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The Good German

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3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  3,151 ratings  ·  380 reviews
With World War II finally ending, Jake Geismar, former Berlin correspondent for CBS, has wangled one of the coveted press slots for the Potsdam Conference. His assignment: a series of articles on the Allied occupation. His personal agenda: to find Lena, the German mistress he left behind at the outbreak of the war.

When Jake stumbles on a murder -- an American soldier was

...more
Paperback, 482 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Picador (first published January 1st 2001)
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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Best Historical Fiction
444th out of 4,929 books — 19,112 voters
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Best Historical Mystery
209th out of 1,084 books — 2,922 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sarah
All I want to say is PLEASE read this book before you see the movie. In fact, don't watch the movie after you read it as well. If you enjoy WWII fiction that reads like fiction, then you will love this book. But the movie (like most movies based on a book) is HORRIBLE. I couldn't put this book down!
Friederike Knabe
Kanon's The Good German starts slowly, designed to immerse the reader in the atmosphere of the Berlin of the early post-war months. It is July 1945, the time of the Potsdam Conference. Kanon' s ability to take you virtually by the hand and to lead you through the place is exemplary: ruins, bombed out houses, roads blocked by rubble, empty spaces where, before, Berliners had lived - and where the protagonist himself had lived as a journalist. Jake Geismar, supposedly reporting on the Conference, ...more
Lewis Weinstein
The Good German is a thrilling historical mystery, with a gripping underlying psychological exploration. Kanon presents the struggle for German rocket scientists, Americans versus Russians, with both sides desperate to enhance their own post-war technology and neither concerned about the Nazi past and practices of the men they are seeking. It is hard to find the moral high ground.

The main characters are well-presented and well-developed over the course of the novel. Secondary characters are plen
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Atishay
The days surrounding the fall of the Third Reich have never failed to generate an interest among historians and romantics alike. So was the case with me when I picked this book up during a random search in a forgettable old book sale. Sold to me at a half price or probably lesser than that, I kept this book in my shelf for almost a year before someone read it and got so impressed that they recurrently begged me to consider reading it. So, now I'm done with it and I'm impressed- so much that I'm ...more
Rebecca
Feb 28, 2008 Rebecca rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history buffs and action fans
If Tom Clancy and Casablanca had a love child, it'd be this book, and it's a great read. More action and faced-paced suspense than Casablanca, more emotional depth than Clancy. But at the same time, it has both their drawbacks as well -- too many characters with interchangeable Russian and German names, and it depends on the reader having a healthy knowledge of the history of WWII in order to understand the story.

Still, I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue in the story, and Kanon's portrayal of p
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Mark
I have had this on my to-read list for a long time, and I'm so glad I finally got around to it.

The Good German is a subtle mystery that will keep you guessing until the end, but what really makes it work is its uncanny ear for the dialogue of the WWII generation and the ways they have of relating to each other, and the complex, nuanced moral entanglements the book lays out.

Jake Geismar is an American journalist who has come back to the ravaged ruins of Berlin at the end of World War II. He soon
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zan
Not my favorite. It’s very plot-heavy, and I’m a character-development lover. I love the descriptions of Berlin and I wish I’d had a map to trace where he was at every move. That said, he knew far too much of Berlin far too well. The city is much bigger than Kanon makes it out to be. I do like the way in which he tackles guilt, remorse, and Vergangenheitsbewaltigung.
Cindy Daft
Aug 28, 2007 Cindy Daft rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Tiffany
Although I couldn't get the movie actors out of my mind while reading the book; George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, I really enjoyed this novel set in 1945 Berlin. Evokes much thought about who were really the bad people in Germany during the war. Plot was a little twisted and confusing, but the love story conquers all.
Andrew Robins
This book was off to a good start with me based on the synopsis alone - I love fiction based either during or after the second world war, so in that sense, that was a star earned from the start.

However, it turns out that this is a really excellent, cleverly written book.

It tells the story of Jake Geismar, an American journalist who, in the years before the war, was based in Berlin, and in that time had an affair with the wife of a German rocket scientist.

After the end of the war in Europe, he c
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Naomi
Mixed feelings about this one.

I like how detailed the author is in his descriptions of Berlin immediately after WWII. I realize there are some inaccuracies, but I appreciate the author being honest about them on the first page. Overall, I found his descriptions to be believable (aside from the already noted inaccuracies), and the character situations to be as well. However, the amount of detail made the story drag at points, so I was glad when I finally finished this one.

What put a bad taste in
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Todd Stockslager
Falls a good editor short of "Worth my time" status. Involved and overlong mystery set in immediately post-war Berlin in 1945 has too many intricate subplots (and subsequent false-ending resolutions) to sustain edge-of-seat emotional levels all the way through, and the great emotional impact of the first few scenes setting up the philsophical discussion of the "good" German is dulled by too many repetitions.

Still, the characters are enjoyable, the dialogue is good, and the plotting strong enoug
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Irene

This is an old-fashion who-done-it set in a ruined Berlin during the summer of 1945. Dialogue dominates this novel. The short, clipped half sentences filled with journalistic jargon, often unattributed to the speaker, was difficult to follow initially. But, when I finally learned to decipher it, it became the novel’s greatest strength. It is an American war correspondent that spearheads this investigation allowing this to be solved by simple deduction and careful observation rather than high tec
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Susanhayeshotmail.com
Took a little fiction detour over the weekend with this and thoroughly enjoyed it. Couldn't seem to help myself, it unspooled in my head as a black and white movie with strong Bogie and Becall overtones. It's a mystery, thriller, romance, history lesson, study in morality, and I don't now what else all rolled into one. Set in Berlin immediately at the end of WWII I was hooked by the multiple plot lines - Jake finding Lena and solving the mystery of an American GI found with loads of cash in the ...more
Bonnie
Set in Berlin just after the end of World War II, a brilliant thriller about the end of one war and the beginning of another, by the bestselling author of Los Alamos.

Berlin, 1945. Jake Geismar, former Berlin correspondent for CBS, has managed to wangle one of the coveted press slots for the Potsdam Conference. His assignment: a series of articles on the American occupation of postwar Berlin. His personal agenda: to find Lena, the German mistress he left behind at the outbreak of the war. When he
...more
Carolyn
Jun 30, 2012 Carolyn rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carolyn by: Jim Gysin
Great story, beautifully told. It presents a very sophisticated and nuanced view of German war guilt and the things people did to survive under the Nazis. The descriptions of Berlin in the summer of 1945 are so atmospheric it's like being there. They made me nostalgic: I was there in the summer of 1958 when there was still a lot of war damage. It's probably the most exciting city I've ever been in, maybe because it was still quite dangerous then, with soldiers pointing rifles at anyone who appro ...more
David
I found this book in an excellent article about so-called Berlin Noir novels (Wall St Jnl, 4/30/11; see link below). For me the main intrigue--involving a murder and a Russian/US tug-of-war over a German rocket scientist--was less interesting than the portrayal of Berlin and its inhabitants in the months just after the German surrender in 1945. The city was in ruins and occupied in different zones by the Allies who are trying to institute a program referred to in the novel as the 4 Ds: demilitar ...more
Brian
May 05, 2013 Brian added it
I'm glad I gave Joseph Kanon a second try. Although The Good German suffers, to some extent, the same largess of characters and pithy dialogue I found tedious in Istanbul Passage, the author generously rewards his readers with some powerful insight into the moral ambiguity of post-WWII politics. Set in Berlin during the rapid transition from hot to Cold War, from ally to enemy, from survivor to collaborator, Kanon weaves a truly compelling tale both in terms of riveting action and of heart-rendi ...more
Tracy
I liked this story for the mystery but I kept getting lost. I felt like there should have been some journalist primer that went with the book because I got lost in their journalistic diatribes a few times. I often felt lost as to who was saying what also. That being said this was an interesting WWII book because it is set at the end of the war after everything is pretty much over. It was interesting to see how destructive the Russians were. I kind of felt at the end that the whole book was kind ...more
Ben Rand
There was a point early in this book where I almost gave up on it. There was kind of a blur of characters and the dialogue was hard to follow. And then I got hooked into the story and that was it. Terrific read, with a very sad, haunting commentary on the awful compromises war imposes on individuals and nations. No one escapes blame, not even the winners...the "good" guys.
Jim
Kanon can just flat out write. It's that simple. But for better or worse, I put off reading this one after being severely disappointed by the movie version. Bad mistake on my part, and I've finally fixed it after getting enough nudges from friends who know how much I like Kanon's previous work. So now that I've read it? Great story, great narrative, great pacing, great setting. Yes, there is a pattern there. Dialogue is about the only area where he doesn't excel, but it's not as if the lines spo ...more
Jenna
I kept reading for so long wanting to like this book. There are two main problems, though. The first is that there's way too much dialogue. Everyone has to explain everything to everyone else. Blah. And then Kanon thinks he's being edgy by writing in a bunch of short sentence fragments. Blah.

The second problem, which is much more eggregious, is that Kanon is as dull as his main character Jake Geismar when it comes to women. A woman is raped and then has an abortion and here's Jake Geismar getti
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Margaretanne
I have to admit, I did not finish this book which is unusual for me. I got 2/3 of the way through and couldn't go on. There was really nothing that kept me wanting to come back to see what was happening I think primarily because there was little character development so I couldn't identify or really like any of the characters. However, there were many characters! So many that I wish I had taken notes at the beginning of the book. A murder takes place within the first chapter but I really could n ...more
Jeff
Aug 13, 2011 Jeff added it
I picked this book up recently for all the wrong reasons: it's got heft so it reminds me of a Vintage novel; it's a paperback so I can take it anywhere; it was on sale; and it's got George Clooney on the cover. So i figure I should just start reading it now ...

Wow It was a long book! I think i know what happened but towards the end i couldnt tell who knew what and when. Interestingly i think i would have believed the love story angle when the book came out but i thought it was pretty trite now.
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Diane
Sep 03, 2007 Diane added it
The Bestselling author of Los Alamos and Alibi returns to 1945. Hitler has been defeated and Berlin is divided into zones of occupation. Jake Geismar, an Americsn correspondent who spent time in the city before the war, has returned to write about the Allied triumph while persuing a more personal quest: his search for Lena, the married woman he left behind. The Good German is a story of espionage, love, and murder, and extraordinary re-creation of a city devastated by war, and a thriller that as ...more
Tom Jeffs
This is Joseph Kanon's third novel set in Berlin in the days right after the Russian victory and the collapse of The Third Reich. Kanon gives us a superb portrait of the chaos of the first days of occupation and the beginning of the soon to follow cold war. The characters and plot are carefully developed, but the central theme is the reality that an entire nation is guilty of genocide, thus the challenge to find "the good German" If you like intrigue, complex plots and are fascinated by the torm ...more
 Barb Bailey
Hitler has been defeated, and Berlin is divided into zones of occupation. Jake Geismar, an American correspondent who spent time in the city before the war, has returned to write about the Allied triumph while pursuing a more personal quest: his search for Lena, the married woman he left behind. When an American soldier’s body is found in the Russian zone , Jake stumbles on the lead to a murder mystery. A story of mystery and espionage a love story , an extraordinary re-creation of a city devas ...more
Bryce Hines
Jan 11, 2015 Bryce Hines marked it as to-read
The novel that I have read was The Good German and the author is Joseph Kanon. He is an American author, best known for thriller and spy novels set in the period immediately after World War II. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a book publishing executive.
With World War II finally ending, Jake Geismar, former Berlin correspondent for CBS, has wangled one of the coveted press slots for the Potsdam Conference. His assignment: a series of articles on the Allied occupation. His personal age
...more
Cheryl
This is a noir novel about an American reporter, Jake, who, during WWII, gets out of Germany just in time. When the war (against Germany) is over, he returns to Berlin to cover the talks between Truman, Churchill and Stalin. But he is really searching for his lover, a German woman he left behind.

He finds her, ill and near death. But that isn't the real story. As he's covering the conference, a dead soldier is pulled from the water. An American who'd been on the plane with Jake and who now has a
...more
Alex Page
This book is absolutely brilliant. I have not been able to stop thinking about it since I started reading it.

The main character used to live in Berlin before the war and during the war traveled with Gen. Patton as a war correspondent. Because of this the reader gets a unique perspective of Berlin and the people he knew before the war and through him a greater understanding of how they became the people they are now. The same can be said for Berlin as well. In the book he struggles to comprehen
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Megargee
In 1939, Churchill described the USSR as , "... a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." This novel, set in Occupied Berlin at the time of the 1945 Potsdam Conference, is a murder mystery wrapped in a love story, inside a thriller wrapped in in a depiction of war-ravaged Berlin all of which provoke questions regarding might vs. right and good vs. evil. Jake, a Murrow-level foreign correspondent for Colliers magazine, returns to Berlin, where he lived before the war, ostensibly to cover ...more
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Ladies & Lite...: * Official April 2015 Book Discussion: The Good German 17 27 Jun 06, 2015 05:34AM  
  • Silesian Station (John Russell, #2)
  • A Lily of the Field (Inspector Troy, #7)
  • Flight From Berlin
  • The One from the Other (Bernard Gunther, #4)
  • Pavel & I
  • The Polish Officer (Night Soldiers, #3)
  • The Confession
  • The Second Son (Berlin Trilogy, #3)
  • 27
  • A Gathering of Spies
  • Unholy Awakening (Hanno Stiffeniis, #4)
Istanbul Passage Los Alamos Alibi Leaving Berlin The Prodigal Spy

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