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Behind the Mask is Nothing

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3.83  ·  Rating details ·  12 ratings  ·  9 reviews
Stef, an overworked teacher who questions her husband’s fidelity, is drawn into a community on a remote Exmoor estate run by the couples counsellor and slowly descends into the cult without even realizing it. Meanwhile, her grandmother, who is writing her memoir about the Hitler Youth girls in Berlin with a mixture of guilt and nostalgia, looks on helplessly as Stef is dra ...more
Paperback, 331 pages
Published May 17th 2017 by Holland House
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  12 ratings  ·  9 reviews


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Giulia
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
I don't particularly like to trash books or be overly critical when I post any reviews. I mean I have never published a book-I imagine how difficult that must be. But in my opinion, this book misses the mark. It is extremely confusing and choppy. The main plot involves Stef, a selfish and self absorbed woman approaching mid life. Stef has two healthy daughters and parents and a loving grandmother, Gran. Unfortunately, she has a husband who she believes is straying and a hateful boss who wants he ...more
Jackie Law
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Behind The Mask Is Nothing, by Judy Birkbeck, is a devastating exploration of the abuse of power and the complicity of those who enable such abuse due to their inherent desire to belong. The protagonist is a woman named Stef who is a teacher, a wife, and a mother of two university aged daughters. She has a close and supportive family although, as is the way with families, the shadows from their shared history stretch long.

Stef’s grandmother, Hilda, helped raise Stef and her sister while their pa
...more
Rekha Shane
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have to say I love, love, loved this book! And yet, it wasn't love at first sight. It was a slow burner. To begin with, the story wasn't grabbing me. It felt like it was jumping around too much and the language was too flowery. I just couldn't get a handle on it. But a few short chapters in as I began to make sense of the storylines, everything began to flow beautifully. Birbeck's metaphors had a wonderful cadence to them and I began to draw parallels with Ali Smith's poetic yet humorous style ...more
Jenny Cooper
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
Stef suspects her husband Mark is having an affair and cracks are starting to appear in their relationship. They are introduced to a couples counselor, Oliver, who is the leader of a commune based in a remote part of Exmoor. While Stef feels accepted by the community and becomes fascinated by both the lifestyle and the charismatic leader, Mark become suspicious. As Stef becomes more deeply involved, their relationship deteriorates further and both Mark and Stef’s grandmother, Hilda, can only loo ...more
Elizabeth Robinson
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found Behind the Mask is Nothing a very good read from various angles. To me the characters were extremely believable. I related to Stef well, especially having been a full time teacher and also to Mark. The differences between female and male teachers in their attitudes to the job and relationships with their pupils is accurately shown, along with the pressures of modern day pressures of teaching. Stef's confidence is being eroded both from a professional angle and then in the ensuing mistrus ...more
Anne Clark
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very absorbing and detailed novel dealing with the power and arrogance of cults and their leaders that exist today and in the past, in a Nazi run Germany...with devastating consequences.
Helen Broughton
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this to be a thoroughly absorbing book on the very timely theme of charismatic leadership, and how easily it can become an abuse of power. Stef and her husband are gradually drawn into a 'psychotherapeutic community'. As things begin to unravel for them both the line between a personal development group and a cult become increasingly blurred.

In parallel Stef's grandmother is recollecting her teenage years in Nazi Germany when she was completely swept up by the excitement of the Hitler Yo
...more
Jude Taylor
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was gripped by this thought-provoking, unputtable-down novel which links haunting past events from Nazi Germany with current day issues involving psychological manipulation and mind control. This book came along during a quiet period and I was able to indulge myself, which of course meant that the story came to an end all too soon, but I couldn't put it down. ...more
Bob Newbury
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A poignant modern tale of vulnerability, manipulation and betrayal, coupled with astute parallels with life in the Third Reich and the universality of human susceptibility.

Deep and thought-provoking.
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Judy Birkbeck has an MA in Creative Writing from Exeter and has stories published in Litro, Lampeter Review, Liars’ League, Unthology 9, Manchester Review, Aesthetica, Leicester Writes, MIR15, Ellipsis Zine, The Shadow Booth, 2019 Dinesh Allirajah anthology, 2019 Sun Story Award, Lighthouse and Aftermath Magazine, and an essay in Permaculture Magazine. A novel, Behind the Mask is Nothing, is publi ...more

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