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The Valley of Unknowing

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  255 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
“Remarkable…Superbly anchored in place and time…[A] brilliant, evocative and accurate novel.” —The Times (London)

In the twilight years of Communist East Germany, Bruno Krug, author of a single world-famous novel written twenty years earlier, falls for Theresa Aden, a music student from the West. But Theresa has also caught the eye of a cocky young scriptwriter who delights
Hardcover, 298 pages
Published December 3rd 2012 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published April 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,866)
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Dec 31, 2012 Jo rated it really liked it
This book was not only fascinating in its depiction of the German Democractic Republic two years before it fell, but also in the character of Bruno Krug, the writer at the centre of the story. Although Bruno's character is so flawed in many ways I never lost sympathy with him, I think because his flaws were so very human and primarily motivated by love. He does not come across as an evil man but simply a weak one and even though the prologue has already set the scene for a less than happy ending ...more
Anna Kennedy
Jan 03, 2014 Anna Kennedy rated it it was amazing
Oh I loved this book so much!! A beautiful gentle but powerful read, I was swept along in its current and was mesmerised by the emerging story as it was played out in its paranoia and self-doubt of an older man struggling with a young love which reflects his receding fame and success in East Germany. Highly recommended.
Feb 12, 2013 Arthur rated it really liked it
The Valley of Unknowing is the sort of novel that once you’ve finished reading it you regret having to put it away in the bookshelf. Philip Sington has successfully combined a poignant love story with a seductive thriller.
At first, the story moves slowly, but gradually the tension rises and the plot becomes complex and the pace relentless. If one reads carefully, the clues to this thriller are salted throughout the book. Sington doesn’t miss a step. The story is a haunting one of a flawed man w
Dec 06, 2012 Natashak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Delightful mix of comedy, tragedy and suspense. Reminded me a bit of Milan Kundera (for the setting), Nabokov (for the humour) and Philip Roth (for the sexual/confessional candour). All I can say is, I had a great time and didn't want it to end.
Wilde Sky
Jun 12, 2014 Wilde Sky rated it it was amazing
A tale of literary thief, betrayal and loss mainly set in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I found this book very powerful / moving / complex / gripping. The central character was deeply flawed but utterly believable in his calculated, but paranoid, view of the world. The storyline was not only full of twists and turns, but also contained all the humdrum elements that make up life.

I particularly enjoyed the central character’s (who was a writer) view of the creative process and w
Apr 26, 2013 Lise rated it it was amazing
An extraordinary book, part political thriller, part love story, it narrates the life of a popular East German author during the last years of the GDR. It is both a fascinating story and philosophical tale about life under dictature and creativity, the role of the artist in such a society, the compromises made in order to survive. A wonderful read.
Dec 02, 2014 Daisy rated it it was amazing
Well I didn't expect to cry at the very last page but I did.

There's humor and mystery and writerly advice and abandonment and informers -or not- and plumbing. I loved it.

To rehearse imaginary conversations on paper is called literature. To do so out loud is called madness.

"Even if she is a spy, what's she going to learn from me? The secrets of punctuation?"

Fictions unfold more naturally when accompanied by exercise. Blood flow invigorates the imagination, as well as the muscles.

Characters do no
Jan 07, 2013 Mary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Full disclosure: I received this book as a giveaway. There was no promise of compensation for this review. This book is amazing. I read it in 2 days! The story takes place in Eastern Germany and it has intrigue mixed with a little love story. The character development is superb. I found myself rooting for Bruno Klug...flaws and all. The plot twists and turns with a few surprises, which keeps those pages turning. I recommend this book highly!
Aug 11, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this book. It's a gentle, subtle read - unsensational but compelling. I kept turning then pages to see how it was all going to turn out. The author uses language beautifully and the story has been informed by his wife's memories of actually living in the GDR before the Berlin Wall came down. Definitely worth reading.
Dec 16, 2012 Red rated it really liked it
Convincing portrait of the grim and stultifying atmosphere of Communist East Berlin. Some gorgeous writing and a compelling story.
Lindsay (Little Reader Library)
‘Deceit was dangerous, but the truth was suicidal.’

Bruno Krug is a writer in East Germany. He is principally known for his novel entitled The Orphans of Neustadt, as well as for his Factory Gate Fables, which portray the country’s working masses. The Valley of Unknowing begins with a discovery by a young journalist in Ireland. Then we are taken into a manuscript produced by Krug, which is now in the hands of this journalist. In this work, Krug recalls the momentous events that shaped his final y
Jan 20, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who enjoy Eastern bloc literature.
The quality of the descriptions about life in East Germany are really good. There is a superb section at the start of chapter 10 where the author describes the colours he associates with the east:

'I have only to close my eyes and there they are, the distinctive hues of Actually Existing Socialism: grey, brown, grey-brown, caramel brown, rust brown, brown ochre, burnt sienna, coffee beige. These were the colours of the apartment blocks and factories, offices and shops, of construction and decay
Jan 13, 2014 Pat rated it it was amazing
Read a rave review of this book in 'The Times' and wasn't disappointed. 'The Valley of Unknowing' is a pretty flawless book. A literary novel, I suppose, but not as we know it: pacey, humorous, and free from self-conscious showing off. It's a personal story, told almost exclusively from one man's point-of-view. This limited perspective is actually vital to the action, which is shaped more by what the characters do not know about each other than by what they do (hence the title). This amounts to ...more
Dec 07, 2014 Diana rated it really liked it
Another brilliant novel by Philip Sington. The very well-crafted story had so many interesting and unexpected twists and turns. It was a brilliant piece of story-craft and a plausible, yet not-easily-predictable, resolution.

A literary mystery set at the time of the collapse of East Germany. The differing experiences and values of the East and West perspectives color the perceptions and flaws of the main players. A very engaging read.

I only wish these books were easier to find here in the US and
Wendy Ascher
May 30, 2013 Wendy Ascher rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it. First, I thought it was beautifully written. I was intrigued by the characters and the plot, which was developed slowly and carefully, held my interest throughout. All the while, I had no idea where it was going and I loved this aspect of it. The ending, which so often makes a book fall flat, did not disappoint me. I learned a lot about this particular time in history and found myself reflecting upon it days after I had completed it. Very dif ...more
Jan 22, 2013 Dusti rated it really liked it
What a pleasant surprise! Had no idea what to expect as I won this as a Goodreads pre-release book. It's a story of Bruno Krug, a writer living in East Germany, who falls in love with a young cellist from the West. Interesting just how far someone will go for the one they love.
Carol Heiss
Feb 01, 2013 Carol Heiss rated it really liked it
A very interesting well written tale of love suspicion and a surptising look into life in East Germany before the wall came down. It is the best book I've read in quite a while.
Veronica Plunkett
Feb 14, 2013 Veronica Plunkett rated it really liked it
So far, very good read. Really enjoying this book. Good story and well written.
Eric Dear
Jun 06, 2016 Eric Dear rated it it was amazing
Touching and sad. Horrible and, at times, laced with humour. A devastating description of life under Actually Existing Socialism in the GDR and the impact of this brand of socialism distorting human relations, sapping creativity and giving birth to all-embracing paranoia and fear. A love story, a mystery and a historical x-ray. Highly recommended.
Lorin Cary
Mar 07, 2016 Lorin Cary rated it it was amazing
Bruno Krug is an East German renowned (but unproductive now) writer who falls in love with Theresa, a music student from West Germany. A young writer who Krug does not like appears to fancy her too, before he disappears. When Krug's agent has him evaluate a manuscript, well, things become tricky. In the end Krug sends the manuscript West with Theresa to have it published under a pseudonym. Years pass, East Germany falls, Stasi files surface, Theresa seeks Krug...who is now teaching creative writ ...more
Alison Evans
Mar 03, 2015 Alison Evans rated it really liked it
This is not a wildly exciting page turner, but is gripping nevertheless. The story is set in East Germany, mostly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Bruno Krug wrote one very well known book, and is now a "People's Champion" with all the associated privileges. His publisher gives him the manuscript of a novel, which turns out to be by a younger rival, and to be very good and, reading between the lines, somewhat subversive. During this time, he meets and falls in love with an Austrian girl who i ...more
Wendy Jenkinson
Amazing book ..led to great discussions at bookclub
Apr 22, 2013 Blanca rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed the company of Bruno Krug. There are few things more attractive than a sense of humour, and Krug's slightly sardonic, self-deprecating wit certainly appealed to me. Then there's the inner core of sadness - the orphan past! - that isn't unattractive either. Of course, the man has his flaws, but at least he is candid about them, and I couldn't help thinking: if I were in his place, living in a police state, would I have been so very much braver, more honest or less scheming? Proba ...more
May 06, 2012 Edward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A definite treat: great story, top notch writing. Very sad in the end, but surprisingly funny along the way. 4.5 stars.
Apr 07, 2015 Liddy rated it really liked it
Captivating, funny, suspenseful. I was quite absorbed in time and place.
Dec 01, 2012 Kathryn marked it as to-read
Shelves: first-reads
I am looking forward to reading this book! The reviews have been excellent.
Jun 12, 2012 Amber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a good one.
Jan 02, 2013 Judith rated it really liked it
Once got into this book, I enjoyed it very much. This is not a casual easy read.
Feb 09, 2016 Mary rated it liked it
Shelves: berlin
First three quarters of the book dragged. Not helped by me disliking all the characters. The last quarter picked up but not by enough for me.
Feb 01, 2013 Heather rated it really liked it
Good book, but not quite as exciting as I expected. It gets a little slow towards the middle/early end, but the ending is quite good.
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2015 Reading Chal...: The Valley of Unknowing by Philip Sington 1 11 Oct 05, 2015 02:43PM  
  • A Possible Life: A Novel in Five Love Stories
  • The Emperor's Conspiracy (Regency London, #1)
  • Red Love: The Story of an East German Family
  • Secret Father
  • Stealing the Future: An East German Spy Story (East Berlin Series, #1)
  • The Red Effect
  • Man Without A Face: The Autobiography Of Communism's Greatest Spymaster
  • The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989
  • Deep Creek
  • The Sign of the Weeping Virgin
  • Silence
  • Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Battleground Berlin: CIA vs. KGB in the Cold War
  • The Consummate Traitor
  • 1989 The Berlin Wall: My Part In Its Downfall
  • The File: A Personal History
  • The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall
aka Patrick Lynch (with Gary Humphreys)

Philip Sington is an English novelist and playwright. He was born in Cambridge, UK.

He read history at Trinity College, Cambridge. Together with mystery writer Gary Humphreys he co-authored six thrillers under the joint pseudonym of Patrick Lynch, selling over 1 million copies worldwide. The third, 'Carriers', was adapted for the screen in 1998. They also coll
More about Philip Sington...

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“We drank our coffee the Russian way. That is to say we had vodka before it and vodka afterwards.” 24 likes
“Desire is an appetite, quickly sated. Longing is a wound, an opening in the heart or the spirit. Whatever the cause, whatever the duration, it almost always leaves a scar.” 14 likes
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