A Gentleman and a Rogue

Friday, August 14, 2009

Book Review Friday - A Woman in Berlin

I read this book about 2 years ago and I found it a fascinating, poignant read. To my surprise, I found a Movie Trailer on You Tube for it. I understand the movie was released in the US in July 2009 in limited distrubtion. I would LOVE to see it, but it's not playing in my area. Here's my review and a link to the You Tube Preview. Enjoy!

Steph

*******
Book Review for: “A Woman in Berlin”
Written by: Anonymous
259 pages
Picador
ISBN: 0-312-42611-9-51400
$14.00
5 Stars


“A Woman in Berlin” tells the amazing story of the fall of Berlin in 1945 and the subsequent Russian invasion before the allies arrived. The author paints a riveting picture of the war’s aftermath and chronicles in brutal detail what she had to do to stay alive.

The novel is told in a journal format and starts on Friday, April 20, 1945. The story is by an anonymous woman who describes herself only as a thin, pale blond who wears the same overcoat. Her first entry presents a graphic scene. Berlin is under siege by the Russians. The author knows the Russians are about to liberate the city and she’s dreading it. They don’t have a good reputation as liberators. She lives in an apartment building with several other residents. The rations are poor, there’s no radio, and there’s no electricity. Gas stoves, central heating, and hot plates are all “gifts of the modern age,” but ineffectual if there’s no power.

The bombs intensify around Berlin. The fighting heats up and then nothing. An eerie lull settles over he city. The author writes with unflinching honesty noting how the German society was built around the strength of their men, but now shattered, their men are miserable and powerless, leaving the German women at the mercy of their conquerors.

On April 27, the author notes that the Russians have entered Berlin. They’ve quickly earned the nickname of “Ivan.” She realizes that in order to be safe, she had better find a Russian officer to watch over her. She knows that in order to earn his favor she’ll have to be intimate with him, but it’s a risk she’s willing to take.

The author is candid. Having worked as a reporter previously, she can speak Russian. The initial Russians she meets are surprised by her. She seeks out a Russian lieutenant, Anatol, and becomes involved with him. He’s good to her and she gets used to him. Their relationship is short-lived. He’s soon transferred and a man known at the Major comes into the author’s life as her new lover and protector. The Major is tender and respectful of her, something that is stunning to her.

Slowly, but surely, Berlin starts to come alive. Basic services are beginning to be restored. By the end of the novel, which ends on June 16, with her own announcement that she intends to stop writing, the author meets with her fiancĂ©, Gerd, who after discovering how she’s slept with several Russian men after the city’s fall, leaves her a final time. The novel concludes with the announcement of American and British forces taking over the southern part of Berlin, giving the author a sense of hope after the Russian misery she’s endured.

One of the main themes throughout the novel is the rape of Berlin after the city falls – not only of it’s possessions, but of it’s women. The author chooses to give her body to Russian officers, (the officers have a reputation of keeping a woman relatively safe, whereas an enlisted man was known to rape a woman) but she still feels no better than a whore. After a pregnancy scare, she wonders how many other women have done what she has only to end up pregnant by a Russian soldier.

The author humanizes a slice of history that is slowly fading from our view. The book is raw and honest, discussing uncomfortable truths that today are still uncomfortable. Rich in history, “A Woman in Berlin,” is a stirring and poignant read.

*****
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEZxcSf9HwM

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