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Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up here >>

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Sheila Jolliffe

I like a book which makes me want to carry on reading. At the end of each chapter, I am left wondering what the author is going to do next, and I have to read on.

This book was not like that. There was no suspense......just a rather boring account of life in East Berlin. I would have closed it after the first chapter, but I was committed to read the whole book, and I did so. After page 100 there was a 'love interest', and this held my attention, but I can honestly say that I was glad to finish it.

I am English but I spent 7 years working in Germany, and came to love the people and the country. At that time Berlin was not an option to visit. After reading THE BERLIN WALL by KEVIN BROPHY, I got a good understanding of life in East Germany under Communism... and I highly recommend it to you all.

Susan Lees

A very well written and constructed novel. I found it a little difficult to get into, but after the first couple of chapters it became more exciting as you progressed through the book. It is the story of Alex, a Jewish writer, who had fled to the USA before the war and is now back in 1949 to get information for the USA. It becomes very complex as he meets old friends and becomes entangled in the political situation there with the Soviet occupation and the SED party.

It certainly seems to capture the atmosphere of Berlin at that time. A good read.

Carmel Long

Spy/cold war novels have never been my favourite genre and this book did nothing to change that. Set during the Berlin Airlifts, which I do remember from listening to my parents talking, I still found the start of this novel difficult to understand. There is no introduction to characters or setting of the scene as to why Alex was in Berlin. Fortunately I had read the dust jacket and the author's introduction saying that Russia cut off all access to the west. As the cold war escalated it is important to remember West Berlin was not in West Germany and escape to Western Europe became increasingly difficult. Through many twists and turns Alex made it back to West Berlin and we assume to his family in America. Was there a love interest in the story, I think that was clear from the start of the novel, and is there a twist in the story-I'll leave you to find that out for yourselves. There will be many who will enjoy this book especially if you are a John Le Carre et al fan and I think for that reason this book has a place in the Viking library.

Mickey York

Leaving Berlin is not my usual type of book, but that is the great thing about a book club - you read books you would never usually choose and sometimes make a great discovery.

I have recently become very interested in the period immediately after the Second World War and the effect it had on Germany, so this was a book which enhanced my knowledge. The author managed to convey the austerity of the times - the constant noise of the planes bringing supplies to a beleagured city; the black market; the fear, not knowing who would be the next person to 'disappear' and the intrigue of the different factions at work.

It is a very fast moving story and at times I lost the thread of what was happening. I found I had to refer to the author's notes at the beginning quite frequently, to remind myself what all the acronyms stood for. The car chase was quite breathtaking - you could almost feel the speed. I did have to re-read the end a couple of times to work out all the interwoven threads - it got very complicated!

I'm not sure that I'm a convert to this genre of book, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it.

Thelma Roberts

Written at the time 4 years after the end of the Second World War, and dealing with the CIA, the Russians and Germans at the time of the splitting of Berlin in two and the fight for who East Berlin would belong to.

I found the book a good read eventually, the first part where the characters were being established was rather long and kept losing some of the plot as other people were introduced, but once all the characters were established it moved well and painted the picture of espionage and double agents in the new East Berlin, with the storyline of intrigue on helping people escape to the West being made.

The romantic interest of the two characters was well portrayed.

The closing chapters were enjoyable to read as it linked together all the threads of the plot and the reader felt they were with them as it enfolded.

This was a good read, of intrigue and espionage and would recommend it as a novel to take on holiday with you.

Mike Cox

I have read near all of this book.

I found the author Joseph Kanon making this a great story tell of the very tense.

Riveting and certainly very well put.

With the WW2 not long over and also the Berlin Blockade in 1948 its gives the hard hitting tension, the ups and down of Berlin in those years. This era just before the cold war was being brought in gives the added suspense of Berlin of those days.

It’s a book that one starts but must stay to complete.

As I am into WW1/WW2 I personally found this book interesting.

Again thank you for forwarding this book.

Bob Dinsmore

This has to be one of the first spy, espionage books that I have read since the early Bond novels of the 1960's. The lead character, an author, was a German Jewish exile who, prior to the WW2 had fled to America. In the post war period he returned to his native Berlin, in the latter days of the Soviet dominance to renew his relationship with childhood friends.

However he becomes embroiled in a mesh of intrigue between the Soviet and Nazi aggression.

The plot, I found difficult to unravel, the focus being on evacuating the brother of an ex-girlfriend, who had escaped from a uranium mine deep in soviet Russia, and forward him in the airlift to a safe haven in the newly created Western Germany.

The book made many references to locations and streets within Berlin that without a map or understanding of the city made it difficult for me to follow. I persevered and finished the novel, but I must say it is not one of my favourite reads.

David Barton

This was an excellent book, full of twists and turns. It gave an insight into the horrors of Berlin in the late 1940s.

Many books are described as "unputdownable", but this one really does fall into that category. I could not wait to discover what awaited me in the next chapter as well as the final outcome. At the end of the book I was left wanting to read more.

The author introduces the reader to some of the great writers of the time who went back to a communist Berlin as they make "guest" appearances in the story.

The reader is exposed to the stark reality of war and its aftermath. They say history is written by the victors, who write their own version. This book shows that reality.

I have not read any other work by Joseph Kanon, but I will do so in the future. I would strongly recommend this book.

Joan Mortimer

It's 1949. Before the Wall goes up, and the plot moves fast. It is helped along by the writer's style of short sentences - no long windy descriptions of mists rising over rivers etc.

There is never a dull page and plenty of twists and turns.

Not my usual type of reading, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Ruth Hughes

This author is new to me, not having come across his work before. I haven't yet finished the book (I intend to take it with me on our Portraits of Southern France cruise with Viking next week), but what I have read so far has made me sit up and take notice.

Kanon writes well, he describes the urban landscape vividly so that it enters my imagination as a fully formed entity. The menace and distrust of everything and everyone comes through so clearly - it reminds me (a little) of Sansom's 'Winter in Madrid'.

I'm so glad I was sent this book, it was a total surprise, and I'm enjoying reading it. I'll be chasing up more of Kanon's work. Thank you Viking.

Valerie Betts

I really enjoy a good thriller and was looking forward to reading this book especially as Joseph Kanon is new to me. Unfortunately though, I found it extremely hard to get into and the style far from gripping. I think a good knowledge of that period in history would be helpful and for that reason I passed it on to my husband. He has been somewhat disappointed too and is still struggling to finish it. I believe the cast of characters is sometimes confusing especially as everyone seems to speak to each other via a series of question as opposed to a dialogue.

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