Monday, March 22, 2010

Jim is on vacation in North Carolina. His recent leisure reading includes Pierre Frei's Berlin, a (serial) murder mystery set at the very close of the Second World War. This is a thriller with a novel structure: after we witness the death of each (female) victim, the narrative leaps back to before the war and tells the story of the woman's life and what happened to her during the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Thus it is that we meet a film actress, the mother of a Down's syndrome child, a wealthy aristocrat, and a prostitute; part of the drama involves a fifth victim who escapes the killer at the start of the book but may not before it's over. The underlying point here, it would seem, is that many Germans -- especially women -- were also victims of the Nazi regime, a point made gently and effectively, with a clear consciousness of the Holocaust that looms over at least some of them. There are a series of other subplots, including that of a fifteen year old boy in 1945 whose age corresponds to that of the now-octogenarian author. Not a bad debut for an old man. The book was first published in Germany in 2003 and is now available in English.

Best wishes to all for a happy Spring Break.