Maria's Reviews > Alone in Berlin

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada
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Aug 14, 12

Read in August, 2012

I read this for my book group.

I think what I enjoyed most about the book was the factual part at the end detailing the real couple who provided the inspiration for the story, and the brief author biography that went with it. That's not to say that there was anything wrong with the story itself, though.

What I admired most about the story was the understated ordinariness of it. It was the lack of historical perspective that the characters experienced which made the story feel so authentic and the characters - petty, ordinary people - so engaging.

Style-wise, it is difficult to comment on a story read in translation. I was not keen on the way that the working class Berlin argot was directly transposed into the equivalent London/Cockney. Calling an SS officer 'mate' for example just seemed bizarre, even in context. The sparseness of the prose and the number of characters introduced near the start made it difficult to get into at first and I was probably several chapters in before I began to care enough about the lives of the people depicted to keep reading rather than just reading because I had to for the book group.

(Bit spoilery after this)

For me, the main issue with the story was the neatness of the ending. Every loose end had to be tied off, every ambiguity settled. I would have been happy for the story to end when the couple were captured by the Gestapo about two thirds of the way through, leaving their ultimate fate uncertain; I particularly thought the redemption of Kuno-Dieter was an unnecessary adjunct to the plot.
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