Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Berlin Crossing - Kevin Brophy

Michael Ritter is mourning the loss of his country. It is three years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and life in the former East Germany is changing at a rapid rate. As a loyal Party member under the previous regime, he is viewed with suspicion and distrust by the new Western incomers with their capitalist system, and the dislike is mutual. He finds himself removed from the job he loves, as an English teacher in Brandenburg;  suddenly his previous achievements mean nothing and he finds himself surplus to requirements. Then, when attending to his dying mother, she utters about how he should speak to a man, Pastor Bruck, to find out about the father he’s never known, he finds himself feeling lost, as though he doesn’t belong anywhere anymore. As he delves deeper into the past, looking to find the man and the history that lies behind his mother's final few words, the narrative takes us back to 1962, to London and the divided Berlin then, and to a dangerous mission undertaken by a young Irishman. We learn about Michael's mother Petra in her younger years, and the risks she and Pastor Bruck took during those dangerous times, when anyone could be spying on your every move, day or night. Michael has to deal with what he has discovered, to heal personal wounds as his once divided country also begins to heal, and he must face up to how this all affects his life now.

I love, and am intrigued by, novels dealing with this setting and time period. This was a really good read, and the author has evidently done his research in writing about these remarkable times. As detailed at the end of the book, he spent time speaking to many citizens of the former GDR, hearing their personal stories. The two elements of the story woven together here, from 1962 and 1993, are both fascinating, though I was drawn more deeply into the events set in the past. I would definitely read more by this author in the future.


Published in the UK by Headline Review on 5th January 2012


  1. It's interesting that this one is from the perspective of someone who is missing East Germany - I've never read that perspective before. Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. Great blog! I love historical fiction too!

    I would like to award you the Versatile Blog Award, go get it at:

    Lots of Bookish Love! All the best for your blog in 2012, I'll stay tuned!

  3. Sam, it does make for an interesting viewpoint - the main character is really missing how things were before. As you say, it's more usual to hear about how glad people were that it had changed.

    Sel, thank you very much indeed! That is a wonderful start to the year for me, much appreciated! x


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