kerr's "A German Requiem" but I'm not aware of any others. In film I can only add "Landscape After the Battle" and "Bicycle Thieves" to the list. It's almost as if the period falls into the shadow of the more dramatic War years and the Cold War that followed. This is a real shame because this really is a fascinating era with so much going on, so much in embryonic form. Downing has lit a fire under my feet with this one and I want more!
0Comment| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Lehrter Station has almost nothing to do with the railway station of that name in Berlin, 1945. Nor is it truly a spy-story thriller. Instead this extended series has evolved into an historical drama, one in which the pair of protagonists return to occupied Germany after WW2, giving author David Downing a chance to flex his narrative muscle by illustrating the chaotic mess that was post-war Berlin before the wall went up.

The historical insight and detail is fascinating and has the ring of painstaking research about it. The superficial plot has Anglo-American journalist and sometime spy John Russell being tasked by the Russians with returning to Berlin to report on German communists and whether they’re likely to be loyal to Moscow in the cold war world that rises from the ashes of the Third Reich.
Yet the notional investigations that Russell performs carry less weight than the vast swathes of names and places which Downing throws at the reader: all the bombed out buildings, the endless lists of missing people, the cafes reduced to rubble, the acquaintances from previous books who must all seeming be accounted for; the unlikely resolution of so many loose ends.
Russell and Effi immediately rile a Nazi-turned-gangster, and must tread carefully amid the politics of the Allies-turned-antagonists, but much of the ‘thriller’ struggles to surface under the weight of detail. The sub-plots about the Jewish avengers, and the secret pipeline into Palestine, are entirely fascinating. But it all seemed to lack a sense of tension, somehow.

By the end of Lehrter Station I knew an enormous amount more about the immediate post-war situation than I had when I started reading it. This was a rare case where I almost drowned in the detail, and found myself longing for Alan Furst’s atmospheric brushstrokes which bring wartime Europe to grimy life in a few simple sentences, without needing chapter and verse for vermilissitude.
7/10
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
David Downing's new novel, "Lerter Station", is the fifth book in his John Russell series. Begun in pre-war Berlin and continuing through the war, Downing now takes his characters in this book from London to Berlin in the fall of 1945. Russell and his girl-friend, actress Effi Koenen, return to the war-ruined city in a somewhat convoluted plot involving Soviet spies. Most plots dealing with spies in these books - Downing's, Philip Kerr's, Alan Furst's - usually have the spies double, tripling, hell, even quadruple, spying. Frankly, I got confused dealing with the who/what/why of the spying in Downing's book. So I tended to concentrate on the other parts of the story, which were far more interesting.

Life in post-war Berlin was difficult enough for the city's residents. So many buildings were damaged, so many people lost in the bombings and war battles and, of course, in the concentration camps. The city was a meeting place for the war's survivors and most people were trying to find loved ones and friends they had lost track of during the war. The city was divided into four parts - American, British, French, and Russian - and while people could move between the parts fairly easily, already the Russian Zone was taking on an ominous tone as restrictions were beginning to be put in place by the occupying Soviets. Russell has returned to do a little spying, a little reporting, and a lot of fence-mending. Effi has returned to act in a new movie, the first to be filmed in post-war Germany. She was also trying to find the father of a young Jewish girl she had sheltered during the war and was hoping to permanently adopt, as well as the daughter of a Jewish couple she had helped during the war. Downing also includes many other characters from the four earlier books. I think this book might be his last in the series, only because he does tie up a lot of loose ends.

I really wish there had been less of the spying story - by the middle of the book I couldn't tell who was allied with who and, frankly, didn't much care - and more of the "side stories". He writes well about the Jewish pipeline from Europe to Palestine as well as the black-market industry and daily life in a cold, bombed out city, trying to come to terms with its past and make a future under the presence of four occupying powers. I think "Lehrter Station" is the weakest of the five books, but it was still worth reading.
0Comment| 23 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 28 December 2012
Some of the adverse reviews of this book describe it as a mere tidying-up at the end of the series. I respect that view but I don't agree with it. Post-war Europe had its own distinctive atmosphere, along with some new perils to confront, and I think this book does an excellent job of scene-painting while also taking the protagonists' various stories on to their respective next stages. For me this is a good end to a fine series.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 July 2015
It was good to be back in Downing-land, references to football and all. After a short prologue we're in immediately post War London, the extended family struggling in a new drab environment, not least because Russell is short of work and money. Then he receives an offer he can't refuse and we're off to Berlin again. And in the second half of 1945 it remains a scary place. The months up to May of that year are very well documented, but the subsequent months less so, so it made interesting reading. Picking up the pieces must have been a very difficult job, especially with so many different interests and powers involved. It was indeed, "a savage peace".

The book is well written as always with good story lines, and I'm looking forward to reading the last book in the series, Masaryk Station.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 27 April 2013
I have read all the books in the series but must admit found this one disappointing. There was a venerable list of characters from the previous books but they tended to flit in and out to connect to the previous stories. I also felt that the ending was weak though it did leave it open for further John Russell stories.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 May 2012
Having already read the previous 4 books in the already weakening series I was hoping that a post war change of direction would be used to good effect in the vein of Bernie Gunther. Instead the bulk of the book was devoted to catching up on what had happened to side characters from the previous books in the form of "I wonder what happened to so and so" before random events and coincidence presented the solution to a problem that would never have crossed the reader's mind.

There was a weak story-line about the black market in post war Berlin which was more of a matter of course rather than an intriguing plot, needless to say the main protagonists became involved through a series of unlikely random events and coincidences.

Other than that there was very little cohesive plot, few characters of interest, old characters became increasingly annoying in their self-righteous views and then the book finishes leaving myself wondering "what was the point of that?".
Overall at best it is a tying up of loose ends (more so for the author than the readers perhaps?)
One star is all it deserves,avoid unless absolutely necessary.
Definitely the end of the line for the "Station" series.
Do not read if you have not read the prior books in the series as it will make little sense.

p.s. this is the first time I have been motivated to review a book.
22 comments| 22 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 21 August 2012
I've been a big fan of Downing's 'station' series. In the crowded field of 'Berlin' thrillers they may not be the absolute best - Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series probably wins that competition - but they are solidly researched, very well-written and engaging. Perhaps the best thing about them is the equal billing and respect they give to male and female protagonists, which is unusual. Lehrter Station succeeds in that respect, but in others it disappoints and in fact I did not even finish it. The main problem is that it is a series of 'reunions' of characters from the previous books and this means, first, that it has little narrative form and, second, that it is rather unconvincing - in chaotic, war-torn Berlin it seems unlikely that within a few days John and Effi could effect so many reunions. Downing is good at recalling what are now perhaps rather forgotten histories, for example, in this case, the hazards of the Zionist escape line to Israel and anti-semitism in post-war Poland. But overall 'Lehrter' is shapeless and not compelling even as a tidy up to the series and, in fact, it seems that another is on the way (I'll surely read that on the strength of the earlier books, though).

To give the book only 2 stars is perhaps a bit harsh, but it seems fair judged relative to the very high standard of the rest of the series.
0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The best thing about "Lehrter Station" is how it so accurately captures the fractured and ad hoc reality of the months that followed the Nazi surrender in May 1945 when the survivors, victims and victors were struggling to find some kind of new equilibrium amidst the physical, social and political wreckage that was the norm in Germany and most of Central Europe.

Author David Downing's skilled blending of narrative and dialogue that lends all of his books a kind of urgent velocity is perfect for this episode that is largely about picking up the pieces of old lives, reconnecting with friends and benefactors and bringing some justice and revenge to the old regime tormentors and thugs who managed to survive the Nazi disintegration and have found new sponsors and benefactors. Above all, this book is the story of what happened to the Jews of Germany and Central Europe and how the Holocaust survivors are shaking off the horror of the past 10 plus years and are moving on to new lives--some through clandestine immigration to Palestine, some going to England, the U.S. and Canada and some few trying to return to Germany, Poland and neighboring countries. To his credit, Downing also includes the German survivors in his tale, without sugar-coating some of the complicity with the Nazis that many of them had to answer for.

There are times when the story comes close to overladen with characters and names as protagonist Russell (and fiance Effi Koenen) has more contacts than a Bausch and Lomb factory, with most of them in play simultaneously. Somehow this occasional glut seems appropriate to the time and place where order is tenuous and everyone is climbing out of hiding to restart life.

As in all of the John Russell stories, the political overlay for "Lehrter Station" feels authentic provides the structure that supports the characters and plot substance very well.

"Lehrter Station" closes with Russell and Effi staying on in Berlin for the forseeable future with a great deal of unfinished business to be taken care of. I'm looking forward to the next installment of this highly enjoyable saga.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
David Downing's new novel, "Lerter Station", is the fifth book in his John Russell series. Begun in pre-war Berlin and continuing through the war, Downing now takes his characters in this book from London to Berlin in the fall of 1945. Russell and his girl-friend, actress Effi Koenen, return to the war-ruined city in a somewhat convoluted plot involving Soviet spies. Most plots dealing with spies in these books - Downing's, Philip Kerr's, Alan Furst's - usually have the spies double, tripling, hell, even quadruple, spying. Frankly, I got confused dealing with the who/what/why of the spying in Downing's book. So I tended to concentrate on the other parts of the story, which were far more interesting.

Life in post-war Berlin was difficult enough for the city's residents. So many buildings were damaged, so many people lost in the bombings and war battles and, of course, in the concentration camps. The city was a meeting place for the war's survivors and most people were trying to find loved ones and friends they had lost track of during the war. The city was divided into four parts - American, British, French, and Russian - and while people could move between the parts fairly easily, already the Russian Zone was taking on an ominous tone as restrictions were beginning to be put in place by the occupying Soviets. Russell has returned to do a little spying, a little reporting, and a lot of fence-mending. Effi has returned to act in a new movie, the first to be filmed in post-war Germany. She was also trying to find the father of a young Jewish girl she had sheltered during the war and was hoping to permanently adopt, as well as the daughter of a Jewish couple she had helped during the war. Downing also includes many other characters from the four earlier books. I think this book might be his last in the series, only because he does tie up a lot of loose ends.

I really wish there had been less of the spying story - by the middle of the book I couldn't tell who was allied with who and, frankly, didn't much care - and more of the "side stories". He writes well about the Jewish pipeline from Europe to Palestine as well as the black-market industry and daily life in a cold, bombed out city, trying to come to terms with its past and make a future under the presence of four occupying powers. I think "Lehrter Station" is the weakest of the five books, but it was still worth reading.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse