Instead of explaining in a few orientating paragraphs what Germany was like on New Year’s Eve, 1988, when the action begins, Hensher plunges us into the experience, as conveyed by the actions and conversations of his characters.
The book gave me fond memories of Berlin. How well I remember staying up until 5am and drinking in those Kreuzberg bars. The nascent gay scene was already there. Ku’damm had become its Western centre, with the infamous Tom’s Bar and its cellar. The scene in the East was more furtive.
Also memories of the feeling that one has to go home, very reluctantly, for Christmas.
The city was divided by more than just the wall (which some called ‘the fence’ as later Israeli’s would name their security fence.)
Hensher likes to write about people who work in bookshops.
One character behaved like a precursor to Facebook, as a revenge, getting lots of people to gatecrash a private party.
There’s ecstasy smuggling – before the drug was named such. Maybe the importation of pleasure will hasten the course of history and liberate the downtrodden easterners from their servitude.
People are not what they seem.
The parrot and the Emperor’s march are picked up in his later novel The Emperor’s Waltz.
Happy End is a brand of toilet paper.
Good phrase – the heavy rain was ‘like shot silk.’
I had to look up ‘odalisque’ = a concubine in a Turkish harem.
To return to the home page, click on the header at the top of this page.