Five words from the blurb: Berlin, Nazi, ghosts, flesh, grief
The History of History is an outstanding piece of writing. It is original, moving and thought-provoking. I think it will scoop a host of literary awards this year and I hope you’ll read the rest of this review and decide to give it a try.
The History of History is set in Berlin. The central character, Margaret, is a tour guide in the city and so we learn all about the history of Berlin and its buildings through her. That makes it sound a bit dull, but it isn’t. This book is packed with quirky details that make the city come to life and I learnt an incredible amount about Berlin, especially its uses during WWII.
The primary focus of the book is suicide. The bombing raids and trench fighting of war have been covered in books many times before, but this is the first time I’ve read something which investigates these quiet, almost forgotten deaths. The tragic stories include that of a Jewish family, those who were close to Hitler at the end of the war and also the traumatic decision of mothers to murder their own children. Many parts of the book are devastatingly sad, but the book as a whole manages to avoid being overly tragic as the mood of the text is lifted at regular intervals.
Ida Hattemer-Higgins lived in Japan for a few years and the Japanese influence has clearly entered her work. Be prepared for anything to happen in this book, but don’t be worried because the author makes even the strangest things believable. There are points when the buildings of Berlin turn to flesh and Nazi ghosts haunt Margaret, but somehow it never seems ridiculous.
The book isn’t perfect. There is so much going on that it occasionally fails to merge the scenes together seamlessly, but I’m willing to overlook these minor teething issues as I’m sure that in a few months time I’ll have forgotten about any tiny problems I may have had with this book and only remember the vivid scenes.
The History of History is very well researched and if you have any interest in the way WWII affected different groups of people then this is for you.
I’m sure this will be one of my favourite reads in 2011.