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Flight from Berlin: A Novel

Flight from Berlin: A Novel - David John Starting during the 1936 Berlin Olympics and taking place just pre-WWII, Flight From Berlin is a fascinating look at a pivotal time period as the world decides how to react to Nazi Germany. Almost by chance, an English reporter and a beautiful American athlete-turned-reporter receive information which could effect the outcome of that decision. They also become personally involved with a Jewish family who they hope to help escape.

There were parts of this book I liked a lot and parts I really didn’t. I think one reason for that was the somewhat uneven pacing. Events start slowly, then there’s a lot of action, then a kind of boring lull followed by some very exciting action. The initial dialog also felt a little choppy and unbelievable to me, although I’m not sure if that changed because the dialog really improved or if my initial problems were simply part of the process of starting a new book. One thing that was well done from the very beginning was the creation of atmosphere. The author never just spells out the fact that there is both rising fear and fanaticism lurking beneath the surface of German society, but little events do a lot to convey that impression. It was both very cool and very creepy to get a feel for what that time might have been like.

The other strong point of this book was the author’s ability to build an awesome story so tightly tied to historical events and speculation that it very nearly could have happened. The use of real people for even some of the more minor characters appealed to me a lot. It made the book more exciting and believable to google the names of even minor characters and find out they were real! I also liked how much information was available at the end of the book, explaining which characters were real and which just modeled on real people, as well as identifying plot elements based on speculation by historians.

There were just two things which I think kept this from being up there with Tom Clancy novels for me. First, while the action scenes were incredible without being over the top, there were some lulls which made the plot drag a little. And second, I didn’t think the information everyone was trying to get their hands on was all it was cracked up to be. After the build up, learning the contents of the dossier seemed like kind of a let down. As a result, all of the attempts to control the contents felt less urgent. Finally, I think it’s worth mentioning that this was at times a pretty violent book. The violence was never described graphically, but it was still quite brutal and was just this side of being too much for me.

This review first published at Doing Dewey.