Jump to content

Search the Community

Showing results for tags 'Germany'.

More search options

  • Search By Tags

    Type tags separated by commas.
  • Search By Author

Content Type


    • Welcome to BGO!
    • Board Business
    • Site News & Support
    • Central Library
    • 21st-Century Fiction
    • 20th-Century Fiction
    • Pre-1900 Fiction
    • Poetry and Drama
    • Writers' Corner
    • Crime, Thrillers & Mystery
    • Fantasy & Myth
    • Historical & Romance
    • Horror
    • Science Fiction, Graphic Novels & Manga
    • Arts & Media
    • Biography & Autobiography
    • Food & Drink
    • History, Politics & Beliefs
    • Homelife & Lifestyle
    • Life, The Universe & Everything
    • Reference & Humour
    • Sport
    • Travel
    • Children & Young Adults - General Discussion
    • Read To
    • Read With
    • Read Alone
    • Read On
    • BGO Book Group Meeting Point
    • The Dead - James Joyce
    • Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
    • Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris
    • Things Snowball - Rich Hall
    • Food
    • Crossing to Safety - Wallace Stegner
    • Book Group Archive
  • Sherlock Holmes

Find results in...

Find results that contain...

Date Created

  • Start


Last Updated

  • Start


Filter by number of...


  • Start





Website URL







Current Book




How did you hear about this site?

Found 7 results

  1. Review of The Mussel Feast by Brigit Vanderbeke, translated by Jamie Bulloch. The novels start with a mother and her two children sitting down to wait for their usually on time father to arrive home for dinner at 6pm. The mother has cooked mussels, which she dislikes as does her daughter (the narrator) but the father and son quite enjoy. There is a fair bit of the novel where the narrator describes her real dislike of mussels. I've never had mussels but it kind of puts me off eating them This novel is a short novel from Peirene Press, covering 100 pages or so nd told in one monologueic burst. What transpires is the daughter recounting her experience of her father. The family we learn had been refuggees from East Germany to West Germany and that while in the refugee camp, the mother had been pregnant with a third child but had an abortion. I found in the father in the daughter's memories (I don't believe the characters were named) to be very overbearing, very strict father and who even with the girl getting top- grades in school, he would see it as an opportunity to try to put her down for them (To paraphrase "school was a lot harder in my days. Your 1 would only be a 3 in my class." I found this funny as when I was growing up, it was something discussed as well in the declining standards. The author Vanderbeke having written this in 1990 would have been an early generation so maybe the A's in my day would be D's or F's back in the father's day. Maybe I've digressed a bit). A father disappointed in his life, whose main thing he cares about isn't happiness or well being but status. Vanderbeke and her translator, Jamie Bulloch have done a great job in creating a monologue that unwinds it self into an excellent novel, filled with intricacies of the family life. * * * * *
  2. Review of Go Went Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky The novel starts with Richard retiring from the university where he has worked as a professor for many years (well his new title is Professor Emeritus). His wife died a couple of years ago and his recent partner left him after having an affair. He can't go in his boat as a swimmer died in the lake it is tied to and the swimmer is still there. Essentially into enterring retirement, Richard is feeling at a loose end, missing many important things to occupy his mind. He hears on the news about protests at oranienplatz where a number of refugees from African countries are protesting about their treatment by going on hunger strike. Richard himself had experience of being a refugee, he was born in Silesia, Germany in the early 1940's and was part of the mass evacuations of the area with the approaching Russian soldiers, neary getting parted at the age of 3 from his mother as Germans crowded on to trains to get out (an issue covered in Walter Kempowski's All for Nothing) Out of having nothing to occupy his mind more than anything, Richard composes some questions he wants to ask the refugees about their situation but the Berlin senate comes to compromise with the protesters, moving them to an old retirement home to await decisions before Richard can talk to any of these. Richard does go to the retirement home and arranges with the staff there, to talk to the refugee and gets to know them personally. This is interwoven with interactions Richard has with existing friends and acquaintances. Jenny Erpenbeck makes splendid use of history to draw parralels between international borders, national identity and references through out the novel to the old East Germany, a country to which Richard had lived most of his adult live but no longer exists. National identity and borders are an interest of mine so these parts particularly resonated to me. I thought the writer made a great job in both telling the story of the refugees and making an excellent novel through it. Richard is well formed character and it was an interesting read * * * * *
  3. Review of The Undertaking by Audrey Magee The book starts with a soldier on the eastern front getting married to a picture of a woman he doesn't know, for honeymoon leave and the same ceremony takes place in Germany When on honeymoon leave, meeting his wife for the first time and her family and then his father in law introducing him to the well connected Doctor that the father-in-law does work for and in turn during his honeymoon leave, he works for (early scene is breaking into a house of Jewish people). The soldier wants to return to his teaching job after Germany triumphs over Russia easily while the father-in-law has other plans, namely planting to the farm land that they need to feeds the expanding German family. There is the opulence of the doctors surrounding, the relative comforts of the new house (even getting a Russian maid as doing housework is below a German family now) of the wife's family (in confiscated property) and then the dire circumstance A novel of hope and loss there thereof, the bleakness and suffering brought on my overconfidence and the notion of invincibility There is alot to be said about the novel, i think it is reflective of the times it is set. Audrey Magee I believe has done a good job in the Berlin she created and the Eastern front she created but for me, I just found a little bit lacking to move it from 3 1/2 to 4 stars. It has its merits and is a good novel. *** 1/2
  4. This novel blew me away. It is a story, narrated in first person, by Cal and Manny, two young squaddies in Germany in the early 1990s. Cal is a Glaswegian; Manny is from Essex. They are in the Catering Corps, have no great military ambitions, and live for the dirty rugs (drugs) they score in Hamburg’s seamy nightclubs. Cal and Manny are best buddies. As one of the characters explains, 4am is a transitional time. It is no longer still night, but not quite day. It is a time when things change; it is a time when many people who die in their sleep pass away. In the nightclubs, it is the time to decide whether to return home to bed or to stay and party into the new day. In this novel, we meet Cal and Manny at their own, personal 4am – as they transition from boys to men. They discover relationships; make significant life choices; choose sides. Cal and Manny have very distinctive voices, and address the reader directly. Cal speaks in a Glasgow dialect; Manny is pure Estuary English. They are an odd pair, but are united in their love of the rave culture. The communal living arrangements in the army barracks allow friendships to be formed quickly and with intensity; they also let small matters of resentment build quickly into deeply held enmity. Cal and Manny both make choices that most readers would not make. They have brash exteriors and seem superficially worthless. But underneath, both are complex characters with deeply held insecurities. Neither has a happy family background and the army represented an escape – the escape now sought in the drugs and clubs. It is interesting to see the fierce loyalty and love that Cal and Manny have for each other and for their closer comrades; loyalty and love that seems to out-muscle their love for their girlfriends. Both form a close bond with the reader. Nina de la Mer gives a wonderful, compelling portrayal of the army’s need to break young soldiers and rebuild them in the desired form. This comes at a human cost, and the reader sees it and feels it. In a sense, the army here represents a metaphor for life as a whole; even on civvy street, young people are shaped and formed into acceptable members of society. Rebellion can only be tolerated up to a certain point. The contrasts between the regimented life in barracks and the freedom of Hamburg is done especially well. The swagger of the squaddies in the town, living it large, blowing their paycheques, riding the trains and driving off to Amsterdam all comes crashing down each night in barracks, and the next morning’s diet of inspections, parade ground drill, and boiling potatoes in the kitchen. It’s not Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman: it’s a fraction of the glamour but so much more meaningful. This is a novel that, at first, is warm and humorous. But with time and growing realisation, it becomes pretty bleak. The ending (I won’t spoil it) is deeply moving and handled with great sensitivity. Right now, it is January. Have I already read my book of the year? *****
  5. This isn't really a history book but all the categories mean Ihave to pigeon-hole the book to write about it (I won't rant, don't worry ). Stasiland is more of an investigation into life for "ordinary" people in GDR under communism and particularly focuses on the part played by the Stasi (secret police) both from the perpetrators' and victims' points of view. Funder writes very well and tries to balance her investigation by covering both sides of the story and by her own commentary (which can be a bit much sometimes). She also draws parrallels with the explicit restrictions of communism and identical implicit restrictions of capitalism; such as freedom to travel, but not if you have no money. I really enjoyed the book and am fascinated by the subject matter. However, there is a problem in that Funder gives the impression that every life was irrevocably tainted by the Stasi. There is no place in this book for the everyday life of millions of East Germans who lived under communism and who presumably have emerged unscathed. I just don't buy that everything about communism was bad and evil and that it brought absolutely no benefits or even humdrum-ness to its subjects. Rebecca
  6. For a brief while in the mid 1970s, Germany was an alternative, interesting place. There were bohemians, drugs, art, electronic music and a strange left-wing terrorist movement called either Baader-Meinhof or the Red Army Faction. It all reached a crescendo in late 1977 (the German Autumn) with a high profile kidnapping and murder of Hanns Schleyer, an ex-Nazi who had become President of the German Employers’ Association. But because Baader-Meinhof lacked any coherent agenda, it became a kind of flag-bearer for various anarchist, communist and neo-Nazi groups across Europe. Chumbawamba still sang about them years later. So, Michael Arditti chooses this intriguing and bizarre time as the backdrop for his own terrorist story. The basic idea is that Felicity Benthall, a university friend of Arditti’s, had become involved with a terrorist faction and carried a bomb into a memorial ceremony for the Israeli athletes who had been murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympiad. Felicity had been engaged to play the role of Unity Mitford, the 1930s British socialite and friend of Hitler, in a film being shot in Munich by an alternative director, Wolfram Meier. The film, whilst subversive, was the real deal with proper funding and high-ish profile actors. The novel is very carefully structured to appear to be a collection of contemporaneous documents and more recent interviews and correspondences involving some of those who had worked alongside Felicity. Hence, we get letters sent at the time to Ardetti from his university friend Luke Dent, the writer of the film. We have a diary kept by Geraldine Mortimer, one of the stars on the film. We have other snippets and reminiscences, all with copious footnotes and commentary to add verisimilitude. Unfortunately, for all the care and work that has gone into creating something that looks so authentic, Arditti contrives to make it a dull story. Yes, there is some question as to Felicity’s motivation – who was driving her? Why did she depart so radically from a life of privilege in the establishment? What was the object of the bomb? But mostly, the novel is bogged down in quasi-philosophical discussion on the nature of violence and “evil” with copious illustrations from the Third Reich. It just becomes dry, with page after page of pontificating. There are differences in viewpoint between the various contributors so this is not just a case of Arditti putting his own beliefs into his characters’ heads, but it does feel dry and staged. Moreover, the points of difference are esoteric and although they may point to different causes and motivations, it takes a pretty focused mind to stay on top of it. Most of the characters are dull and hard to tell apart; where they do have distinguishing traits they tend to be so extreme as to feel like they belonged in a Carry On film. The final section, narrated by an Auschwitz survivor turned pornographer (and funder of the film) does have some powerful images and does tighten up some of the thinking – his section is mercifully short. This does leave the reader feeling more positive about the experience than the reader might have been expecting, but it is still not enough to really lift the book or deliver on the potential of the ideas. The period in time; the politics, the bombs and the Nazi legacy offered so much potential and it does feel as though, in Unity, Michael Arditti has let a chance slip. ***00
  7. The Lighthouse is an unusual and terribly sad novel. It is also rather good. The novel tells two stories in interleaved chapters. The odd numbered chapters tell the story of a man called Futh who is going on a walking holiday in Germany, somewhat half-heartedly. The even numbered chapters tell the story of Ester, a guest house landlady. Futh is lonely; he is middle aged, separated from his wife Angela and seems to lack any real support network, either in the form of friends or family. He has a back story, but very little present story. He is simply adrift, waiting to see which way the tide sends him, his only anchor is a silver lighthouse in his pocket. The opening chapter, set on the deck of a car ferry plying the Harwich to Hook of Holland route tells us that this is unlikely to be a story of ostentatious wealth and splendour. Meanwhile, Ester, the landlady of the first and last hotel on Futh's planned walking route also has a small lighthouse. Moreover, her guesthouse is called the Hellehaus - a literal but incorrect translation of "light house" in German. She, too, is lonely and bobbing in the tide, not going anywhere but quietly leading the life of Molly Bloom. This use of repeated imagery is a real trademark in the novel. Whether it is lighthouses, violets, bathrooms or a host of other images, they keep cropping up over and over again. At first this feels uncomfortable but by the end of the short novel, it is a source of immense power. Moreover, the story keeps returning to the same few incidents, each time offering just a little bit more information or a slightly different perspective. It builds into something very simple but very evocative The overall impression is deeply melancholy. We have a sense of lonely people, sometimes living in company, sometimes clinging to fond memories with sentimentality whilst their lives slowly decompose. Youthful hope becomes middle aged routine becomes old age anaesthetic. The writing is sublime. Spare, sometimes straightforward and sometimes quite opaque. But regardless of the overall transparency, the immediate images of the room or the street or the clifftop are crystal clear, conjured from very few but very well chosen words. The people, too, feel real. They have complex emotions and don't always do logical or sensible things, but they always convince. As they move around one another in still, empty spaces they create a dramatic tension that the reader can almost touch. We wish their lives could be better. And there is a better life to be had. Futh's childhood nemesis Kenny demonstrates that with enough charisma, it is possible to turn even modest opportunities into apparent success. It's difficult to say more without spoiling the finely crafted sequencing; without dampening the powder. Suffice to say that it captured the 2012 Booker prize jury's collective imagination. Hopefully it will progress through to the shortlist. *****
  • Create New...