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The House by the Lake: A Story of Germany

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4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,773 ratings  ·  271 reviews
In the summer of 1993, Thomas Harding travelled to Germany with his grandmother to visit a small house by a lake on the outskirts of Berlin. It had been her ‘soul place’ as a child, she said – a holiday home for her and her family, but much more – a sanctuary, a refuge. In the 1930s, she had been forced to leave the house, fleeing to England as the Nazis swept to power. ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published September 24th 2015 by William Heinemann
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Dem
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Berlin. One House. Five Families. A hundred years of History.

The above description on the cover of The House by the Lake caught my attention straight away because I love stories about old houses and their inhabitants down through the years and the fact that The house by the Lake by Thomas Harding was located on the outskirts of Berlin and Harding's ancestors were forced to leave when the Nazis swept to power really enhanced my interest. A home which played a major part of so many family's
...more
Bettie
Dec 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06sg2m9

Description: In the summer of 1993, Thomas Harding travelled to Germany with his grandmother to visit a small house by a lake on the outskirts of Berlin. It had been her 'soul place' as a child, she said, a holiday home for her and her family, but much more - a sanctuary, a refuge. In the 1930s, she had been forced to leave the house, fleeing to England as the Nazis swept to power. The trip, she said, was a chance to see it one last time, to remember
...more
Chrissie
The book is interesting and I enjoyed it. It is thoroughly documented and researched. By studying the people who resided in a house 15km west of Berlin one gets a quick summary of German 20th Century history. It was built in 1927 as a summer residence, located on the picturesque Groß Glienicker See. Perfect for weekends, a place to relax, and that is exactly how it was used in the beginning. Then came the Depression and Hitler, ever increasing persecution of Jews, inflation, the nearby Gatow ...more
Stephen Goldenberg
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For me, this is the most enjoyable type of history. Thomas Harding's starting point is the story of his German jewish family prospering in 1920s Berlin. They buy the eponymous house by the lake outside Berlin as a weekend and holiday retreat. But then, instead of giving us a history of his family's struggles through the Nazi era, he focuses on the house itself and details the lives of the numerous families who occupied it both before and after his own. This structure provides a fascinating ...more
WarpDrive
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history_modern
One house. Five families. A hundred years of German history.

Very nice reading, a thoughtfully written, deeply personal and highly enjoyable book.
A vivid, brilliant, riveting history of the tumultuous twentieth century of the German nation, narrated through the detailed, fascinating chronicle of the lives of the subsequent owners and tenants of a lakeside house located just outside the south-western suburbs of Berlin; a very special house that happened to be cut off from West Berlin (and from
...more
Ingrid
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A clear and well written chronicle about the residents of the house at the lake of Gross Glienicke, near Berlin. We follow the five families and the history of the area during a whole century. At the same time it's the history of the house itself, how it was built, how it got ruined and how the project of restoration was started. I loved it and recommend it to everyone interested in German history.
Colleen
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Germany, as in other European countries, the lime was a sacred tree, whose presence protected against ill luck.

We know not the place where our loved ones are - we know the place where they are not.

Music will feed you in your life.

For the second time in its history, its shuttered windows endured a long summer, autumn and winter unopened and unwarmed by human company and the heat from a fire.

This is my last chance to tell my side of the story, to prove I am not an enemy, otherwise there is no
...more
Lyn Elliott
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
By choosing the house lived in by five families as the focus of his story, Harding is able to tell their micro stories against the wider backdrop of political and social events in twentieth century Germany.
Like other readers, I was most interested in the parts of that history with which I am least familiar - the lives of ordinary people during and after World War II, the Russian domination of East Germany, the wall itself (imagine it going through your garden, which is what happened to families
...more
Brian
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Thomas Harding's great grandfather, a successful Jewish doctor living in Berlin in the early twentieth century, built a summer house by a lake just outside the city where he and his family spent all their leisure time. Then Hitler came to power and the family was forced to flee to Britain.

Their house underwent a series of incarnations. Seized by the Nazis, it was subsequently bought for a knock down price by a successful music publisher. But he, too, lost possession when the land it stood upon
...more
Mikey B.
This is a wonderful chronicle of a cottage house by a lake during the twentieth century; of its inhabitants, neighbors, and the growth of the nearby village.

The house is situated by a small lake on the outskirts of Berlin. From the pictures in the book the landscape still has a very picturesque feel to it – making it very attractive to Berliners who wanted, and could afford, a home away from home. The lake’s surroundings were bought by a developer in the early 1900’s. His idea was to make money
...more
James
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
A great history book. Well trodden paths are rendered fresh as daisies by telling 100 years of Berlin history through the vantage point of lakeside home. You can read about the geopolitics of the Berlin Wall but is different when you see a bloody great wall built between someone's bungalow and the lake. Where a child is unable to invite any of his friends to a birthday party because they don't have the security clearance.

Brilliant book.
Laura
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
In the summer of 1993, Thomas Harding travelled to Germany with his grandmother to visit a small house by a lake on the outskirts of Berlin. It had been her 'soul place' as a child, she said, a holiday home for her and her family, but much more - a sanctuary, a refuge. In the 1930s, she had been forced to leave the house, fleeing to England as the Nazis swept to power. The trip, she said, was a chance to see it one last time, to remember it as it was.

But the
...more
Leigh
This book was a book for me and my wife to read together and we both loved it. We enjoyed the historical content but the humanistic way it was portrayed telling a story that we think we know about. The house was a physical place but in so many way was a metaphor as it was portrayed in the book of the life and times of Germany. I was intrigue to the end, not a edge of your seat intrigue but a human, social, historical intrigue that kept me reading. This book was informative and strangely touching ...more
Tripfiction
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A story of GERMANY in the 20th Century



4.5*

The House by the Lake was serialised on BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week.

The eponymous house of the title is a weekend cottage built on the shores of the lake at Groß Glienecke, a village West of metropolitan Berlin. Here the Wollank family, a land owning family, was looking to maximise their assets, renting out parcels of land to Berliners looking for some Summer respite. The Alexander family chose to build their house there in order to have a place of
...more
Hermien
Sep 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A well written fascinating insight into 20th century German history.
Eric Boot
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars very beautiful
Lindsay
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fascinating.
Elizabeth
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunning non fiction book that traces the story of the house through various families who lived in it over about 100 years. Fascinating way to understand history and families. One of my top reads!
Jill Meyer
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
British author Thomas Harding has traced the history of a section of Berlin by tracing the history of the house his family had lived in before WW2. The book, "The House by the Lake: One House, Five Families", is a nuanced look as much at the politics of the times as of the families who had lived in the house. Harding's own family had built the house on a lake side area in the southwest section of Berlin, near Potsdam, in the 1920's. They lived in Berlin but used this lakeside house as their ...more
Bev
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating premise - the author's family lived in a house situated near a lake that was on the border between East and West Germany. Research on the people who lived there resulted in this story.

I started with great interest, and read with high enthusiasm. Unfortunately though, my level of enjoyment waned as I continued. This is no "story".

Read my full review here.
TienvoorNegen
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Loved this book!
The house, just outside Berlin, changed countries for many times during a century. Very special.
I read even the notes (which usually I'd be inclined to skip)
Go read this well documented, beautifully written book!
Rosamund
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Highly readable and intimate account of a house in Groß Glienicke, a village between Berlin and Potsdam,where the author's great-grandparents used to holiday before fleeing to England in the 1930s. It covers a massive expanse of time, yet amazingly, I didn't really feel like it was rushed — though history buffs will probably want more detail of the wider context of events that shaped the house's surroundings.

The blurb and the reviews tout this as the story of a nation, and I guess it's (pretty
...more
Luanne Castle
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a cross between literary journalism and memoir. Harding’s great-grandfather built a summerhouse on a lake in Germany, but when the Nazis began to threaten the existence of his Jewish family, they fled to England. Harding discovered the house still standing and decided to research the history of the house. By following the lives of five families who lived in the house, the reader witnesses a personal viewpoint of German history from the late 19th century through both world wars, East ...more
Sophie Cayeux
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent reminder of German history during the 20th century through the lives of families who lived at a lake house in Berlin. The author is a descendant of one of the owners so there is a personal touch to the story.
It is an easy read.
A lake accessed from the house changed from being nature’s gift to locals for recreation -swimming and boating - to a non accessible military zone, its view blocked by a wall and its access denied.
After the reunification of Germany, the lake has resumed its
...more
Jacqueline Parton
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very factual and well wrote important that everyone should read this book to have some understanding of the affect of this period on so many even so long after the end of the Second World War. I however would love the book to have been expanded into a series of books, each family that lived in the house could teach us all so much more. When reading I like to get lost within the book and I feel there is so much more those people need to tell us of their suffering and existence through those ...more
Robin Roche
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! A different approach to chronicling history. I want to go visit this house now!
Gust
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4,5 stars
Margaret Ellwood
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excelllent book which I read because of the recommendation, although I had read about the restoration of the house in the Guardian. Using the house and the families as a focal point, it gives a quick overview of German history in the 20th Century. I borrowed it from the Library yesterday and sat down to read it as soon as I got home, and finished it this morning.
Sarah de Jong
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book which transports you to one house and the five families who lived in it across 100 years of German history. Well worth a read.
Valerie Campbell Ackroyd
Interesting

What I found most interesting was the author’s ability to weave capital H History with personal, familial history. I learned a lot about modern Germany. For many of us who have left family homes behind, the author’s labor of love in telling the story of the house by the lake, is poignant.
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Thomas Harding is an author and journalist who has written for the Financial Times, the Sunday Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, among other publications. He co-founded a television station in Oxford, England, and for many years was an award-winning documentary maker. He also ran a local newspaper in West Virginia, winning the West Virginia Association of Justice’s Journalist of the ...more