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An Honest Man

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  114 ratings  ·  24 reviews
In West Berlin in 1989, eighteen-year-old Ralf has just left school and is living a final golden summer with his three best friends. They spend their days swimming, smoking and daydreaming about the future, oblivious to the storm gathering on the other side of the Berlin Wall.

But an unsettling discovery about his family and a meeting with the mysterious Oz shatters
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 9th 2019 by Hachette Australia
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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Anna Luce
★★★★✰ 3.5 stars (rounded up to 4)

In Ben Fergusson's An Honest Man our narrator Ralf revisits a particularly significant year in his life. The year is 1989 and Ralf is eighteen and lives with his family in West Berlin. Growing up in a bilingual household (his mother is English), Ralf has always felt like a bit of an outsider. In a few months him and his friends will part ways and go to separate universities (Ralf whose passion is geology plans to study in England). Until then they spend their
Eric Anderson
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Last year I went to visit Berlin for the first time over a long weekend. I dont think Ive ever been to a city thats still so haunted by the after effects of war. Certainly there is more to this thriving city which is dynamic and fascinating in many ways but walking through the streets there are evident battle scars around every corner. Of course, its perfectly understandable that this would be the case because it was turned into a battlefield during WWII and then became a city literally divided ...more
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have enjoyed Ben Fergussons previous novels, The Spring of Kasper Meier, and The Other Hoffman Sister, so I was delighted to receive this for review. An Honest Man, is set in Berlin, during the summer of 1989, when friends Ralf, Stefan, Maike and Petra, spend the time hanging out and their involvement in conservation and nature; passing the time before they receive their exam results and move on to university.

Ralf is half-English and plans to go to the UK to study, which is unsettling him
Andrew Howdle
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a novel that keeps a reader guessing to the end and shows imagination and skill in equal amounts.

The novel is written from the present, but looks back to the months prior to November 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell. The story is built skilfully around a series of doubles. The narrator, Raif Dorsam, aged eighteen, is bisexual. His life is stretched between sexual reality and fantasy: his love for Maike Willert and his desire for Osman Ozemir-- the mysterious Oz. As with a mirror facing a
Eddie Clarke
A great sense of period and location in this gay coming-of-age romance set in a tangle of Stasi & western spies as the Berlin Wall crumbles. Honesty between family and friends is the theme and the book is character-focussed rather than exclusively genre suspenseful. An enjoyable read - apparently the third segment of a Berlin trilogy set in the same building over the course of a century. After this I quite fancy checking out the first two.
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And this might have been my lasting memory of summer 1989. Even that moment I might have forgotten, recalling only my A levels and the Wall if people asked what that year had meant to me. But of course, in the end, 1989 meant neither of those things. It just meant Oz, and espionage how grand that word sounds now and I suppose my family and the terrible things we did.

Covering the tumultuous period of summer-winter of 1989 in West Berlin, Ben Fergussons new novel centres on 18-year-old Ralf, his
Benjamin Farr
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, lgbtqi
An excellent portrayal of a young man's life in West Berlin, 1989. It's hard to say much more without giving aspects of the plot away (the author keeps you guessing until the end), but a story I'll be thinking about long into the future.
Sep 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A story about family, espionage and truths. I was very intrigued with the directions the book took and the "twists" were very surprising. I had no knowledge of the plot going in and I was pleasantly surprised to say the least.
Nicolas Chinardet
This is the final book of a trilogy set in the same building.

The book starts with the languorous nonchalance of the hot 1989 Berlin summer it is set in and torpor seems always about to strike but slowly the plot catches pace to an almost satisfying ending.

There are a few elements of the plot that don't come as huge surprises when they finally happen but others are much more unexpected.

This is a gentle spy story but more importantly it is a tender coming of age and moving evocation of Berlin
Carlos Mock
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Honest Man is a novel about love and Cold War tensions, set in West Berlin in 1989. Ralf is eighteen and is waiting for his exam results to see if he's going to university in England. He and his friends spend their time together, enjoying the days of summer before they all part ways. When Ralf meets Oz at a swimming pool, he is intrigued by the man, and they are drawn closer as Oz reveals dangerous secrets about possible spies and divided loyalties. Suddenly Ralf must question what he knows ...more
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a thick, deeply enveloping treat of a read. Full of twists and deeply engaging it is a coming of age tale set in 1988-89 West Berlin where a group of teens, face the challenges of their own families during a tumultuous time in German history. The author has captured the spirit and the rich environment and wrapped around a tense and skillfully woven narrative.
The teens are enjoying a last summer before heading off to University and coming to grips with the coming changes in their own
Zoe Adams
Mar 05, 2020 rated it liked it
I think this should really be 3.5 stars. It was extremely well-written, and very interesting. The characters were well developed, and the story was actually interesting and compelling. It just wasn't my 'sort' of story. I did think 'I'd rather be reading something else' frequently, and yet, it was so well done that I couldn't give up on it. It was definitely a well-crafted narrative, and a well-written novel, just not a book I could fall in love with or feel particularly attached to.
Dr Tony
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A very entertaining, informative, and gripping book - in this year 30 years after it was set it was most interesting to read and experience. The West Berlin life must have been rather odd and is well-captured here. As are the brown eyes of Oz.
Andrew Smith
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wonderfully evocative of time and place Berlin, 1989 and an affecting portrait of young man, Ralf, and his friends poised on the brink of adulthood. An intriguing plot complicates Ralfs sexual confusion and makes for an entertaining page-turner. ...more
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is my favourite novel by Ben Fergusson. Its a brilliant coming of age love story that brings the 80s to life and makes you miss the characters as soon as the book ends. I want to read it again straight away.
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Phil Butcher
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
1989 Berlin - the year the wall comes down. Part a coming of age love story, part a spy thriller. Well written & captures the spirit of that era well.
Jason Davis
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a truly excellent book
Patrick Ruddick
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good fiction set in West Berlin with a gay twist, the wall and the Stasi spies lurking around. Worth a read.
Feb 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Caitlin Fletcher
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-my-shelf
I would have given this book three stars honestly but the way the characters are written made me get attached to them in a way that made me feel like I couldnt let them down like that. ...more
Neil Spark
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great coming-of-age/spy/thriller set in Germany at the time the wall came down. Ben Fergusson further explores here the theme of family relationships he did in his second novel The Other Hoffman Sister.

Nothing and no one are what they seem in this novel about 18-year-old Ralf who has just finished high school. He is part of a group of friends, one of whom, Maike, he is having a relationship. Ralf is also attracted to men and when he meets Turkish-born Oz, his life changes. Oz is an informant
Alexander Petkovski
rated it it was amazing
Aug 15, 2019
rated it really liked it
Jul 15, 2019
James Hewkin
rated it it was amazing
Jul 28, 2019
Roland Weis
rated it really liked it
Dec 31, 2019
Sarah Marshall
rated it really liked it
Dec 28, 2019
I can't really rate this,as I only got 20% of the way through the book.
There was nothing wrong with the writing,I'm obviously just not a patient enough reader,as I felt nothing had happened.
Ian Hazle
rated it really liked it
Mar 01, 2020
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Ben Fergusson is an award-winning novelist. He was born in Southampton in 1980 and grew up near Didcot in Oxfordshire. He studied English Literature at Warwick University and Modern Languages at Bristol University. Since leaving university he has worked as an editor, translator and publisher in London and Berlin and currently teaches at the University of Potsdam.

Bens debut novel, The Spring of

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