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Customer Review

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I want more!, 5 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Lehrter Station (John Russell 5) (Paperback)
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!
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