by Juli Zeh
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Pub Date 03 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 03 Oct 2023
Fleeing stay-at-home orders in the big city, Dora and her dog move to the countryside to sit out the pandemic. She knows that Bracken, a village in the middle of nowhere, isn’t the idyll most city dwellers dream of, but she’s desperate for space and a change of scene. The quaint old house she’s saved up for needs work, weeds have taken over the yard, and her skinhead neighbor fits all the stereotypes. Just what is Dora really looking for? Distance from her boyfriend Robert, whose climate activism has crossed into obsession? Refuge from her inner turmoil? Clarity on how the whole world got so messed up? As Dora tries to keep her demons in check, unexpected things start happening all around her. Juli Zeh’s epic new novel explores our present predicaments, biases, weaknesses, and fears, but—above all—it reveals the strengths that come to light when we dare to be human.
Praise for Juli Zeh
“Zeh challenges readers to consider how complicit we are in our current political dilemmas.” —Los Angeles Times
Praise for About People
“A revealing novel about the state of our nation.” —SWR
“Juli Zeh’s new work shoots straight to the heart of Germany’s excessive demands: with a lot of wit and compassion and also with a large portion of hope for a more conciliatory society.” —ZDF
“The first real corona novel, which takes place in the middle of lockdown in spring 2020 and subtly describes the social and very private consequences of the pandemic.” —Süddeutsche Zeitung
Praise for New Year
PEN AWARD 2022 FINALIST
“In this wrenching psychological portrait from Zeh, a character’s buried traumatic past distorts his memory and loosens his grip on reality...Zeh’s novel skillfully asks how a person can come to terms with a painful past that has been intentionally misremembered for the purpose of sustaining one’s mental health. Readers, though, will have no trouble remembering this.” —Publishers Weekly, *starred review*
“This spine-tingler captures the peak of what appears to be a spectacularly hallucinatory middle-aged crisis.” —Kirkus Reviews, *starred review*
- Lead title of Fall 2023 by Germany’s #1 bestselling author Juli Zeh
- Print run 20,000
- Internationally hailed as the “first and ultimate” corona novel
- Advance galleys at Winter Institute
- Digital reader copies on Netgalley and Edelweiss
- Digital assets including trailer & author video
- National TV, radio, print, and online review campaign
- Consumer-facing national advertising campaign on Shelf Awareness, Lithub, NPR, Foreword Reviews, Goodreads
- Book club discussion guide
- Bookstore co-op available
- Excerpt placement
- Social-media campaign & Goodreads Giveaway
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 21 members
I feel like this is a book which so many people will relate to following the experience of a global pandemic and how it impacted people’s lives. Yes, it is dark, but it is also incredibly clever and insightful,
A book that takes place during the pandemic is interesting if you want to remember it. This writer is so talented it works and is enjoyable.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
Really really good book. The breakdown makes it sound more like it is about Covid but it is so much more than that.
An exciting thriller read with twists that keep you guessing till the end! Thank you NetGalley and Bookouture for this ARC!
This is an urgent yet calm and warm novel, that gets better and better the more you progress. Juli Zeh is a fabulously smart writer and it is high time we see her on the shortlist for the International Booker.
Our protagonist, 35 year old Dora is a doubter, she wants to do everything well, but what does that mean? She escapes Berlin and her increasingly Covid-obsessed boyfriend to move to the idyllic Brandenburg countryside… Or so she thought. Her neighbours are not the idealistic people she imagined, but overwhelmingly vote right-wing Alternative für Deutschland and feel let down by their government.
The book is billed as a Covid-novel, but more than that it is a novel about our times, about Germany today and it explores the big political divide of our time: not so much between left and right, but between city and countryside, between winners of globalisation and those left behind, between climate-activists and people struggling to make ends meet. As one of the characters puts it:
"It’s hard to believe such a filthy-rich country allows itself to have entire regions where there’s nothing. No doctors, no pharmacies, no sports clubs, no buses, no pubs, no nursery schools, no schools at all (...). Regions where retirees can’t live on their pensions and young women have to work day and night to provide for their children. Then, in those same areas, you plop down a bunch of massive wind turbines, ban commuters from using diesel, auction off farmers’ fields to the highest bidder, try to take wood-burning stoves away from the people who can least afford natural gas, and then you think out loud about banning barbecues and campfires as well, the last bastions of leisurely, sociable enjoyment. And everyone’s just expected to keep going without complaint. Keep suiting up, functioning efficiently. Anyone who rebels is dismissed out of hand, called a stupid peasant, a whatever-denier, even an enemy of democracy."
It´s too bad the wordplay of the German title is untranslatable (Über Menschen meaning both ´About People´ and the term Nazis used to describe their ideal Arian superhumans), because it covers the content so well.
"Do you all still remember? It wasn’t so long ago. A mere seventy, eighty years back. You were supermen, quintessential Übermenschen. You were the master race. Blond stallions on your way to world domination. (…) And today? Today you’re at the camping table, lounging. Trailer behind you, warm beer before you. You smoke Polish cigarettes, make the Hitler salute before the flag of the Reich, and manufacture your own IDs. Übermenschen in Unterhemden—Supermen in undershirts …(…) You are the scum you always wanted to exterminate. Nobody likes you, nobody needs you."
Just loved this perfect book it reminded me so strongly of the better things about Covid lockdown ,the endless summer days in the uk seemed replicated perfectly on this rural part of former east Germany .The Politics seemed so similar to what was happening in the uk at the time but in this novel the addition of the rise of the far right nationalist mentality was covered in a sensitive way .the author was on no way squeamish as she subtly points out the issues as they appear to the narrator a young German woman
Oh, the friendly neighbourhood nazi he was such a memorable character that I am sure will stay with me for a long time
The novel touches on lots of issues such as how do you represent yourself on social media,loneliness and our relationship with our parents
All the Characters were instantly recognisable and totally real I loved the way the author introduced each one and the way they all interacted with each other
Whilst the novel is set and firmly rooted in Germany the issues covered are universal and it translated well for an English audience
I would recommend for lovers of a good relationship novel if you loved A man Called Ove for example this would be the book for you
I read an early copy on NetGalley uk the book is published on the uk by world Editions on 3 October 2023
This review will be published on Goodreads NetGalley uk and on my book blog Bionicsarahsbooks.Wordpress.Com
Writing: 5/5 Characters: 5/5 Plot: 4.5/5
Dora — a 36-year old advertising creative — thinks a lot. It doesn’t necessarily make her happy, but the stubborn core inside her makes her bristle at any hint of absolute truth, absolute authority, or socially enforced groupthink. Her long-term boyfriend, Robert, has become obsessed with climate change, steadily ramping up his insistence on (her) behavior modification to meet his right-thinking absolutes. When Covid hits, he retargets his laser focus on lockdown adherence and becomes unbearable in close quarters. Dora escapes to a dilapidated house in a small village for a breath of fresh air and finds herself in an AfD (right-wing German populist party) hotbed with the self-proclaimed Village Nazi as a neighbor. Thus begins an unasked for opportunity for a deeply introspective and stubbornly think-for-yourselfer to contemplate existence, humanity, and the nature of moral certitude while the world goes nuts around her.
Had I known anything about the author when I picked this book up, I wouldn’t have been as surprised as I was by how good it was — Zeh is an award winning German author and former judge. I realize that I haven’t kept up with European authors at all in the last decades. The writing / translation is excellent. Through a widely variable set of characters — her rigid climate activist boyfriend, the neo-Nazi next door, her highly confident (veering on the arrogant) neurosurgeon father, advertising colleagues, and a slew of village denizens — Zeh is able to cover a wide range of viewpoints on both specific hot topics (e.g. climate change, covid) as well as general socio-political attitudes towards life.
I loved this mildly satirical look at the way we humans cope with life — “mildly” satirical because it didn’t feel unkind to me. We all have our weaknesses, biases, rationalizations, and expectations and figuring out how to accept that ourselves and others seem like one of the more important problems to tackle. I appreciated Dora’s stubborn insistence on doing her own thinking and doing a lot of it. I loved the way explanation and depth was present in every argument, regardless of the character spouting it. It helped me to (surprisingly) be able to empathize with all of the characters, not just the ones I liked.
There were a lot of great quotes — here are a few:
“She follows the rules and regulations. But her thoughts remain free. Nobody can force her to view the beer drinkers outside the Spatis as treasonous public enemies.”
“What happened to the old certainty that there are no absolute certainties, which is why everything needs to be doubted, debated, and thought about? Dora couldn’t understand how Robert could feel so completely certain his lifestyle was so superior. She just didn’t follow.“
“The era of endless self-pity and constant complaining, JoJo will say. When everyone is always offended, afraid, and feels like they’re in the right. What a combination.”
“Take away the possibility of escape, and every refuge turns into a prison.“
“That sense of superiority is a long-acting poison that devours all humanity from the inside. “
“Then life prescribed her a neighbor. A nazi behind a wall. He was ugly and he stank. If he had been a product, he would’ve gotten only one star in the customer reviews on Amazon.”
“She’s often wondered what, exactly, lies behind this racism-triggered stiffness. Maybe a quandary. A series of impossible either-or decisions: Be a moralizer, or be a coward. Follow your convictions, or society’s expectations — or go for a third option and follow your aversion to conflict.”
“Everyone’s busy being interesting and important. And successful, of course, in both their professional and their personal lives. It’s a rat race of conformists outcompeting one another to come across as something special, someone different.”
“Of course there’s no law stating that neo-Nazis can’t appreciate hydrangeas. But it’s a jarring notion nevertheless. It poses a threat to the life-affirming yet mistaken idea that good and evil can easily be distinguished from one another.”
Thank the author and the publisher for this really exceptional book. It is definitely one of the best my recent reads or even one of the best books I have ever read. It reflects what our world is now, how everyone constantly is pushed to judge others for their position, believes, nationality or compliance with authorities. The book tries to show that everything in the world can't be just black and white and the only way to live life full is to accept everything as it is and try to make this world better.
(I don't understand only why all measurements units are American, when the book is German. It's not acceptable for me to change something in the book when translating it to other languages)
I fell in love with the heroine of this book: Dora, a young woman in her thirties working in advertising. She has a great love for space exploration and always has a tag-line in her head. She lives with Robert in Berlin but things have changed in their relationship. We are only privy to Dora’s point of view but from her perspective her gentle Robert had turned into a climate defending fundamentalist. When the Pandemic hit and lock-down kicked in, his political activism paired with his slavish obedience and enforcement of lock-down rules made living with him harder and harder, so she decides to leave.
She moves to a village called Bracken, a name somehow suggesting the back-waters of society. This move shakes her to the core. In this completely new environment she, who distrusts all absolute truths, the rhetoric that comes with them and the authorities that rely on them, realises quickly that she herself harbours steadfast ideas that now become challenged. Her interactions with the people she gets to know make her realise that nothing is quite what it seems.
Much to her horror, most of her new neighbours support the right-wing populist party AfD and during her dealings with them she learns quickly that nothing is simple with right-wing populists. It is the arrogance of the righteous that puts all of them in the same category without understanding what drives them. In her previous live it was easy to pick a side. In Bracken she realises, life is not like that – it is complicated, multi-layered, and always About People and what makes them tick. These are the people she learns to appreciate and love.
This is a heart-warming story, in places quite sentimental with a deep belief that people can change when ideology is put on the back burner and humanity is allowed to come to the fore. It is also a very controversial book given that the local village nazi gets so much air space and is dealt with quite sympathetically. I loved it.
I am grateful to NetGalley and World Editions for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This book took me awhile to get into but when I did I loved it. It sis set during Covid and Dora leaves Berlin to go to a smaller town outside the city. Dora grows a lot throughout the story through the relationships she builds with her new neighbours. It describes life during the lockdowns and way the different personalities dealt with it. The author describes things in detail which added to my experience.
Thank you to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for an advanced copy.
Im still a bit unsure about this book, The writing and translation were good, and I'd thought I was ready for a Covid book particularly set a different country to the UK. Now I'm not sure I was, as people the world over obviously had similarly diverse ways of coping with lockdowns etc.
At its core though this was a book about human relationships, both with each other, nature and the environment and this was the aspect I became most interested in.
Thank you to netgalley and world editions for an advance copy of this book.
I finished this book a few days ago and still can’t make up my mind about it. I found it interesting to learn about Every day life in Germany during the pandemic and noted the similarities between there and the UK and I also really appreciated the translation which appeared seemless to me. However I’m not sure there was much of a story. I kept thinking where is this going’ and if anything was going to happen or whether it was just a comment on the rural society during an extraordinary period. I know this book and it’s author have received many accolades but I think it wasn’t my cup of tea.
Written by Germany's #1 bestselling author Juli Zeh, About People takes place in the middle of lockdown in spring 2020 and subtly describes the social and very private consequences of the pandemic.
Fleeing stay-at-home orders in the big city, Dora and her dog move to the countryside to sit out the pandemic. She knows that Bracken, a village in the middle of nowhere, isn't the idyll most city dwellers dream of, but she's desperate for space and a change of scene. The quaint old house she's saved up for needs work, weeds have taken over the yard, and her skinhead neighbor fits all the stereotypes.
Just what is Dora really looking for? Distance from her boyfriend Robert, whose climate activism has crossed into obsession? Refuge from her inner turmoil? Clarity on how the whole world got so messed up? As Dora tries to keep her demons in check, unexpected things start happening all around her. Juli Zeh's epic new novel explores our present predicaments, biases, weaknesses, and fears, but-above all-it reveals the strengths that come to light when we dare to be human.
This is an urgent yet calm and warm novel, that gets better and better the more you progress.The book is billed as a Covid-novel, but more than that it is a novel about our times, about Germany today and it explores the big political divide of our time: not so much between left and right, but between city and countryside, between winners of globalisation and those left behind, between climate-activists and people struggling to make ends meet.Really really good book.
A look at the state of our nation. How to survive during the pandemic and it is a interesting story that I think everyone should read.
I would classify this book as a work of realistic fiction. The author's skill in crafting imaginative characters and situations that mirror the intricacies of the world and society is truly commendable. The characters delve into themes of personal growth, self-exploration, and grappling with both individual and societal challenges.
The language employed in the narrative is precise and vivid, painting a clear picture of the backdrop and the characters themselves. Natural and genuine dialogues further enhance the authenticity of the storytelling. The pacing is skillfully balanced, maintaining a tension that keeps the reader engrossed and then delivering moments of release.
This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and I would read more of their work. The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.
About People was originally a German bestseller written by Juli Zeh and is now translated to English by Alta L. Price. Netgalley and the publisher, World Editions, graciously provided me with an advance copy of the book that is scheduled for an October 2023 release in anticipation of my honest feedback. Its title is Über Menschen in German and is set during the period of the first Corona lockdown, when everybody—the governments, the public, politicians, and health workers—panicked. It was the time when human nature, with its ugliest and prettiest sides, was put to the test against all the ideologies, biases, and fears of others. The novel tells such a story.
“ Life is largely trial and error, and people are capable of comprehending and controlling far less than they often believe.”
Some wonderful writing but I just couldn’t connect with it. Perhaps if I knew more about German politics etc. I’d have had a better appreciation for the novel