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Posts Tagged ‘berlin wall’

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Jessica Ball does an excellent job of narrating this audiobook about the relationship between young married couple Adam and Eva. The story opens with the two of them stumbling home after a drunken night out with friends – and more or less ends just a few pages later with the sudden, heartbreaking death of Adam. I was actually not expecting this, and it came as a real shock – it was not as the result of a dramatic accident of heroic incident; there was no prior illness or telltale signs – a young seemingly healthy young man simply goes to sleep and doesn’t wake up.

From there the story alternates between chapters where Eva is struggling to move on with her life in the present day, and chapters which tell the story of how Adam and Eva met, and how their relationship developed. So there is a dual storyline, and the one set in the past is not told chronologically, but it’s actually far less complicated than that sounds.

I’m in two minds about this book – I can definitely appreciate it, because the writing (and also the aforementioned narration) were both terrific. But I never quite loved this book. Somehow it didn’t quite hit the spot for me.

The death scene and immediate aftermath were so eloquently written – not overly dramatic or overblown, but just believable and moving. I also liked Adam and Eva’s friends Henry and Carmen, both of whom have their own stories and troubles (I would have liked to have read some events from Carmen’s points of view, as she was a really interesting character).

The relationship between Adam and Eva was entirely believable too – they loved each other, but yes they got irritated with other, yes they went through bad patches, and it wasn’t all wine and roses. But they wanted to be together. It’s life, and their relationship was easy to invest in.

There were some parts that delved into Eva’s family history, and events surrounding the division of Berlin by the Berlin Wall, and while this should have proved interesting to me – it’s a fascinating subject – it detracted from the overall story.

Objectively I can see that this is a well written book and that many people would love it. I didn’t love it, but I did like it, just…for me there was something missing, but I feel that was more to do with me the listener, than the book itself.

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In 1989, the world watched as the Berlin Wall – a symbol of oppression at its most blatant – was brought down.  The atmosphere was euphoric and everyone who saw those scenes knew that they were watching history being made.

Peter Millar is a British journalist, who had spent several years living in East Berlin, and who found himself literally caught in the middle of the celebrations, stuck at Checkpoint Charlie, trying to make sense of what was happening, while piecing together a story for The Sunday Times.

In this book, he describes the events that led to the wall being built, and what life was like for those on the Eastern side of it. People suddenly found themselves separated from family members, or forcibly ejected from their homes.  Living conditions were poor, and the economy crumbled.  Unlike most journalists who reported on the Wall and the division of a country, Millar has an on-the-ground view of events, as he lived through them personally.  The book also talks about how he initially fell into journalism (almost by accident), and worked in Fleet Street in the 1970s, before he became a foreign correspondent, and found a local public house in East Berlin named Metzer Eck.  There, he made some good friends and uncovered a lot of local opinion about life under the rule of the Soviet Union.

The political blunders and deliberate misunderstandings that led up to the demolition of the Berlin Wall are well explained and interesting.  Millar discusses how life changed for people on both sides, when Berlin became one city again. He also relates how, some years later, he went to look at his own file kept by the Stasi Police (who spied on the citizens of East Berlin), and discovered who, if any, of his friends had fed information about him to the Stasi.  This chapter was the most chilling for me.  It was commonplace for microphones to be hidden in the walls of people’s apartments, and for certain citizens to be kept under surveillance from dawn to dusk.  A day out for Millar with his wife, when they did nothing more than go to a beach for a picnic, is described in minute-by-minute detail.

Millar is an engaging narrator, with a wry wit.  However, his good natured sense of humour never lets the reader forget that this is a story of oppression and dictatorship; that the people described lived their lives under constant watch and distrust.  It is written in a chatty tone, but it is about a very serious subject.  Highly informative, well researched and extremely interesting.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

 

 

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