- Atria Books. 384 pp. $27.00.
This taut page-turner captures the contradictions and complexities of the post-WWII German capital.
In his latest fast-paced thriller, Leaving Berlin, Joseph Kanon explores an exciting, fear-filled time. The constant drone of airlifts bringing scarce supplies to the isolated city devastated by World War II is the background music for beleaguered lives. The experiment of a Soviet Germany in which one authoritarian regime supplants another has everyone looking over his or her shoulder. Old loyalties — and old identities — give way to new or faked ones.Kanon’s central figure is Jewish writer Alex Meier, who, as a young man with a blooming reputation, had left Germany for the United States ahead of the war. Now, in 1949, he returns under complex circumstances.Meier has made a bargain with the devil. The House Un-American Activities Committee (“McCarthy”) threatened to deport him, an uncooperative German socialist, making his return impossible and his separation from his young son permanent. However, Alex reached a deal with the newly established CIA to provide information in exchange for a return to the U.S. A native Berliner with many connections, he is at once at home and in exile. Everything is changing as communist rule reshapes the culture.
Something of a celebrity, Alex mixes with such returned notables as Bertolt Brecht while finding his assignment as a CIA agent upsetting to his moral compass. . . .
To read the entire, juicy review as it appears in the Washington Independent Review of Books (posted April 3, 2015), click here: http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/bookreview/leaving-berlin