The Berlin Crossing by Kevin Brophy
|The Berlin Crossing by Kevin Brophy|
|Genre: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: Michael Ritter has just lost his mother and she was all the family he had. But she mentions a name just before she dies and sets Michael on a personal journey.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: January 2012|
It's the 1990s and Herr Doktor Ritter - to give Michael his full title - is about to lose his teaching job. Although a German national, he teaches English. Apparently the Social Review Committee has been doing some 'reviewing' lately and it doesn't look good for Michael.
Even all these years down the line, there is still a certain amount of friction-tension-unease - call it what you want, between east and west Germany. The infamous Wall is no longer but it seems to still case a shadow in certain quarters.
Even although Michael is an educated young man his life is falling apart. He seems powerless to stop the rot. His wife has left him (there are no children, thank goodness) so he's a single man about town once again. But jobless. He's also a former and ardent socialist - almost a sin in the new shiny unified Germany.
Those from the west who are now choosing to make new lives for themselves in the east think capitalism and consumerism and the new twin gods to worship. There's no place for Michael and his old-fashioned thinking and he's discarded like an old pair of shoes. It's tragic. He's powerless and he's furious.
And early on in the novel I was struck by Brophy's eloquent style. Michael, the main character, is telling his own story in his own words which gives the narrative a certain immediacy and also poignancy. I could tell that his various discoveries would be painful. He also has a fair few demons of his own to deal with, if he chooses.
But he has more pressing problems. His mother is seriously ill (at the start of the book) and Michael, now at a loose end, decides to be her carer. He's no saint though as he's doing it for largely selfish reasons. He'll have a roof over his head and something to while away the hours. Mother and son had a strained relationship when Michael was growing up. He describes their currentl living quarters and it's pretty basic. He also acknowledges that, under the old regime, he'd probably still have his teaching job.
And a suitably enigmatic character called Pastor Bruck holds the key to Michael's past, to his father possibly. Whenever he dared to bring up the subject with his mother, she'd clam up and refuse to tell him anything. But now he has a name. It's something. We find out that his search takes him right back to the time of his birth, to 1960s London and to Berlin in the same decade. And the story which unfolds is complex, murky and full of danger.
Brophy tells a fine story. I didn't expect to enjoy the book as much as I did. I've read a handful of fiction books - all about Germany/east/west/the wall etc and this is the best by a mile. It's a terrific story and the characters are credible. Michael is a likable character so I cared about him. The other characters are also interesting and come alive on the page.
If you enjoy a good story with depth and intrigue, I don't think this book will disappoint. I loved it. Thoroughly recommended.
If you enjoyed this then yo might like to try Day by A L Kennedy.
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