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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Brandenburg: A Story of Berlin by James Cloud takes us on a journey through the Germany of the early twentieth century, through the eyes of some ordinary and not so ordinary Berliners. Beginning with the declaration of WWI by Kaiser Wilhelm, we travel through the false bravado and patriotism of a nation at war to explore the horrors and senselessness of the killing fields of Ypres, the Somme and Passchendaele. With the war and the deprivations it brought almost over, the people of Germany must then face, along with the rest of the world, the ravages of the Spanish Flu. What follows is the constraints of the Treaty of Versailles, the incredible hyper-inflation of the early twenties, five years of relative prosperity to be followed by the share-market crash of 1929, and the perfect storm that would see the rise in Germany of two competing ideologies; Communism and its vicious and violent enemy, Nazism and Adolf Hitler. Through the eyes of a young Prussian aristocrat and his beautiful Jewish wife, along with their best friends, a working-class girl and her farming-stock husband, the author examines the class structures and the political pressures that were exerted on Germany during this period that would lead to one of the darkest times in world history.
I particularly enjoyed this simple story of love and family. Brandenburg: A Story of Berlin by James Cloud is set against the momentous events of the first third of the twentieth century. The author clearly is well versed in the city of Berlin and its history. I really appreciated his main characters that represented all stratum of German society. In Herbert, we could see the young, liberal Prussian aristocrat who wanted to go his own way and saw nothing unusual or wrong in falling in love with and marrying a rich young Jewess. That their best friends should be from a working-class and a rural background provided a wonderful counterpoint to the political turmoil that was happening all around them. That their families were able to generally reconcile and accept the breaking down of class, religious and political barriers within German society was well expressed by the author.
This book did a wonderful job, for me, in laying the groundwork for what was soon to plunge Germany and the world into further chaos, as Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933. That this story ended there gives me hope that there is a sequel coming, as I for one am excited to find out what happens to this diverse range of characters as Nazism takes over and dominates Germany for the next ten plus years. I highly recommended this read to all historical fiction buffs and readers in general.