Friday, January 27, 2017

News From Berlin by Otto de Kat

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: January 4, 2017

In War time Europe Dutch diplomat Oscar Verschuur has been posted to neutral Switzerland. His family is spread across Europe. His wife Kate works as a nurse in London and their daughter Emma is living in Berlin with her husband Carl, a "good" German who works at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Briefly reunited with her father in a restaurant in Geneva, Emma drops a bombshell. A date and a codename, and the fate of nations is placed in Verschuur's hands: June 22, Barbarossa.What should he do? Warn the world, or put his daughter's safety first? The Gestapo are watching them both. And with Stalin lulled by his alliance with Hitler, will anyone even listen? Otto de Kat is fast gaining a reputation as one of Europe's sharpest and most lucid writers. News from Berlin, a book for all readers, a true page-turner driven by the pulse of a ticking clock, confirms him as a storyteller of subtly extravagant gifts. In War time Europe Dutch diplomat Oscar Verschuur has been posted to neutral Switzerland. His family is spread across Europe. His wife Kate works as a nurse in London and their daughter Emma is living in Berlin with her husband Carl, a "good" German who works at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Briefly reunited with her father in a restaurant in Geneva, Emma drops a bombshell. A date and a codename, and the fate of nations is placed in Verschuur's hands: June 22, Barbarossa. What should he do? Warn the world, or put his daughter's safety first? The Gestapo are watching them both. And with Stalin lulled by his alliance with Hitler, will anyone even listen?

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German troops crossing the Soviet border
during Operation Barbarossa.
I’ve multiple confessions to make and I hope you don’t mind, but I want to start by getting them off my chest. First off, I’ve had an ARC of Otto de Kat’s News From Berlin on my kindle since July 2015. I’d been intrigued by the premise, but wasn’t actually inspired to pick it up until I found myself looking to rebound from a disappointing run-in with Kelly Durham’s Berlin Calling last December. I also imagine the title as spoken by Jim Carrey impersonating Walter Cronkite in Bruce Almighty every time I see it, but that last admission seems far less damning than the other two. I wish I could say this is the first time I’d sat an ARC so long, but it’d be a blatant lie and as to rebounding, well, let’s just be happy we’re talking books rather than relationships.

I think it safe to assume that if you’re still with me at this point you want to know how I actually felt about the book. I wont assume you’ve forgiven my transgressions, but when push comes to shove it’s not how you came to a novel that matters, it’s how it made feel about the content and in that regard I think News From Berlin has a lot in common with The Wherewithal. There is a loose parallel in terms of time periods, but the similarities I refer to have more to do with the open-ended thoughts the narratives leave in their respective wakes. The conclusions feel right, but both books inspire lingering questions about the ideas and themes expressed between their pages.

A working knowledge of Operation Barbarossa is not required to follow the historic events of the narrative, but a basic familiarity with the invasion affords greater insight to the significance of the information that falls into Verschuur’s possession. I didn’t feel the cast of particular note, but it should be mentioned that News From Berlin wasn’t written as and doesn’t pretend to be character driven fiction. The author is deeply invested in the political and emotional themes of the story and that is where his work truly shines.

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Operation Barbarossa, a code name for murder, obviously, even as it was a childish appeal to old myths and legendary heroes. Super-kitsch, if it weren’t for the deadly intent. Emma had been incapable of keeping the news to herself. She had blurted it out to her father, who she was sure would know what to do. The fear in her tone had been unmistakable, as well as the urgent, unvoiced appeal for action.
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1 comment:

Tea Norman said...

I became excited. Didn't mention "Mr. Emerson's Wife." Loving the cover. Would love to read it.

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