A city with a turbulent past, Berlin is a fantastic place to set a novel. Full of memories and ghosts of bygone times, it lends itself particularly well to historical stories. Wartime action and adventure, political intrigue and of course romance. Iconic structures such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and the haunting remains of the Berlin Wall exude a strong sense of the past.
Here are 5 novels to take you there right now.
An epic novel of passion, betrayal and danger, set in wartime Britain and Europe. In the spring of 1936 Kay Garland embraces an exciting new life of glamour when she becomes companion to Russian Konstantin Denisov’s daughter, Miranda. The two girls become firm friends, and when Miranda falls in love with a young Parisian, Kay helps her keep the relationship secret. But Konstantin learns of the affair and promptly dismisses Kay, leaving her penniless and stranded in Nazi Berlin. By chance she meets Tom Blacklock, who pays for her ticket home, and is destined to play an important part in her life.
Arriving in Nazi Germany, Englishman Conrad de Lancey feels sick at heart. Even Berlin – infamous haven of decadence and vice – salutes fascism. Himmler’s black-shirted troops rule the city, and every German arm bears a Swastika. But does every German heart belong to Hitler? When Conrad is arrested by the Gestapo on suspicion of spying, he is rescued by Theo, an old friend from university, now a lieutenant of the Wehrmacht. Together they are drawn into a world of danger and deceit, of plots, paranoia and intrigue where the brave few are united by a single ambition: to free the fatherland from the Fuhrer.
The Second World War is over and among the millions of refugees, young Emil Brod returns to the capital city of his country to live with his grandparents and take up a job as a homicide inspector. His homeland has been annexed by the Soviet Union and they are now part of the Eastern Bloc. Life is different – Russian soldiers swagger about, the luxuries of life are in short supply, everyone is careful to address their friends as Comrade. Emil’s colleagues appear to loath him and he is utterly shut out. The hatred of his workmates even turns to violence. Frustrated and desperate to work, Emil begs a case to work on and suddenly and surprisingly is assigned to the high profile murder of Janos Crowder, a popular and wealthy songwriter. But this case is a difficult one – its complex skeins lead right up to the Party Chairman himself and Emil has to decide between the truth and his own safety. And the beautiful, seductive Lena, Crowder’s widow, complicates things further.
As the clock chimed the turn of the twentieth century, Lilly Nelly Aphrodite took her first breath. Born to a cabaret dancer and soon orphaned in a scandalous double murder, Lilly finds refuge at a Catholic orphanage, coming under the wing of the, at times, severe Sister August, the first in a string of lost loves. There she meets Hanne Schmidt, a teen prostitute, and forms a bond that will last them through tumultuous love affairs, disastrous marriages, and destitution during the First World War and the subsequent economic collapse. As the century progresses, Lilly and Hanne move from the tawdry glamour of the tingle-tangle nightclubs to the shadow world of health films before Lilly finds success and stardom in the new medium of motion pictures and ultimately falls in love with a man whose fate could cost her everything she has worked for or help her discover her true self.
In the summer of 1981, Michael from Perth meets Kathrin from Berlin. It’s love. It’s East meets West, and East wins. The place where we are born and raised greatly shapes our lives and opinions. To those in the west, life behind the iron curtain was horrible and oppressive. But for the millions who lived there, it was a way of life and they did the best they could. Some are now even nostalgic for it. Ostalgie it’s called in Germany. For Michael Smith, East Germany fills all the gaps in his own life. He’s happy there. He wants to stay. Everything is within his reach. And yes he’s very naïve, and yes he’s ignoring a lot of bad to focus on the good, but ignorance really can be bliss. That is, until the Berlin Wall falls. He’s forced to watch as his beloved East Germans give up their country for the west, for everything he had rejected. By unification in 1990, their country and identity is all but forgotten. It’s then that the lies are discovered, the secrets revealed. How does he continue?
Find more novels set in Berlin at Yonndr.com. Use the advanced search to tailor the list to your favourite genres and time periods.
And watch out for the next list in our City Break series coming soon…