Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Leaving Berlin” as Want to Read:
Leaving Berlin
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Leaving Berlin

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  5,813 ratings  ·  781 reviews
The acclaimed author of The Good German “deftly captures the ambiance” (The New York Times Book Review) of postwar East Berlin in his “thought-provoking, pulse-pounding” (Wall Street Journal) New York Times bestseller—a sweeping spy thriller about a city caught between political idealism and the harsh realities of Soviet occupation.

Berlin, 1948. Almost four years after the
Paperback, 371 pages
Published September 3rd 2015 by Simon & Shuster (first published November 6th 2014)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Leaving Berlin, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Rachel I didn't take it as irrational behavior but each followed the reality of his/her path.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,813 ratings  ·  781 reviews

Sort order
Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
If you are a fan of Alan Furst, David Downing , Rebecca Cantrell or Jonathan Rabb then this is definitely for you.

I am a great fan of what some call “Berlin Noir” and in this book you can almost taste the grit and smell the grime of post war Berlin.

Alex Meier’s politics have put him at the forefront of the US communist witch-hunts. In order to stay in the US he makes a deal with the CIA to be their agent in his native Berlin.

The book dives straight into the action and doesn’t really pause for b
Martha Nance
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is my first Joseph Karon novel and I must say I was a bit disappointed. The story never really held my attention and the writing style was awkward. Karon never made me feel invested in the characters. I never wanted to cheer for any of them (or boo the bad guys). The plot was too pat. Drop in ex-Berliner, add water, poof-instant spy. I would read a little and then put the book down and find that I really had to struggle to pick it up again. I just wasn't interested in what happened next.
Mal Warwick
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Joseph Kanon’s spy novels reek of authenticity. Set in the years immediately following World War II, they conjure up the fear and desperation that hung over Europe in the early days of the Cold War, when it seemed as though open war might well break out between the two emerging superpowers, erstwhile allies.

For Leaving Berlin, Kanon has chosen as his setting the bleakest possible time and place: rubble-strewn Berlin in 1949 as the Allied airlift to embattled West Berlin was underway. It was befo
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
World War II is a popular subject in publishing right now. But what happened after the war ended, particularly in Germany, seems to remain almost strictly within the spy thriller arena - which is a shame, because the years after the war were fraught with danger, political and social quagmire, and tragedy, drama, and valor.

Joseph Kanon highlights the dilemmas faced by survivors of the murderous Nazi regime in his masterful, sparely written and haunting "Leaving Berlin." His protagonist, Alex Meie
John Brooke
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I acknowledge John LeCarre as the gold standard for a generation of spy novelists, but Joseph Kanon has a warmer heart. Forgive the comparison to begin here – it helps me understand my reaction to a really great book.

I can laugh at LeCarre’s witty, sardonic irony and enjoy his beautiful writing till I get to the end of the story - which usually leaves me frustrated, if not angry. Why? No moral resolution. Just cold, cynical ambiguity reflecting the heartless world of real politik and its actors
Carey Combe
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Really loved this and a portrayal of a shattered East Berlin and how no-one gets the moral high ground.
W. Whalin
Feb 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
I read this book cover to cover but did not find it compelling or a page turner. It barely held my attention but I did complete it--reading each page. This experience is why I call it "OK" and nothing more.
Linda C
Jun 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2015
There were some very good moments in this book and some other, not-so-good moments.

On the positive side, Kanon is skilled at creating the atmosphere of post-war Berlin, both the physical look and feel of the city and also the mindset of the Berliners. There have been a number of books written in the past decade that attempt to see into the mind of the post-war German. Given the atrocities that the Nazis inflicted on so many, I find it difficult to believe that Germans in that era could ever thin
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.75 stars: “Leaving Berlin” is one of the best spy thrillers I’ve read. It’s fast paced, with fast paced dialogue. In fact, while reading, I clearly saw this as a movie. The screenwriters wouldn’t have to do much, just use the book.

The story takes place in post war Berlin, in 1949, when there is an East Berlin and a West Berlin. The German people are conflicted as to whether they want to be a capitalist society or a socialist.

The protagonist, Alex Meier, is a Jewish writer who fled Berlin to e
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderfully written story. Mr. Kanon is a fantastic storyteller who takes the reader through some dangerous situations while educating them on what happened after the war ended. He does a great job showing how scary Berlin was even several years after the war ended. How people were still being sent away for talking against authority.

Our office building security guy was in Berlin after the war and as I was reading this book I kept thinking about him and what he might have gone through and
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joseph Kanon is a master of complexity and pacing, and this novel of a post-WWII divided Berlin is a brilliant example of that.

The protagonist is Alex Meier, a well-known American author who runs afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee because he refuses to finger fellow Hollywood artists as Communists. He has also been through a divorce. He is exiled to East Berlin after making a secret deal with the American government to spy for it, in return for one day being able to go back to A
Robert Intriago
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, espionage
A very good story about conditions in east Berlin after WWII. A Jewish writer is coerced by the CIA to return to East Germany or face being blacklisted for having been a socialist prior to the war. Faced with the choice Alex Meyer returns to East Berlin and receives a heroes welcome by the communist party. The CIA wants him to make contact with an ex girlfriend, Irene, who is now dating a high ranking Russian official. The story is complex and intricate. The character of Irene is completely capt ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
East Berlin was a robust setting for all manner of stories for at least 50 years. The changing affiliations, nuanced relationships and remnants of WWII animosities leave so much room for a storyteller to spin their tale. Leaving Berlin manages to weave in all the elements and include aspects of the US McCarthyism that sends the protagonist back to Berlin post-war. I had difficulty with the writing style even though I am very familiar with the German authors and characters referenced; the dialog ...more
Gina *loves sunshine*
Jun 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
I plan to visit Berlin in August so I really wanted to read something that gave me that old Berlin feel. Having read some reviews awhile back I thought this would give it to me, but I gave up before any of the good stuff I am sure?? This book just so boring! No character building at all, no established plot by 25%?? I gave up! The narrator on the audio version could possibly have ruined it all on his own, he wasn't the best! I have a feeling...eventually...I could have gotten a picture of the ol ...more
Wow! So much better than "The Good German"
Dec 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
LEAVING BERLIN. (2015). Joseph Kanon. ***1/2.
This is the latest espionage novel from Mr. Kanon. It is a good story with the exception of the first third of the book. In that section, Kanon introduces all of the characters who will make up his cast by bringing us to a party hosting our hero, Alex Meier, on his return to Berlin from America. It’s a good party, but like at most big gatherings, I tend to forget a new name after I am introduced to two others. This later comes back and bites me in the
A friend of mine lent me this book because she couldn't really make head nor tails of it. Even from the start, I could see why it was such a problem for her.

The subject matter is very interesting. I've always wondered how Germany felt after World War II, not only that they lost the war, but also about the division of their nation into East and West Germany, between Communism and capitalism. This book takes place in 1948, when America was airlifting supplies into Berlin while the Soviets were tr
When I saw the publisher’s description for international bestselling author Joseph Kanon’s newest novel, Leaving Berlin, I realized I hadn’t read a sneaky spy thriller in a long time and that I had only rarely read anything about the Berlin split after World War II. I was intrigued by the concept of this novel, which frankly gave me chills. A Jewish man escapes the camps to America only to find himself in a rock-and-a-hard-place situation that lands him back in Berlin immediately after the war. ...more
Joseph Kanon has written another winner. LEAVING BERLIN is a post-World War II novel that I would call historical fiction/thriller. Here is Berlin four years after the Nazis, now not yet totally Stalinist but divided into sectors. Alex Meier, a socialist who left Berlin before the war, has returned. He lives in the Russian sector.

But this book is, most of all, a thriller. Meier is recruited by the Americans to spy on his old girlfriend and, not much later, he is recruited by a German Communist.
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best spy stories I have ever read. You will be breathless by the extraordinary climax. A complex and devious story devised by a master of prose, a master of suspense. Brilliant.
Maine Colonial
I've always enjoyed Joseph Kanon's books, which are thrillers set in various places around the world, but all taking place shortly after World War II. Kanon mines that same ground over and over because it's one of the richest veins of material you could ever hope to find. The war ended, but not the fighting. It was just a different kind of battle and the players shifted around. No more Allies fighting Nazis, now it's the Cold War, with Berlin being dead center in the new conflict.

Alex Meier was
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Four and a half stars. I have found Mr. Kanon's books to be inconsistent; some great, some not so great. This is another of the great ones.
Here Mr. Kanon explores a subject I've not seen done before: East Berlin immediately (1948-49) after WW II. The Russians have taken over, and many idealistic, hopeful Germans are seeking to embrace the new "Socialist" order, despite their raw memories of the brutal Russian invasion--and the obvious similarities of the repressive Russian occupation to the Na
Gabriella Gricius
Dec 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Why I read: Given my interest in Eastern Europe, there was little doubt I would find ‚Leaving Berlin‘ interesting (Thank goodness it was on Net-Galley!). Not only was I extremely excited about reading the book because of the subject topic, but in addition I have read Joseph Kanon before, specifically his book, the Istanbul Passage - and was more than a little intrigued to read his latest book.

Review: If there were one word I would use to describe ‚Leaving Berlin‘, it would be riveting. The book
Toni Osborne
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
For those who love spy thrillers stage in the aftermath of WW11 “Leaving Berlin” brings us to 1949 the year of Berlin Airlift, after the roads and railways were closed and the city was partitioned into sectors. You needed to cross checkpoints to travel between East and West Berlin and this if you were permitted to do so.

Alex Meier is the main player, a novelist and refugee who has returned to Berlin after being expelled from the USA. The communists greet him with open arms but soon the CIA will
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is really, really good.

I think the dialogue is terrific and I love the fact that there is a lot of it. The first chapter is full of things happening and it's important to pay close attention to everything Kanon is showing you. The historical context was evident every step of the way, the appalling situation in East Berlin and East Germany as the Soviets control the losers and begin to close of all exits to the west. I think if you don't know anything about this period in history, and it's
Alex Berenson
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Better than Istanbul Passage, at least to me. A thoughtful evocation of post-war Berlin, and if the coincidences do pile up, they pay off at the end. One of the best last lines I've ever read...
Boris Feldman
Mar 07, 2015 rated it did not like it
My eyes are closed
But I'm not asleep.
Snore snore snore.

Kanon's weakest novel. Slow. Boring.

I quit after 45%.
Feb 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
DNF at 14%. I loved some of Joseph Kanon's books in the past, but this one just doesn't come near the level of The Good German or Los Alamos, my favorite. The writing is strange, sentences cut up into little bits for no reason. It is cold, and no character really stands out. You don't want to know what happens to them, and you don't care why they do things. The plot is slow and not very original. I liked learning more about the historical period, but it's not enough to hold my attention through ...more
Dec 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Everyone is spying on everyone else in this post WWII espionage novel set in Berlin during its infamous airlift in 1949. The city is divided into sectors (British, French, Soviet and US) and resides in the Soviet Zone of the country. The currency of value is intelligence, as the city tries to drag itself out of the rubble that still litters its streets.

The novel therefore is a great primer on the immediate post-war climate in Germany: the legacy of the Nazis, the returning exiles trying to regai
Beth (bibliobeth)
Dec 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Leaving Berlin is the last novel that was picked for the Richard and Judy Autumn book club 2015 here in the UK and I approached this book with slight trepidation I'm afraid to say as I'm not really a huge fan of espionage novels. Could this book change my mind? Well, it had its moments for sure and there were some points where I thought I was going to give it four stars but then others where I have to be honest, I was fighting to stay awake. I kept reading because of those four star moments but ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Lehrter Station (John Russell, #5)
  • Then We Take Berlin (Joe Wilderness, #1)
  • Prussian Blue (Bernie Gunther, #12)
  • Battleground Berlin: CIA vs. KGB in the Cold War
  • Midnight in Europe (Night Soldiers, #13)
  • Brandenburg Gate (Robert Harland #3)
  • Stealing the Future: An East German Spy Story (East Berlin Series, #1)
  • Der Schieber (Frank Stave #2)
  • Forgotten Land: Journeys Among the Ghosts of East Prussia
  • Rosa (Berlin Trilogy, #1)
  • Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin
  • Land i datid
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Maybe,” Sasha” 0 likes
“in wool skirts and thin shapeless cardigans. “You know who’s also here?” 0 likes
More quotes…