From New York to Berlin, with Love
Historical fiction can be a beast to review. When I love it, I can write forever about the accurate depictions, stirring imagery, and clever insertion of characters into real life events. But, when I don’t love it, it becomes hard to frame a review that doesn’t feel overly critical of a book that might be very enjoyable to other readers. Unfortunately, this is the predicament I find myself in with writing my review of The Lost Girl of Berlin. In a nutshell, the story itself is sweet, if a bit trite, with multiple Happily Ever Afters, but overall lacked the feeling of historical authenticity that is a must-have for me.
What I Loved: The beginning of the book was full of promise, with rich descriptions of immediate post-war Berlin, and the atrocities visited upon the German people by the victorious Russian army. I appreciated that time was spent delving into the fact that the suffering of the German people was often overlooked by the media because it wouldn’t make for a positive viewing and listening experience in America. I also felt that the portrayal of the trials and tribulations of being a driven, intelligent female in a male dominated industry during a time when women were being systematically relegated back into the role of house wife and doting mother, was well done. The notion that a return to the pre-war social order was something that would be desirable, and possible, was given a thorough examination over the course of the book, from several different view points, giving a balanced historical perspective of the issue. Kate’s anguished decision-making, sacrifices, and focus on her personal career growth were both inspiring…and frustrating.
What I Didn’t Love: As the story progressed, the feeling of historical authenticity began to wane, with truly important events seeming to fade completely into the background. And while these events should never dominate a work of fiction, I enjoy books that allow the events to exert a palpable influence on the characters, making them seem more real and relatable. If the Red Scare had received more detail and focus throughout the story line, I would have been more apt to feel drawn into the action. In fact, by the time Rick’s “trial” arrived, it seemed almost anticlimactic, compared to the relationship dramas that had unfolded up to that point. Finally, as previously mentioned, Kate’s rather single minded devotion to her career, to the detriment of a child she supposedly cared so deeply about, and the pain of a man that she pledged to be in love with, made her come off as selfish, and not all together real. Personal sacrifice is admirable, but not when it comes at the cost of others. It was this lack of connection to the main character, that made it difficult for me to appreciate the book as a whole.
Overall, if you love romantic fiction, more so than historical fiction, The Lost Girl of Berlin will be enjoyable. The writing is solid, and with the exception of the main character, the development arcs are very good, and many of the personalities are truly engaging. In particular, when the story of Mia, the German orphan, finally emerges, it is heartbreaking; and the knowledge that it indeed could have been much worse, gives real depth to the closing of the plot line. This book would be a fine addition to your last days of summer reading list.