Set in West Germany in the early 1980’s before the Wall comes down, this is the story of the extraordinary love affair between Thomas the successful American travel writer and Petra, the exiled translator from East Berlin.
Gradually the grim tale of Petra’s past unfolds, amidst the bleak and totally believable setting of East Berlin with the officious border controls at Checkpoint Charlie, the endless grey buildings that take drab to a new level, and the sinister feeling that someone somewhere is watching you.
All too soon their love is severed when Thomas is manipulated into denouncing Petra to the CIA; both remain emotionally traumatised for the rest of their lives and both suffer acute loss as a result. As Kennedy says ” passion that never gets rooted in the day to day becomes mythic”.
And so what did our Bookgroup make of it?
well 9.5 of 10 members had finished all 650 pages; (the remaining half of one book having been dropped in the bath) which is a reflection that is was generally well liked. We all felt it was a well crafted plot with complex characters and moral dilemmas, but none of us liked the character of Thomas, who was deemed arrogant, and wearing far too many turtle neck sweaters. (This character interestingly is based on Kennedy by his own admission). Despite its length it has a good pace and offers a credible glimpse of what life was like behind the Wall, which was and is history within living memory.