Mark's Reviews > The Berlin Novels: Mr Norris Changes Trains & Goodbye to Berlin

The Berlin Novels by Christopher Isherwood
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's review
Mar 26, 2011

really liked it
Read in April, 2011

Although Mr Norris Changes Trains does have a linear narrative, Goodbye to Berlin is just a collection of random events and characters. Both books really go nowhere, but it's a pretty enjoyable journey getting there! They are written in simple, yet evocative language, so you can really "see" the characters and places. However, the main character in both books is so annoying; a totally blank personality-free observer, with the occasional bout of peevishness. He describes Nazi beatings with the same emotion as watching a dog cross the road; you feel like shaking him and shouting, "Wake up and smell the coffee!" And lots of the time it is frustrating because you THINK you know what he's hinting at, but just wish he'd come right out and say it! I suppose in that respect it suffers a little from the time in which it was written; like The Portrait of Dorian Gray, where it keeps saying in effect, "I can't tell you what he did, but oh, he WAS absolutely wicked!" when all he appears to do is go out and smoke and have a bit too much to drink. Goodness knows how they managed to make "Cabaret" from "Goodbye to Berlin"; certainly with a great deal of imagination and plotting - more like "based on characters created by Christopher Isherwood" than based on the book... But really these are minor quibbles and irritations. The writing is so good that Isherwood totally recreates a 1930s Berlin that you can really inhabit; that you can see and almost touch and you can't help but enjoy both books. Definitely one I'll look out for more from!
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