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


4.18  ·  Rating details ·  4,332 ratings  ·  359 reviews
Der große Gesellschaftsroman von Juli Zeh
Manchmal kann die Idylle auch die Hölle sein. Wie das Dorf "Unterleuten" irgendwo in Brandenburg. Wer nur einen flüchtigen Blick auf das Dorf wirft, ist bezaubert von den altertümlichen Namen der Nachbargemeinden, von den schrulligen Originalen, die den Ort nach der Wende prägen, von der unberührten Natur mit den seltenen Vogelarten
Hardcover, 639 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by Luchterhand Literaturverlag
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 Unterleuten, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,332 ratings  ·  359 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Unterleuten
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
While reading this hefty brick (915 grams), I came across the news that chances are small that a second nudist beach at the Belgian coast will open soon, as the Nature and Forestry Agency advised against it because of the presence of the crested lark (Galerida cristata), a rare and protected bird species. This bird provides the government with a welcome excuse to wriggle out of the quagmire, as the ‘activities in the margin of a nudist beach’ could be considered detrimental for the bird's surviv ...more
Dec 29, 2019 rated it liked it
With this book Zeh confirms that she is one of the most interesting and best German writers of the moment. "Our kind of people" (unfortunately there's no English translation yet) combines a high literary level with a remarkable current relevance value. To begin with the latter: the book highlights the impact of the ecological issue on a small village community in eastern Germany; after the announcement that a wind farm is going to be installed nearby, the little village of Unterleuten is immedia ...more
Friederike Knabe
The three stars reflect my mixed reactions to this novel. On the positive side, Juli Zeh takes real life social and political conflicts and explores them within the confines of a fictional village not far from Berlin in former East Germany. The tensions around technological progress, in the form of a wind farm project, breaks open long held resentments and hostilities of the past power structures. Those readers familiar with the impact on East Germany in tbe aftermath of German unification will ...more
Ira Therebel
"The worst evils in the world are not done by bad people. Surprisingly there aren't that many of them. Much more dangerous are the people who believe they are right. There are a lot of them and they don't have any mercy." (loosely translated)

This is one of the many wisdoms we get from this book that is an absolute pleasure to read.

Set in a small village in ex DDR this is a story of people living in it, their reactions and actions when building of wind turbines is proposed. Doesn't sound that exc
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, fiction
A poor man's Game of Thrones, which takes place at the back of beyond in Brandenburg. It's told from multiple perspectives which unmasks the protagonists' inadequacies and their lack of insight into human nature. They are not fighting about the iron throne but about wind power and endangered birds. The cast consists among others of a power-mad horse-lady, a crazy cat lady, a child obsessed mother, a starry-eyed idealist sociologist from Berlin, an investor with too much money, a man who would th ...more
Susana Escobar
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Almost 4 stars, really. Loved the way social mechanisms are portrayed particularly the oppositions DDR/West, city/country, old/Young.
However I think the way everything ends is way too dramatic.
Raymond Burt
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A colleague recommended this book to me when I was in Germany this July, and, having plenty of time, I purchased it and began reading. Absolutely gripping. Each chapter takes the perspective of one of the inhabitants of this rural village outside of Berlin. As reviews promised, it is an insightful social commentary on contemporary Germany. With each round of chapters, we learn more about the characters, their views about the others, and about their pasts. The clashes are East/West, urban/rural, ...more
Uli Vogel
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It feels like a whole village of stereotyped characters having lived through the historical period before and after the reunification of the Germanies. Well, so am I. Consequently, this is highly recommended for people like me.
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am very, very bad with summaries, so... feel free to consult wikipedia for it. But basically, the story follows the inhabitants of Unterleuten, a small village in rurual eastern germany. There, an energy company intends to build a wind power plant, so they try to purchase the necessary lands. There are several of them, and they are in the hands of people with vastly different interests. So we learn about their interests, dreams and hopes, as the book tells the story of multiple families inhabi ...more
Thomas Hettich
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a very enjoyable read. Although 635 pages long, not once did I consider to stop reading it (something that I am prone to doing). The main plot is set up in the first 100 or so pages and from then, for me, it was not the furthering of the plot that I found most interesting, but rather how we get to know each person further (every chapter changes viewpoint between 11 main characters) - we learn the characters backstory, their motivations, to appreciate and root for each of them. How a pers ...more
Tim Nowotny
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a big surprise to me. It is written like a good thriller as you can expect from the author.
The characters are great and you are always in for a few surprises. Reflecting over this book is beneficial as it does the seven samurai (telling the story from different unreliable points of view) with you but not needed for enjoyment.
I bought it after reading it digitally just so I can give it away!
Jeroen Swinnen
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Very well constructed - almost like a game - and entertaining at a little above ‘intellectual soap level’ with a few highlights, but not the sociological masterpiece I expected after all the hype. As a study in human behaviour, I found it just not interesting enough (with the somewhat detached ending as a surprising highlight), and as a story, for me it was written in a cold manner, too much from a distance, which made me not care enough. Also, it’s at least 150 pages too long.
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Delightful story set in a fictitious small village in the vast rural area around Berlin. A cast of several couples and families living there, either born and raised on the sandy grounds or newcomers trying to find their place there.

Everyone has their own agenda: protecting the local birds, setting up their semi-legal car repair shop, establishing a riding horse stable, or just settling old scores. Tempers get going when the village is selected for a wind park development that could benefit some
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My third novel after Nullzeit and Alles auf dem Rasen.
I will have to come back to Alles auf dem Rasen one day, totally didn’t get it and kind of daydreamed the whole time while reading it. Maybe it just wasn’t the right time, maybe it’s just not for me.

Nullzeit I absolutely loved and the little village of Unterleuten fascinated me.
With Juli Zeh’s characters it’s like viewing people through a magnifying glass.
Every single character is described in detail without creating a hero or even a slig
Melanie F
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Years before Unterleuten came out Ms Zeh wrote and published (under a pseudonym) the little self help book that one of the characters is reading. She (and her publishers perhaps) made facebook pages for some of the characters, leaking her fictive world into the “real” albeit digital world. This makes Unterleuten more than just a novel, but for me a piece of performance art.

That being said, the book was just too long. I stopped reading when the woman on the train platform with the dog. Not spoil
Menno Zandee
Oct 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I might have had "great expectations" about Juli Zeh's novel "Unterleuten" (Dutch translation: "Ons soort mensen"). True, the story about a small rural village in the former DDR after the "Wende" is a proof of her craftsmanship in writing good prose. The point of view shifts from the one to the other citizen of the village, and Zeh beautifully depicts each character with it's peculiarities and shortcomings, and bluntly said: egocentric point of view. "Unterleuten is a jail" is the motto of the b ...more
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-2018
This book tackles life in a small village outside Berlin.
The book is characterised by a very strong profiling of each village resident. Each resident depicts a set of small human traits, the reader can identify with.
The village represents the clash between the current world view and the demons of a distant past. It is a thin line to walk the challenges of the future and keep or conquer the values of the past. There is only one certainty in life, and that is change. Every human being deals with t
Liz Thackray
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german
[Read in German]
Interesting book, but a difficult read. Each Chapter follows the fortunes of a different protagonist in the story of a community in the former DDR. The stories intertwine and develop, with a lot of back stories as well as apparent current events. It gave an insight into some of the changes in communities in the former DDR, now being settled by outsiders - or being seen as investment opportunities. I am glad to have finished the book, but found it less than satisfying in so many,
The ending was underwhelming enough that I cannot give it four stars.

I did enjoy the overall atmosphere, the German setting and characters as well as the political landscape of Unterleuten. Linda Franzen appealed to me from the start and I loved her characters the most.
When the birds were first mentioned I had hoped we would learn more about them or that they would be a bigger plot point. Honestly I had wished anything that been a more prominent part of the plot which I why I was not satisfied
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Chapters are told from the perspective of the different stakeholders and it's amazing how Zeh puts herself in the shoes of each. As a reader, you get insight in how their brains are wired and why. Juli Zeh dissects human kind as well as society, and skillfully weaves relational issues into current political and environmental ones. Much enjoyed it from cover to cover.
Jana Viktoria
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was skeptic when given this book for my bday. I work in renewable energy and thought a bit like „same old same old“. And partly it is. The discussion about the wind park is so real?! But then the characters are superb and I love how she makes them
Interact. And the unexpected twists of course which by the end are just kind of logical?!
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good read that hits close to home and plays well on parts of what it means to live in the East German country side and the complexity of the social system that is a village. I did feel though it dragged on a bit and painting each of the many characters utterly flawed is great but also doesn't really make you root for them. 4/5 stars
Alexandra M
Mar 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Nice literature, well written & amazing insights on the main characters. Sometimes a bit difficult to make progress, very detailed- but nice topic: about socialization, living together in a small town somewhere near Berlin and the book is very clear about the fact: we never know the people surrounding us. ...more
Matt Pfaff
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's epic! Both a psychodrame and a story about people and an environmental thriller.
It's always wonderful to follow Juli in her tracking of people's minds and behaviours.
For readers interested in some German history it evolves more understanding for the psyche of both East Germans and West Germans.
By the way - the motion picture shown on TV in 3 parts was also recommendable.
Tim Vriesacker
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this impressive novel, Zeh describes the 21st century as 'the era of unconditional egocentrism'. 'Unterleuten' is a modern age 'Game of Thrones': a set of relentless characters that are driven by greed and self-interest, intrigues galore, an excellent plot... Bloody great book!

May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dutch-literature
A thrilling novel about the complicated relations between villagers in Unterleuten, a small village in the former German Democratic Republic. The village as an isolated unit, seperate from the state, where justice is taken into the villager's own hands, based on old feuds. A real page turner.
Aline Boogaart
A long-winded story about a village in former East German. It is said to be European literature of the highest level, but I just found it a tedious story with some interesting thoughts and observations.
Aug 05, 2020 rated it liked it
At some point, the Berliner game developer complains he can't keep all the villagers apart like it's some unnecessary complicated Dostoyevski novel. That's a lovely piece of ironic self-reflection by the author.
Ann De Haes
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I read in a long time. The whole town came to life, and I immediately made my travel companion read it too so we could talk about it.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Herkunft
  • Was man von hier aus sehen kann
  • Allegro Pastell
  • This House Is Mine
  • Was weiße Menschen nicht über Rassismus hören wollen (Aber wissen sollten)
  • Mittagsstunde
  • Alle Toten fliegen hoch: Amerika
  • Untenrum frei
  • Der Pfau
  • Marianengraben
  • Vom Ende der Einsamkeit
  • Ach, diese Lücke, diese entsetzliche Lücke
  • Die Liebe im Ernstfall
  • Miroloi
  • exit RACISM. rassismuskritisch denken lernen
  • Wann wird es endlich wieder so, wie es nie war
  • Die dunkle Seite des Mondes
  • Alte weiße Männer: Ein Schlichtungsversuch
See similar books…
Juli Zeh is a German novelist.

Her first book was Adler und Engel (in English: Eagles and Angels), which won the 2002 Deutscher Bücherpreis for best debut novel.

Juli Zeh has lived in Leipzig since 1995. Zeh studied human rights law in Passau and Leipzig, passing the Zweites Juristisches Staatsexamen - comparable equivalent to the U.S. bar exam - in 2003. She also has a degree from the Deutsches Li

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
12 likes · 9 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Wenn ich in Unterleuten eins gelernt habe, dann dass jeder Mensch ein eigenes Universum bewohnt, in dem er von morgens bis abends recht hat.” 9 likes
“Im Wald gab es Töten ohne Hass, Fortpflanzung ohne Liebe, Kooperation ohne Gesetze, Ernährung ohne Wissenschaft und Lebensfreude ohne Philosophie.” 1 likes
More quotes…