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Red Love: The Story of an East German Family

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4.06  ·  Rating details ·  904 ratings  ·  115 reviews
Now, married with two children and the Wall a distant memory, Maxim decides to find the answers to the questions he couldn't ask. Why did his parents, once passionately in love, grow apart? Why did his father become so angry, and his mother quit her career in journalism? And why did his grandfather Gerhard, the Socialist war hero, turn into a stranger? The story he unearth ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Pushkin Press (first published 2009)
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4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  904 ratings  ·  115 reviews


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Steven Godin
A certain Wall may have crumbled back in 1989, but life in East Germany is impossible to forget for Maxim Leo. Born in 1970, Leo studied Political Science in both Berlin and Paris before becoming an Editor for the Berliner Zeitung newspaper, and has been praised for his journalism.
'Red Love' is an honest and poignant work, told in an utterly convincing manner, that depicts what life was really like during the post-war years and later the collapse of that huge chunk of concrete that split a city
...more
Dem
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: east-berlin
3.5 stars

An engaging and well written personal account that gives outsiders a glimpse of everyday life In East Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989

image:
Having recently returned from a trip to Berlin I was eager to read a personal account of life in East Berlin before the wall came down and I chose to read Red Love: The Sroy of and East German family by Maxim Leo and was not disappointed by my choice as it was a rewarding read and touched upon so many names of places and storie
...more
Sue
Jun 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Maxim Leo certainly has some interesting family stories to tell. Born in 1970, Leo is a journalist who lived for his first nineteen years behind the wall in East Berlin, the son of bohemian parents, Wolf and Anne, and the grandson of at least one True Believing Marxist, Gerhard. He used family conversations, diaries, and memoirs, as well as the East German secret police (Stasi) files which are now open and freely available to anyone wishing to check his own files.

Perhaps the unusual thing about
...more
Eti Mishra
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Wolf says it's all about the facade, that the state didn't really demand genuine belief. You didn't have to bend the knee or sell yourself, you just had to go along with the big spectacle of socialism."


If there is something that fascinated me this year then that would be Cold War period and most importantly life in GDR. All this because of a movie, a movie! Seriously.

Red Love: A Story of an East German family written by Maxim Leo delves into the lives of three generations who spent their l
...more
Denis
May 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Red Love is quite simply a masterpiece, a lovingly written book that shines as a mesmerizing piece of literature but also as a gripping History lesson. Leo’s memories of his youth in East Germany unfold in a melancholy and moving way, narrating the intimate story of his fascinating family, and bringing his childhood back to life. They also do much more than that: they brilliantly capture the complex realities of a country built over the ashes of Nazi Germany and the war, and therefore of the peo ...more
Cold War Conversations Podcast
The story of the modern Germany through one family.

Using material obtained from his parents and grandparents as well as his own story, Maxim Leo paints a tale of hope through to ossification that ultimately lead to the implosion of the first 'workers and peasants' state on German soil'.

It’s a really good read which has been translated very well. The book contains many pictures which really bring the characters to life. Readers should bear in mind however, that if they are unfamiliar with modern
...more
Bob
Dec 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, germany
Not everybody in the GDR thought the place was totally horrible; many of the residents just wanted to get along with their lives. Despite the obvious problems they just went with the system.

Maxim Leo's parents are about the same age as me, so they also grew up in the 1950's, hearing about WW-II from their own parents who were about the same vintage as mine. What I remember most from that era was the tendency for vets to talk little about their wartime experiences, as if they did not want to bri
...more
David Lowther
Nov 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the finest biographical histories of recent years. It's not, strictly speaking an autobiography because the author uses material obtained from his parents and grandparents from before he was born.

Red Love is about three generations of one German family; grandparents who grew up under the Third Reich, parents who lived throughout almost the entire period of the German Democratic Republic and the author himself who was nineteen when the Berlin Wall came down.

Between them they paint
...more
Conny
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2011-2015
This is probably one of the best books/memoirs that I have read so far about life in the GDR (East Germany). I really liked that the author did not pretend for a second that he had the answers for all the problems he was facing during his youth, but rather he describes why he and his family lived their lives the way they did.
His maternal grandfather Gerhard had to leave Germany as a child because his parents were Jews, and later joined the French Resistance. The people he met there convinced hi
...more
martin
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Just over 40 years ago in early October 1978, I arrived in Leipzig in the GDR with 3 other British language students on an exchange programme lasting several months. It was the start of a continuing fascination with the country and its people, full of nuances and contradictions. Since the "Wende" and reunification I've tried to learn more and to reconcile my memories with newly surfacing information, but there's been a lot of two-dimensional rubbish printed that either glorifies or vilifies the ...more
Alexandra
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Merry
Fascinating topic. It would have been nice if the English translation had had a few extras like acronym guides, timelines, maybe a family tree. I was a bit unclear as to which side was which in certain parts. Leo wrote this book in German and I'm sure his original audience was intimately familiar with the characters and event, but someone more removed (i.e. me, an American in her early 30s) could have used a quick refresher/primer.
Nick Blackbourn
Why the GDR mattered and why it didn't, through the story of one family. The best book I've read in quite sometime.
David
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is pretty special.

Warts and all, Maxim Leo traces back his roots by two generations to document French Resistance bravery, dogged grand-parental and maternal devotion to the anti-Fascist socialist DDR at its suspicious and intrusive height and a semi-bohemian childhood behind The Wall.

The conclusion is that East Berlin wasn't much different lifestyle-wise (apart from the denims) from what we 60s and 70s kids were experiencing in the decadent West. The oppressive DDR regime though, fearful o
...more
Anja
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
You cannot avoid being taken by the stories told in this book. All of the life stories presented in this book are very interesting... but I will dare say that they are not so unique. (Still, that doesn't make the book less good, nor interesting!)
Maxim Leo uses a very easy, daily-life language, his "voice" being very monotone. The language is one of the book's strengths. I disagree with other reviewers that you have to have a lot of European WW2 history knowledge, these details are not so promine
...more
Adam
I picked up this book quite by chnace, and hoped to learn something about the old East Germany ('DDR') from it. I did learn a great deal about living in the DDR, but that was not all. The author, Maxim Leo, was born in East Berlin in 1970, and grew up in the DDR until the Berlin Wall was 'demolished' in 1989. In his book, Leo explores the backgrounds and stories of his parents and grandparents, and in doing so provides new and fascinating insights into the history of Germany in the 20th century. ...more
Miranda
Mar 16, 2016 rated it liked it
A good overview of a family living through divided Berlin and the Cold War but I think for me the narrative arc was missing; at times I felt like it skipped around and for me, lacking a real in-depth understanding of what it was like to live in East Berlin under the GDR, I think I wished it had gone less through the family and more on Leo's own childhood. But of course that's not what he wanted to do with the book!
Jorien
Dec 01, 2014 rated it liked it
This book could have been so much better.
There is so much information and cool stories of the entire family, yet it is written so thinly.
It reads like a high school story. It does however give you the realisation that the people who built east germany had a history in the war as well.
Linden
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating memoir about the author's and his parents' lives in the GDR as well as a look back to his grandfathers' lives, one a French Resistance hero, the other a Nazi corporal.
Mark
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent and moving book which gives a considerable insight into what life in the GDR must have been like and what the impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall must have had on those who directly experienced it - a combination of exhilaration for new-found freedoms but also, in Wolf Leo’s case, a loss of the comfort and security his GDR life brought.
Michael Macdonald
Intriguing history of a lost world

This classic tale of life in East Germany uses the tribulations of the Leo family as a metaphor for a controlled and confined society where people mouthed platitudes for a quiet existence. As the story unfolds, the demise of the GDR seems inevitable as the original support slumped into apathy.
Sofie
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
A family chronicle is really apt description. By this family, it's constellation and history you get a perfect insight into war/post-war Germany and what drove people to choose the east. It's nicely written and an interesting read. The author contrasts how he perceived his family in his youth with the reasons and history he now learns researching the book.
Aleksandar Obradovic
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you lived in any of Eastern European countries, this book will remind you of your childhood, adulthood, parents, grandparents, friends, daily life. If you haven't lived in such countries, this book will reveal to you how it all looked like.
Miranda
Great when in Berlin and immersed
Brooke Tolmachoff
Excellent

Wonderful memoir with multiple characters. Presented the complexity of a divided Berlin in an authentic way. Leaves the reader thinking for a long time.
Nicole Solis
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It was well-written and very interesting. Leo does a great job explaining and understanding the shades of gray that make up his family's past and political history.
Stacey
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it
More historical with his grandparents than him growing up. Meh
Lotte M.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 70-erne, tyskland
Very interesting to follow the History of DDR through the story of a family.
I really learned something about the thoughts, feelings and choices that made the country and made it fall apart.

Unlike Jana Hensel, Børn af zonen, Maxim Leo still has a link to his past and the country he grew up in. The house he grew up in is owned by a Westener, but he has been able to rent the house he grew up in:

"Those weekends in Basdorf are lovely, but they're confusing too. Everything in this country has changed
...more
Jake Goretzki
Aug 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
A pleasant surprise. I came to this expecting it to be a soft focus exercise in Ostalgie and revisionism. It's much more interesting than that. Indeed, Maxim Leon's family are plainly very interesting in general, coming from genuine GDR royalty of sorts (at least on one side), but distinctive too on his father's side (bit of an artist, him, and I get the impression he may have been one of the creators of those Sandman animations that turn up in a lot of GDR pop culture coverage).

This is really n
...more
Antenna
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
When Maxim Leo and his girlfriend were arrested by the East Berlin police in a final fatuous show of strength before the Wall was opened, she happened to have in her pocket an illegal church newspaper which had been given to Maxim by one of his parents' friends, who had written a piece in it about her reasons for leaving the Communist Party. Maxim was ashamed how quickly he caved in to pressure and "confessed" to all this, although the ultimate irony was that the friend herself turned out to be ...more
Susan Dill
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting biography. It switches back and forth in time so it can get a little confusing but the various attitudes of the characters are confusing as well. Not necessarily confusing to the reader but confusing to themselves. The GDR was a complicated country and thus so for its citizens. It must be shocking to live an entire life in a country with so many rules , boundaries and fears and then you wake up and it's gone. Wondering what it would like to be a Westerner and then all of a sud ...more
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“home. She would have sat in her armchair on the veranda with a pot of tea and a book. As if nothing had happened, as if the world out there were just as unchanged as her comfortable study.” 0 likes
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