Cover Image: Letters from Berlin

Letters from Berlin

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Member Reviews

4.5 stars

Finally managed to get around to this one and it was truly spectacular. Based on Blanchard's family history, Letters From Berlin is a beautifully written story that places you in World War Two and takes you on a heartwrenching journey full of love, survival and betrayal. 

I absolutely loved this book. Blanchard has performed an exceptional feat by blending together her family's personal history with a more traditional world-building found in historical fiction novels. I was gripped from start to end and I can't recommend this book enough.
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Tania Blanchard continues to enthral her audiences with high quality wartime sagas. Inspired once more by facts from her own family’s history, she captures all the brutality of WWII but from the often over looked German perspective. I have read and reviewed all Tania’s books - The Girl from Munich and Suitcase of Dreams - and Letters from Berlin is equally engaging. 

‘Take the moments of joy whenever you can get them. They’ll sustain you through the difficult times that are a part of life.’

What I enjoyed most about this story was the inside perspective of life in Berlin during this volatile time. Tania slowly lays out all the pieces on her story board - history, plot, characters - and then weaves her writer’s magic to present a compelling tale that will keep the reader engaged to the very end. 

What you see here is the slow demise of the Nazis and how they all began to turn on one another with the Russians and Americans advancing on two fronts. Berlin and its people were trapped and betrayed with often madness ensuing in an effort to eliminate any and all evidence. No one could be trusted as desperation overtook the Nazis and their followers. So many German citizens longed for Hitler’s downfall and the characters Tania includes are strong and determined to stand up for all that is right and just.  

‘We knew what the Nazi racial policy involved only too well. I felt ashamed to be German.’

My only concern (and loss of half a star) was the opening and closings of the book -it just did not sit comfortably for me. In some respects, I could have done without these short ‘bookends’, as I felt it detracted from a strong wartime saga. The modern day link did not add enough and the quick closure for the leads in the present day was not satisfying after all I had been through with them. However, do not let this distract you from a wonderful wartime read. 

‘There wasn’t always a right and a wrong. Life was more complicated than that. It was about the shades that lay in between. I was beginning to learn what people were prepared to do for the right reasons.’

Letters from Berlin simmers with authenticity because of Tania's inside knowledge and you will appreciate this when you read her endnote. I congratulate Tania for providing us with German perspectives in such a time of uncertainty, with characters who are resilient and believable. I highly recommend this book for historical fiction lovers. 

‘We each have a way of surviving, a way of keeping our soul intact. We need hope to live.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading Letters From Berlin by Tania Blanchard. The story is historical fiction but it is based on real events linked to the author's family during World War II.

I enjoyed reading a wartime story from the perspective of 'ordinary' German citizens who were not only caught up in the atrocities of the war but were seen as an enemy just because of where they were born or lived. They too had to loose their family members to the war and live through bombings, food rations, fear and poverty that came with wartime. 

This story shows how many German citizens were against the Nazi rule and longed for Hitler’s downfall. They took many risks and were in danger from their own armed forces turning on them. Blanchard captures the lives of such people in this wonderful story about a very dangerous time, a time when no one was safe.

The story captures the ripple effect of the war into the lives of all the characters in the book and into their family for generations to come.
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After Susanna Göttmann's parents and brother were killed in a terrible accident, she moved to her godparents home, Gut Birkenhof, outside of Berlin. As she grew, her grief subsided, but the memories were always there. Susie’s Onkel Georg and Tante Elya, and their son Leo, made life happier for her and she loved them dearly. In 1943 the Nazis were gaining ground and control and with Tante Elya being Jewish, she had to wear the Star of David. Onkel Georg was able to keep her safe, but no one knew for how long.

Susie was working as a nurse when she took a gamble. The Nazi officer was a friend of the family, and could keep Leo and Tante Elya safe as long as Susie pretended to court Julius. Her love for Leo would never fade, but until the war was over, she couldn’t be with him. Keeping her family safe was uppermost in Susie’s mind. Gradually, Susie, Leo and Onkel Georg became entrenched in the resistance. But danger was around them always. Would she manage to keep her family safe until the war was over? The atrocities the Nazis were involved in horrified them all – but they had to keep one step ahead...

Letters From Berlin is another brilliant, based on fact, historical novel from the pen of Australian author Tania Blanchard. This is the author’s third novel and I’ve read and loved them all. Starting from the current day, receiving letters written over the years; the majority of the story is set in and around Berlin during the war years. A wonderful, satisfying though heartbreaking and at times, traumatic novel, I loved Letters From Berlin deeply, and recommend it highly.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
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Sydney 2019, Ingrid opens a letter from Germany knowing she will now need to explain to her daughter Natalie it’s from Ingrid’s biological mother and she’s adopted. This is the beginning of a dual timeline story, about a terrible world war, what happened to a couple who were desperately in love and at the worst possible time.

Germany 1943, Susanna Gottmann, lives with her godparents Georg and Elya Hecker at their beautiful estate in the German countryside. Her Aunt Elya is from Russian, she’s part Jewish and this means her son Leo is also considered a Jew by the Nazis. Georg has managed to keep his wife and son safe because the farm produces valuable food needed by the army, but slowly the people in the village attitudes are changing towards them, despite all Elya has done for them over the years and now they will no longer speak to her.

Julius Siebenborn is a trusted family friend, he’s promised to help the Hecker’s and keep Elya’s and Leo’s names of the lists for hard labor and being deported to a concentration camp. He has power, money and influence, Leo doesn’t trust him at all and despite knowing him since he was a little boy. Desperate to protect her family, Susie accepts help from Julius, he’s older than her, a longtime friend of Uncle Georg’s, being with him is perfectly safe, it’s all for show and he promises to continue to help the Hecker’s? Not all German’s supported the war, Hitler and what could they do? Susanna decides to use information she’s over hears at the events she attends with Julius, to help the resistance and it’s very dangerous. 

The allied army is getting closer and the dreaded Russian army; the people of Berlin are being bombed day and night. Germany is an absolute mess, the railway system has been damaged, people are living in bombed out houses or underground, they have no electricity, water and very little food. Hitler still wants them all to believe that they will win the war, Germany will not be defeated and he’s insane. 

Tania Blanchard uses facts from her own family’s history to write a book about WW II it looks at the brutality of war from the German perspective; she portrays the desperation and hardship the German people had to endure for years and it continued after the war ended. I have read Tania’s previous books The Girl from Munich and Suitcase of Dreams and I liked them both. Letters from Berlin is absolutely brilliant, Tania Blanchard has gone to another level with this book and I highly recommend reading it. It’s a historical fiction saga about war, tragedy, personal sacrifice, survival, secrets, romance, love and five stars from me.
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Another great book from this very talented author.  Every perspective of German life in the war years offers a fascinating analysis of what happened and this is a new one to me.  I felt for the characters who were pushed into situations they didn’t want for all the right motivations.  There were some genuinely nail biting aspects which had me reading quickly just to get to the resolution.  The characters were well presented and the dialogue highly credible,  a great book.
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“I nodded, not sure that I wanted to be a part of the Nazi social elite. It meant that I was one of them, with the same warped values and attitudes. It felt wrong in all sorts of ways. I took a large swallow of the champagne. But I had to remember why I was doing this.”

Letters From Berlin is the third novel by Australian author, Tania Blanchard. The Hecker family are everything to her, all she has left. Onkel Georg and Tante Elya took in seven-year-old Susanna Göttmann when her family died; their son, Leo has become the love of her life. Susie knows that Leo will never understand why she has chosen to keep company with Julius Siebenborn, an elite Nazi, a man Leo says can’t be trusted.

Tante Elya is a Russian Jew; as a prosperous estate owner, Onkel Georg has managed to keep her and their “mischling” son safe by catering to the expensive tastes of those in power. But with the Fuhrer’s determination to rid Germany of all Jews, the rules change at the whim of Nazi executive, and only someone like Julius can create loopholes for the people Susie loves. She has to trust him.

In her third novel, Blanchard easily captures her setting and the era; her plot is credible and her characters are easy to love (or despise, as required); her extensive research is apparent on every page of this rather different look at Word War Two.

Stories about this war often present the perspective of those in Allied countries, but of course, the ordinary German people were at the receiving end of bombs too; they had rationing; their men were conscripted to fight in a war they didn’t necessarily believe in. And they had further disadvantages: they were being led by a madman; and the Third Reich propaganda machine kept them ignorant of much that was being done in their name.

Blanchard takes the many known facts pertaining to the wartime experiences of her own grandmother’s family and brings them to life, weaving into them aspects of self-sacrifice and betrayal, love and loss and loyalty. For, if war brings forth the worst of humanity, it also showcases the best of it; in extraordinary circumstances, ordinary people manage to achieve extraordinary things, and Blanchard’s novel emphatically demonstrates this. This is an utterly engrossing read.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Australia
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Another exceptional read, inspired by a true story,  from Tania Blanchard! 
The horrors and long lasting affects of WWII are told through the life of Susanna Göttmann. It is hard to imagine living through a war but to live through the Nazi regime in Germany with Jewish family members would be unimaginable. Susanna (Susie) writes about her and her family’s life before, during and after the War in letters to her daughter.  A story of love, betrayal, loyalty, family honour and courage.
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