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Night Falls on the City (Vienna trilogy #1)

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  124 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
A highly acclaimed bestseller when first published in the 1960s and now back in print, Night Falls On The City is an unforgettable portrait of wartime Vienna.

Beautiful actress Julia Homburg and her politician husband Franz Wedeker embody all the enlightened brilliance of pre-war Vienna. But Franz is Jewish, and just across the border the tanks of the Nazi Reich are primed
Paperback, 632 pages
Published June 1st 2012 by Abacus (first published 1967)
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Tema Merback
Apr 13, 2012 Tema Merback rated it really liked it
I just finished a mesmerizing novel written in 1967. I love old books, and in my research for my next novel I stumbled upon this forgotten gem. "Night Falls on the City" is a novel of intrigue and relationships between a troupe of actors and the Nazi elite that lay claim to their city and working lives. The struggle to survive the war and occupation after the Auschluss/annexation of Austria is a tale of human weakness and self-preservation. With the downfall of the beautiful city of Vienna come ...more
S.P. Moss
Nov 26, 2013 S.P. Moss rated it really liked it
“There is nothing we can do, except survive”.

“Night falls on the City” is a sweeping, insightful story of Vienna under the Nazis, from the 1938 Anschluss to the end of the Second World War. The story is told through the main character Julia Homburg, a successful actress, and her group of friends and associates. The city of Vienna itself, with its “steely sky, sentimental chestnuts and lilacs” is almost like a central character, rather than a mere backdrop.

I particularly enjoyed the “grown up” fe
Feb 22, 2016 Denis rated it it was amazing
If only for this novel, which was in its time celebrated but has inexplicably fallen into oblivion, Gainham absolutely needs to be rediscovered. Night Falls on the City is the story of Vienna as it fell under Nazi rule and what it endured during WWII, till the end of the regime. It follows a bunch of various characters, especially one woman, Julia, a famous theater actress who is married to a Jew. Epic and intimate at the same time, suspenseful and powerful, written with great sensibility, this ...more
Renate Flynn
I am very glad I read this WWII saga and have learned much about Vienna during that era: the Anschluss, the SS and Gestapo, the enduring importance of culture and theater as the war evolved, the Russians. Vienna itself is a major character in the novel and its war-time alteration mirrors that of protagonist Julia Homberg's: from opulent, gilt-edged complacency to battle-worn and teetering existence.

There is courage and pragmatism, loyalty and tenderness, infidelity and deceit, threat and violenc
This is the first book of the Vienna Trilogy, a work of historical fiction which chronicles the lives and struggles of a group of characters connected with the Austrian National Theater (the Burgtheater) immediately before, during and after WWII. Given the spate of overly sentimentalized new historical fiction set in WWII, I found Night Falls on the City to be refreshingly clear any romanticization or magical realism. This is realistic fiction at its best. There is a large cast of characters, so ...more
Fiona Hurley
The city is Vienna, and the "night" is World War 2. Both place and time are well-captured.
Johanna Markson
May 18, 2017 Johanna Markson rated it really liked it
Night Falls on the City, Sarah Gainham
A big novel about wartime Vienna focused mostly on a famous stage actress and her life during WWII. This book is considered a classic about wartime. The writer takes a very detailed look at a city and its citizens as it and they fall under the control of the Nazis. What do people do to protect themselves and the ones they love. Epic in scale but also focused on everyday details, this is an intense portrait of Vienna that captures the on-going tension, and co
Jul 27, 2014 Lizzie rated it it was amazing
When I first saw this book in Waterstones I naively thought that it was a new release and eagerly rushed over to have a look at it. The blurb on the back of the book immediately grabbed me and it was then that I realised that it was in fact written in 1967 so new release it was not! It has been republished to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938.

As a reader, given the joys of History GCSE and hindsight, you know what is going to
Sep 29, 2016 Kirsty rated it liked it
On its publication in 1967, Night Falls on the City became a New York Times bestseller. Despite it being heralded ‘a sensation’, Gainham’s books – and there are rather a lot of them – have sadly fallen somewhat out of popularity. It has recently been reprinted by Abacus, and is championed by such popular contemporary authors as Helen Dunmore and Kate Mosse.

Night Falls on the City is epic in its scale, and spans the entirety of the Second World War. In her introduction, Mosse describes the novel
Francene Carroll
Jul 25, 2012 Francene Carroll rated it really liked it
This is an exceptionally well-researched book about the Nazi annexation of Austria that drives home the real horror and inhumanity of this era. It is a story of great suffering and the compromises that people are forced to make in such terrible circumstances when they are pitted against each other by a regime that relies on fear and paranoia for its survival. It's hard to believe that Hitler was greeted with cheering crowds when he first crossed the border despite the fact that the Nazi's were c ...more
Emma Annie
I first read this book three years ago prior to a trip to Vienna and fell in love with the characters and Sarah Gainham's writing style. Having recently discovered the book is the first in a trilogy, I set out to read it again before starting the second of the series, A Place in the Country. I think I might even love this a little more the second time around. I've read other reviews of Gainham's books that complain of her sentences being long-winded and a little difficult to follow at times; whi ...more
Aug 09, 2012 Sally rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
This is an interesting book, it takes a very long time to get moving - I wasn't sure at first if I would be able to get through it. There are long passages of groups of people talking, at length, but then there is brilliance here. The characters are very well drawn, they are real and engaging and I was thoroughly entranced with the whole tale once I got into it. There have been many, many stories set during World War 2 but mostly from the perspective of the Jewish community and the lower classes ...more
Feb 26, 2014 Karen rated it it was amazing
I first read this book back in the early 1970's, not long after it was first released and became a best seller, although I didn't realize that at the time. It just looked interesting on the library shelf, and I've always enjoyed historical fiction, especially that written about the world wars of the 20th century. I found it once again in a Daedalus catalog, a rerelease. and decided to purchase it. It's just as good as I remember. The main character, Julia Homburg, is a well-known stage actress i ...more
Apr 15, 2016 Maura rated it really liked it
I read this book once before, many years ago before I had much understanding of pre WWII European politics or the war itself beyond bare bones facts. So reading it again now let me appreciate the book more fully. It is the story of life in occupied Vienna from the viewpoint of Julia Homburg, a prominent actress in the Austrian theater. Because of her standing in her profession, Julie is first spared many of the physical hardships of the war, and enjoys certain privileges denied to ordinary citiz ...more
Oct 31, 2012 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing
Glorious...the sort of book writers don't write anymore and editors don't buy...pure and perfect writing that will have you rooting for a flawed and real but, for once, rather glamorous character.

The novel takes you through Nazi occupation in Vienna and the world of a famous actress who finds she has to compromise to save her husband - and it is about moral compromise but in a way that makes you care about the character - despite her flaws.

And for once, a woman who has self-control - and in peri
Jan Hemphill
Sep 02, 2012 Jan Hemphill rated it it was amazing
This is an extraordinary book - gripping as a tension-filled novel, although the reader knows, historically, what will happen next; engrossing as the realistic and perceptively described characters struggle with the engulfing grip of a highly-organised dictatorship; and vividly set in the beautifully described city of Vienna as it slowly disintegrates (like its society)as the war rages. Most significantly for me, it shows how ordinary people, perhaps engrossed in their career or work, perhaps st ...more
Peter Kavanagh
Jan 04, 2013 Peter Kavanagh rated it it was amazing
Brilliant story of the compromises people make living under totalatarianism. Stands out, especially when stood next to many modern novels set in the period that are little more than nazi porn. Achieves where so many have tried and failed. My only quibble is that the book seeks to downplay somewhat the embrace of Nazism in Austria. Having said that I think it is more balanced than much that has been written on the subject.
The passages set in Poland are some of the best depictions of the moral sq
Oct 12, 2012 John rated it really liked it
This was a powerful book. I found it to be engaging and well-written. Most of all, though, the author conveyed some remarkable insights into the mentality of people under great stress. The author's fond portrayal of prewar Vienna, seen through the eyes of the main protagonist, has given me the urge to visit that city again. This is a re-published gem that is well worth a read.
Brilliant book. Complex characters in a complex scenario. A tense novel set in Austria from the Anchluss in 1938 to the end of the second world war brilliantly illustrating the destruction of people, property, morals and beliefs.
Jan 06, 2013 Amanda added it
I've given up on this I'm afraid. I can see its a well-written novel about wartime Vienna, but the characters weren't strong enough for me to find an emotional connection with the book. I found it hard going although, in theory it's something I would usually enjoy.
Bryan Worn
Sep 01, 2012 Bryan Worn rated it it was amazing
Quite a long book but worth it I think because of the insight into how war gets to everyone and the choices people are forced to make. Written just 20 years after the war
Dec 21, 2014 Emma rated it really liked it
Fantastically intriguing book where history and fiction blend seamlessly. Characters, scenery and the feeling of the time come alive.
Heather Tomlinson
Apr 02, 2014 Heather Tomlinson rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction

Not a big fan of this book - left it after a quarter the way through. A bit too much sex and violence.
Apr 02, 2013 Samantha rated it it was ok
A dull and dreary tale about a woman who hides her husband from the Nazis. There is better literature about WW2 available, go read "Alone in Berlin" instead
Aug 30, 2013 David rated it liked it
I did not enjoy this book, found it difficult to get into.
Richard Newbold
Richard Newbold rated it it was amazing
Sep 30, 2014
Kirsti rated it liked it
Mar 06, 2014
Julia Rotte
Julia Rotte rated it liked it
Jan 09, 2013
Graeme McCormick
Graeme McCormick rated it it was amazing
Apr 17, 2017
Tvandyk rated it really liked it
Jul 02, 2015
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Rachel Stainer was a much-admired foreign correspondent for the "Spectator" magazine reporting from Vienna, Berlin, Bonn and Trieste. She wrote novels under the pseudonym Sarah Gainham most notably her 1967 novel "Night Falls on the City," the first of a trilogy about life in Vienna under Nazi rule.
More about Sarah Gainham...

Other Books in the Series

Vienna trilogy (3 books)
  • A Place in the Country
  • Private Worlds

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