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The Good German

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  4,418 Ratings  ·  477 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

Paperback, 482 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Picador (first published September 30th 2001)
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Steve Landstreet I've liked all of his novels, but The Good German is really outstanding. I don't think there are characters who carry over from book to book, though,…moreI've liked all of his novels, but The Good German is really outstanding. I don't think there are characters who carry over from book to book, though, so the order isn't important. (less)
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Community Reviews

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Aug 23, 2007 Sarah rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 23, 2013 Friederike Knabe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Took a while to get into but thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of post war Berlin. Quite a few subplots running throughout the novel and they were not all completely addressed to my mind. However I did feel that the "moral" dilemma of the time was well addressed. An interesting novel, thought provoking and well worth the read.
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
Apr 09, 2011 Atishay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 27, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it
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
Nov 24, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it
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
Nov 12, 2011 David rated it really liked it
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
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 liked it
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
Nov 09, 2014 Andrew Robins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 06, 2015 Naomi rated it liked it
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
Jun 08, 2012 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jan 28, 2010 Bonnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 30, 2015 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii-fiction
If you want good WWII fiction, look no further then this book, it has everything you could possibly want from the genre, setting and characters.

Jake has fond memories of Germany which he visited before the war and where he fell in love. As usually however memories and reality aren't always the same thing and neither is Lena.

When he goes to Germany again as a foreign correspondant he sets out to find his old love again, but this quickly becomes just one of his problems as his driver is murdered
Jun 08, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, ebooks, fiction
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
Sep 05, 2012 Jenna rated it it was ok
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
Aug 08, 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.
Tom Jeffs
Nov 26, 2009 Tom Jeffs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 08, 2012 Margaretanne rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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
May 04, 2015 Irene rated it liked it

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
Apr 21, 2015 Tracy rated it liked it
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
 Barb Bailey
Feb 16, 2009 Barb Bailey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 26, 2016 Betsy rated it really liked it
This book is set in Berlin immediately after D-day. Although nominally a mystery, it is more accurately a study about the level of responsibility each German bore for the Holocaust. Is it the SS, the concentration camp guards, or is it all the "Good Germans" who looked the other way? In the current political climate in America with feelings running strongly against immigrants in general and Muslims in particular, these questions of personal responsibility are important to consider.
Jul 12, 2007 Elisabeth rated it really liked it
I though this was a great mystery, but above that, it really puts the reader in the historical context of what it was like in Germany after the war. It also deals with some of the moral complexities with which both the German and Allied sides were confronted. I found all that really interesting. I was a little disappointed with the ending, though. Kinda felt like an easy wrap-up to a pretty complicated story. Despite that, I would still highly recommend it.
Aug 08, 2012 Bobbi rated it liked it
This was a pretty good summer read, a romance/mystery set in barely post-war Berlin. The shady lines of good and bad and an intense search by a young reporter for his former lover (only to find out everyone is searching for her husband), keep the story moving and loyalties shifting. George Clooney and Cate Blanchett starred in the movie just a few years ago (I didn't see it but guess it would be pretty gripping).
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Ladies & Literature: * Official April 2015 Book Discussion: The Good German 17 33 Jun 06, 2015 05:34AM  
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