Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Flight From Berlin by David John

Title: Flight From Berlin
Author: David John

Genre: Fiction (1930s / Nazis / Germany / 1936 Olympics / Espionage / Zeppelins / Divorce )
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper (7/10/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did -- I breezed through this one.
One-sentence summary: An American party girl turned journalist and a British journalist turned possible spy meet in 1936 Berlin.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- I'm rather fond of these split picture style covers and it feels like they're becoming increasingly common for a certain type of hist fic. If I had my way, some images from the 1936 photos would be featured on the cover...

I'm reminded of...: In the Garden of Beasts, Lauren Belfer

First line: He landed hands first on the wet, sandy soil and rolled over on his side.

Did... I love John's author note about this novel being inspired by what can be found in footnotes?: YES. I adore footnotes -- such a treasure trove of maddening tidbits!

Did... I deeply appreciate the inclusion of 'Notes on the Characters'?: YES. John explains who is fictional, who is historical, and what they really did or didn't do -- fascinating stuff.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow if you want a light hist fic that offers a slightly new angle to WWII novels.

Why did I get this book?: I'm an Olympics fangirl.

Review: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride for free, says my wife when I'm sighing about something, and she lobbed this one at me recently when I started sighing about this book. I went something like, 'I wish this book would...' -- which unfortunately is a feeling that stayed with me the entire time I was reading.

In this Olympic season, John's novel is particularly timely and I was pretty eager to start it. I'm fascinated by the 1936 Olympics and the pageantry, lies, and horrors involved, and so I was disappointed to discover that the novel's focus shifts fairly quickly away from the Olympics once our heroine is booted from the US Team due to wild behavior on the trip to Germany.

In brief, this novel follows Eleanor Emerson, socialite, wife of a jazz musician, and Olympic athlete, who takes up journalism after her aforementioned antics cause her to be kicked off the US Olympic Team. At the same time, British journalist Richard Denham struggles with his conscience and work contract when it comes to covering the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The two meet, fall for each other, get snarled in a conspiracy involving a top secret dossier about Hitler, and end up on the Hindenberg.

This isn't a bad novel, don't get me wrong, it just wasn't what I wanted it to be, and since I had some knowledge of what John featured in this novel, the story and plot and historical shading just felt too topical. For someone who is unfamiliar with this facet of Nazi Germany, I think this novel will be very gasp-inducing ('That didn't really happen, did it?!', etc.). The writing is nice, straight-forward, not overly detailed (at times, a little too tell-not-show for my tastes, actually), and the cast is manageable. A fast read with enough historical weight to keep it from being too fluffy. John's inclusion of resources he used provided me with a longer TBR as I wanted to get into the meaty details that inspired him.

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Flight From Berlin to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 8/3.

23 comments:

  1. I don't read a lot of historical fiction but I do like that time period. The fact that you called it light historical fiction appeals to me as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's a time and a place for heavy hist fict but sometimes, I do want something that isn't like a brick to the head, and this would be a book like that. You definitely get the flavor, the drama, a sort of cinematic quality, without having to feel like you're working on your Ph.D.! V good for the summer or a long weekend!

      Delete
  2. It sounds like we had similar reactions to it. I'm been pondering lately how frequently I hear from readers "it was nothing new" (myself included. I do think had I read this novel years ago I would have loved it. From an objective standpoint, where we can't possibly read all the books in the world: how do we assess novels reminiscent of things we've read before? Are we then hypocritical exclaiming "it's unlike anything I've ever read!" when in fact that novel could be contrived to some. Perhaps I'll expand these thoughts into a Sunday Salon post soon:-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know -- this one was a tough-y in that way! I don't expect all my reads to be novel or new -- sometimes familiar territory can resonate more -- and I know an author can't be faulted because of my erroneous assumptions/expectations or unrealistic hopes. Would love to see your expanded thoughts on this!!

      Delete
  3. WW2 spy books are big at the moment, aren't they? I just read Jasmine Nights, which is a WW2 spy book but much more fluffy than this sounds! I think I'll give this one a miss, I feel like I've read too many WW2 books recently.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can appreciate that -- I'm sort of maxed out on WWII fic but I still pick them up! Which is why I agreed to review Jasmine Nights -- and now I'm a bit nervous! I'm not sure I like fluffy WWII fic -- or at least, lighter WWII fic. Light I'm fine with if written well.

      Delete
  4. I am not sure this book would inspire me to break my ban on WWII fiction, so I will probably give it a pass. At one time, I would have been all over this one, but too much of the fiction I read early on has sort of ruined me for this time period. I can understand that this one left you hanging a bit, and I think you handled this review quite beautifully. Great job.

    ReplyDelete
  5. So thrilled to hear this was just okay =)

    Even though I haven't read a plethora of books on the period, I do watch all the TV I can on it, lol

    But with the review pile from Hades and beyond, I had to resist the urge of this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I'm a sucker for WWII stuff so I couldn't really say no -- and on one hand, it wasn't bad, really -- just not totally my speed these days.

      I feel you on the never-ending review pile -- mine is dangerously huge.

      Delete
  6. I love how you format your reviews. It is so easy to see and read information that is important. Thanks for sharing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you -- I appreciate it! I've spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out my 'voice' -- so I'm glad it resonates for others!

      Delete
  7. I am really looking forward to reading this one now! Glad to see it is good and not too heavy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can't wait to see what you think of it!

      Delete
  8. Sounds like an interesting premise; am curious to know more about the author's comment about being inspired by what can be found in footnotes part.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His was the kind of author's note I'd love to see turned into an essay because I do love reading about writing and the process of writing!

      Delete
  9. Oh, the Hindenberg part sounds promising. Sorry this one didn't really work for you, but thanks for the fair review :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zeppelins are rare in the books I read so it was great to see zeppelin travel portrayed -- really eye-opening in that sense!

      Delete
  10. I hate the "tell not show" type of writing - especially for historical fiction. This one looked good, but I think I'll pass. I like the idea of a somewhat fresh perspective on WWII/Mazi Germany (like Daniel Kalla's The Far Side of the Sky) but this doesn't look like a fit for me. Lovely review - you always help me pare down (or more often, add to!) my TBR :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yeah... Nazi Germany, not "Mazi." My bad :D

      Delete
  11. This is indeed an interesting angle on this period. I'm glad to hear your view of the book. A shame with all the extraordinary detail available to a writer about this period that the writer leaned toward the telling not showing. Thanks for a helpful review.

    ReplyDelete
  12. When authors provide resource lists or suggested readings I both love it and hate it - I love it because there's a ready-made list of books I'll probably be interested in ... and I hate it for the same reason. :)

    Thanks for being on the tour Audra!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I enjoyed this novel very much, and like you my TBR has expanded thanks to the books John mentioned.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm reading this one right now, and I'm still toward the beginning. Glad to see you liked it for the most part.

    ReplyDelete