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Secret Father

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  174 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
It is 1961. Khrushchev is hurling threats, a U.S. spy plane has been shot down over the Soviet Union, tensions are rising. Berlin has been cut off from the West: it’s only a matter of weeks until the Wall will be erected. The United States and Americans abroad face dangers they had never imagined. Against this backdrop, the best-selling novelist and historian James Carroll ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 13th 2003 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2003)
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Claudia Putnam
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this a while ago and can't remember if it's 4 or 5 stars, but it influenced my thinking on the context for the construction of the Berlin Wall (the West having played much more of a role than you think). It does well with the relationship between fathers and sons. 5 for the way it's stayed with me.
Steve Chaput
Apr 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
Good twists and turns, but problems with detailed research. The book mentions the Berlin TV Tower as existing in 1961. It wasn't started until 1965 and completed in 1969.

Apart from that a gripping book after a slowish start that held my attention to the end.
Jan 12, 2009 rated it liked it
I admire James Carroll's grasp of the historical facts and complicated moral and cultural nuances of the Vietnam War and the Cold War, and appreciate his attempts to deliver these things in a non-history major friendly way (ie, a novel). The first part of this novel works very well as a historical thriller- lots of tension, father-son relationship exploration, etc. It all falls apart though, with action that seems to lead to a fizzle, rather than any shocking bang, slightly uncomfortable sex sce ...more
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wonderful surprise. A book of parents and children, youth and age, East and West. A story of teenagers who vitis East Germany.
Mary Daniels
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, kindle-ed
This is another fine novel in which James Carroll deals with difficult questions and their necessarily difficult answers.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is my first James Carroll novel and I loved it. Excellent writing, complicated plot, beautifully developed characters - all good. One of my favorite books of all time.
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww-ii-fiction
Berlin wall, US kids, thriller
Dec 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This offering from James Carroll pushed all the right buttons: A compelling story, interesting characters, crisp and sometimes memorable writing. Even better, I'm familiar with the events and place after having lived in Wiesbaden (the Russian Chapel was visible from our apartment) and elsewhere in Germany during the Cold War and the construction of the Berlin Wall. The pace and tension remind me of those days. Almost all of the details are perfect. The only thing I didn't like was the changing p ...more
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I just finished reading 'Secret Father'. The first part of the novel was a bit slow and the narrative confusing at first; changing between Michael and his father's point of view. I didn't particularly like Michael's fathers narrative. I found it rather boring discussing the past losses suffered by him.

At first I found Ulrich annoying. As the story continued on, I felt rather sorry for him as he never realized how much his father cared for him. His search for belonging was very real.

I really enjo
Shonna Froebel
Nov 17, 2012 rated it liked it
This book set around the Cold War just before the building of the Berlin wall, with a followup years later when the Berlin wall comes down, is a gripping story. Paul Montgomery, an American banker working in Germany, and his son Michael are still recovering from the accidental death of Paul's wife and Michael's mother, Evie. Michael has been enrolled in an American school for the children of military personnel and his friendship with Ulrich (whose stepfather is high up in the American military) ...more
Sep 10, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm tempted to give 4 stars are for the writer's craft and an engaging story that is hard to put down; but this book did not move me the way other 4-star books have and I have settled on a 3. The setting is the Cold War in the 1950s, just before the Soviets closed off travel between East and West Berlin. Three teenagers travel to Berlin on a lark and are arrested, and theirs is a story of confusion as well as maturation. But this book is as much about their parents and the histories and emotions ...more
Jul 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-bought-this
Set in 1961 in Berlin, the story follows 3 teenagers who go to East Berlin for a big Commie rally. International incident happens, and oh by the way the one kid is the son of a major political figure - can't remember if he was a spy or military (maybe both?) - I actually read this about 4 years ago, but I just found it in my car and wanted to capture it because just seeing the cover brought back the feeling I had of loving reading it. And my friend loved it too - so clearly I need to re-read it! ...more
Apr 18, 2009 rated it liked it
This was a very readable novel that was part thriller and part father-son relationship analysis in the historical context of 1960's Berlin, right before the wall was built. The book started a little slowly and then became more interesting as more details of the mystery were revealed. The ending felt a little unsatisfying, perhaps because it tried to tie together too many loose ends in too little time. I did like how the metaphor of spying and lack of trust applied to both personal and political ...more
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carmen by: was a NY Times notable book of 2003 and on sale
It was interesting to read about a time in my lifetime that was real. We worried about communists all the time when I was a kid! I liked the characters, the father and Michael and Kit and Ulrich. Sometimes it was a little hard to follow all the detail to their thoughts and reactions to each other...that part was very well done, as this author can do. I did not like the very ending so much, the last paragraph. There is all kinds of love and I think love was there through out the marriage.
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. It kept my interest. I enjoyed the historical setting and backdrop of Berlin right before the wall went up. I liked the parts where the teenager narrated rather than the parts when the father did. The beginning was slow. The ending was good. I thought some parts got boring and the love story between the adults was contrived.
Oct 03, 2010 rated it liked it
A struggle to get through at points, it is one of the most profoundly sad books I have read.
Three and a half stars really, because some characters seemed flat.
May 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is the second book I have read from this author. I enjoyed it. Look forward to reading more of his work.
Sep 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Though this one is as compelling as a mass-market page-turner, it is anything but formulaic, and it doesn't depend on a reader's latent paranoia to sustain interest.
Jun 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Jeanne Cassin
May 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful novel set(mostly)in Berlin in the early 60's, just before the wall went up. Very hard to put down!
Vicki Mollenauer
The writing is good, but the story just wasn't going anywhere for me. I couldn't finish this one.
Barbara Helms
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Jul 23, 2017
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Jul 21, 2014
Kathryn White
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Mar 17, 2017
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Dec 18, 2007
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Feb 17, 2012
Lauren Good
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Mar 28, 2007
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James Carroll was born in Chicago and raised in Washington, D.C. He has been a civil rights worker, an antiwar activist, and a community organizer in Washington and New York. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969 and served as Catholic chaplain at Boston University. Carroll left the priesthood to become a novelist and playwright. He lives in Boston with his wife, the novelist Alexandra Marshal ...more
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