Cover Image: The Berlin Letters

The Berlin Letters

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Member Reviews

I'm loving these Cold War stories Reay is writing. Her first, A Shadow in Moscow, was tremendous and this one is equally good. The story starts with the Berlin Wall being erected ... effectively overnight, firstly with barbed wire (how much of that would have been needed?) and after a few weeks, concrete slabs which had already been made, were shipped in and became the permanent solution.

In exploring the impact of the wall, the Soviet influence, and the Stasi police, Reay uses a family torn in two by the wall's erection. Literally! Monica Voekler's parents and sister have moved to the Western side of Berlin only a few weeks prior. They are 'free' but Monica is devastated and makes an impulsive decision that changes her family's lives.

Most of the story is told by Luisa Voekler, Monica's daughter, who in 1989 is 31 years old working for the CIA in Washington. She stumbles upon letters that her father, Haris, had written to her Opa for over twenty years. These are the 'Berlin letters' of the title. They provide a fascinating firsthand perspective of how the Soviet influence took over East Berlin. Knowing that under this regime every letter will be read before being shipped to its destination, Opa teaches Haris how to write codes in his letters that would pass the scrutiny of the Stasi readers.

What's also interesting is what Luisa's Opa does with the letters and who he passes the information onto in America. Unbeknownst to her Oma, Luisa's Opa has been an American spy since the 1950s. It's fabulous reading especially if you enjoy a good spy story like I do.

The pace of the story keeps you turning pages quickly and I was always keen to get back to reading it at the end of a day. The last hundred pages are enthralling, keeping you on the edge of your seat, as Luisa impulsively visits Berlin. Knowing some of the dates around the Wall, Reay times Luisa's visit perfectly for one of the biggest moments in the Cold War coming to an end.

There's a little bit of romance, and some wonderful flawed characters who bear the consequences of their actions. It's tremendous story telling.

I'm excited for what Reay does next in these Cold War stories.

I feel very fortunate to have received an early ebook copy of the story from Harper Muse via Net Galley. However, this has had no influence on my review.

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I need to read more about this period in history. I remember seeing the Berlin Wall coming down on television, but I was only 9 and didn't understand the significance. I just knew that it was "important" and something I should remember. So when I saw this book, I knew I needed to read it.

This was an extremely well-researched story. Luisa Voekler believes her parents to be dead. She was raised by her grandparents, who had emigrated to the United States from Germany. She knew little of their lives before arriving in America. One day, she finds a cache of letters that her grandfather had hidden, and it completely changes the trajectory of her life.

What I liked about this story:

Dual timelines - this nearly always works for me. I enjoyed seeing Luisa's perspective the most, as she is figuring out and breaking the codes in the letters and unearthing her family history. But her father's perspective was also really interesting for the insight into what it was like to live behind the Berlin Wall.

The pacing of this book was perfect - I never got bored or felt like things were getting too bogged down.

The inclusion of the punk scene - I would have loved even more of that. Is there a whole book like that? If so I need it.

What I didn't like:

I didn't feel like I connected with any of the characters. I really wanted to like Luisa, but for whatever reason, I just couldn't quite get there. So there was no emotional connection in what should have been a very emotional story.

There were times, particularly in Haris's chapters, when it felt a bit info-dumpy. The author learned a lot of information and wanted to include it, and you could definitely see that she did a lot of research. But I felt that there were whole pages of just explaining rather than letting me experience it through the characters' eyes.

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The Berlin Letters by Katherine Reay – Fascinating, Compelling, Filled with Intrigue

When I read the description about Katherine Reay’s new book, The Berlin Letters, I wanted to read it. So glad I had the opportunity. It was a great book.

Monica Voekler loved her husband Haris and enjoyed their life together in East Berlin with their daughter Luisa. But she did not share Haris’ appreciation for the GDR government. The day came when the wall went up, guards would not let people pass through to West Berlin, and razor wire deterred citizens trying to escape. That day Monica was desperate and would resort to the unthinkable to ensure her daughter would be safe. She tossed her beloved daughter to her father on the other side of the wall. Their lives changed that day, for Monica and Haris, and for three-year-old Luisa and her Grandparents who later moved to America.

The Berlin Letters is a wonderful read. The novel takes place during the Cold War and spans 28 years, from 1961 to 1989. It tells the story about a family divided and torn apart by the oppressive German Democratic Republic and the Berlin Wall. It is filled with mystery, intrigue, secrets, spies, snitches, encrypted letters, and code breaking. It tells the story of people who risked their lives to get the truth out the world with the hope of change and freedom.

As fascinating as the intrigue is the story was made even more compelling by the characters and their relationships. The characters came across as very real as we learn about their experiences and what they are thinking and feeling. The characters grew and changed over the years.

I enjoyed reading historical fiction and Katherine Reay did a fabulous job making the characters come to life during the fascinating time of the Cold War. The Berlin Letters is a is compelling, thoughtful novel, and filled with intrigue.

The Berlin Letters is the first novel I have read by Katherine Reay and I am so glad I discovered her work. I was reminded when reading this book, what an incredible time we lived through when we saw the Berlin Wall come down and freedom come to those who were oppressed. I look forward to reading more of her books.

I would like to thank Publisher Harper Muse and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complementary copy of The Berlin Letters by Katherine Reay. I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

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Cold War, historical fiction, multiple timelines, CIA...espionage...code breaking...this was a great one! I don't think I've read any historical fiction novels specifically around the Berlin wall before - always love digging into a new time in history. I particularly loved the end being tied up with a bow (tho not always realistic, it's my favorite!).

I received a complimentary copy of this book (thank you!). Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to review The Berlin Letters. This book was an amazing read. Luisa always wondered about the puzzles her grandfather would make for her. Working at the CIA, she is disappointed that she didn't advance with her co-workers. After the death of her grandfather, she finds out that her father, who she thought was dead, might still be alive. With courage, relying on her past CIA training, she does all she can to find him. Filled with rescue, hope, and the desire for freedom, Luisa finally realizes the truth about her career challenges. Katherine Reay leads us on dual timeline journey that brings to life what it was like during the time of the Berlin Wall.

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This book was incredible, and it should rank for one of my top reads this year. The rich history and sense of place gave a background to this story, while the beating heart is found in the father-daughter relationship neither expected they could have. A story of Cold War spies and family secrets, framed by the history of the Berlin Wall. This book did such a good job helping me to see what this time period was likr and giving a sense of what it was like to survive in East Berlin.

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A spellbinding tale that transports the reader to the tumultuous days of the Cold War. Rich in historical detail, the story is a masterful blend of espionage, family secrets, and the power of love.
Many thanks to Harper Muse and to Netgalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Life behind the wall in Eastern Germany is something I've always heard about. My parents were in Germany while the wall was there and talked about the fear and separation caused by the wall. However, reading The Berlin Letters changed my perspective on this monstrous historical event. Reay tells the story from the perspectives of Luisa and her father Haris, both residents of East Germany. While Haris still resides in East Germany and has turned spy for the Americans, Luisa's mother threw her over the wall to her grandparents after the wall's construction. The story speaks to the heartache of families separated by the wall, the terror inflicted by the Stasi, and the lives behind the masks in East Germany. At the same time, Luisa's journey into East Germany is fascinating to follow! Overall, this novel is very well done. The amount of historical research and references included in this 20-year story are fascinating. This is the second historical fiction novel of Katherine Reay's that I've read, and I am impressed by her research and unique story. She has selected a unique time in history and transported us there.
4.5/5

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Edge of your seat intrigue and espionage set in the first days of November 1989 in East Berlin as decades of spy intelligence comes to a head just as the Berlin Wall is about to fall. Louisa is at the heart of the story- now an adult codebreaker for the CIA she discovers secrets about her family and her childhood in Berlin where on the day the wall went up she was handed across to her grandparents, never to see her parents in East Berlin again. Exciting, engaging, and informative story about the shocking reality of life in East Berlin and those who sought to change it for the better.

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The book covers a very tough period in history and the effects it took on a family, but it does it throughly and with a lot of heart.

The best part of the book is the language — Katherine Reay uses beautiful phrases and words and changes voice effortlessly when telling the story through each character’s point of view.

The story, beautiful language, and thorough research all make for a wonderful read!

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4.5 stars rounded up
“Like me, she wants to know what’s true, what’s a story, and who made it up. Like me she’s searching…”

From the publisher: “November 1989 —After finding a secret cache of letters with intelligence buried in the text, CIA cryptographer Luisa Voekler learns that not only is her father alive but he is languishing in an East German Stasi jail. Alternating storylines between Luisa and her father, The Berlin Letters shows the tumultuous early days of the wall, bringing Berlin, the epicenter of the Cold War, to life while also sharing one family’s journey through secrets, lies, and division to love, freedom, and reconciliation.”

Interesting, nuanced characters and a strong exciting plot make The Berlin Letters a historical fiction book that stands above many others. Reay’s book captures the DDR (East Germany) during the Cold War, with well-researched details. ”The new neighborhoods are full of tall and identical cement structures that have been built in the last several years, but with little style in their design and little grass and greenery between them. They are not beautiful…the bombed buildings are not being reconstructed in their original fashion. If not left in rubble, the new additions are uniform, cement, and uninspired.”

There is a menacing undercurrent, but the book is not frightening or graphic and moves along quickly. The romance at the end of the book was OK but didn’t really add to the story.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I loved this book by Katherine Reay this is my first time reading this author and I am excited to check out her other books .
The book is a dual timeline between the main character Luisa and her father Harris and her Opa. Luisa is a code breaker for the CIA and is asked by a coworker for help breaking the code of letters from the past. That letter leads her to discover her life is not what she has believed it to be.
Katherine Reay does an excellent job of capturing the essence of East Berlin and the lives of the people who lived there. This is one of my favorite time periods to read about and Katherine Reay has given us another view of this world and how people survived and fought it in their own way.
I truly enjoyed this book and highly recommend.

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An interesting novel of the Cold War and specifically the history of East and West Berlin before the wall fell. While some of the story seemed preposterous it was an enjoyable read.

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Thank you @uplitreads and @harpermusebooks for the #gifted copies of this book.

1969: A baby tossed over the barbed wire that would become the Berlin Wall. A young life thrust from the torment of oppression into the open arms of freedom.

Harrowing. Sacrificial.

Twenty years later, that now grown adult and CIA agent seeks to free her father from the despair of a Stasi prison.

Reay’s newest Cold War spy thriller proves a worthy education for readers. This was an immersive history lesson, rife with tension and laden with details of the political turmoil and unrest.

Both the 1969 and 1989 storylines unfolded at a quick pace and held my attention, though I found the 1969 timeline much more engaging and richly drawn. Oftentimes, I found the 1989 storyline moving at a brisker (and easier) pace than would have been realistic.

Even so, the accessibility of the storyline allowed Reay’s meticulous research to shine.

The history was exceptionally executed, fully encapsulating the essence of the Berlin Wall experience, from its rise to its fall.

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As usual, Katherine Reay delights with her story about life on both sides of the Berlin Wall and all of its pain, joys, and other complexities. I really don't even have a lot of interest in historical narratives of this type, which obviously take a great deal of research to reach this level of authenticity, but I love Reay's writing so I will read whatever she writes. The Berlin Letters did not disappoint; it took me on a journey along with its characters and left me much enlightened and moved by the story. I can't wait to see what she writes next.

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Katherine Reay is one of my top writers, & while this plot was unexpected – or maybe not, following her last book – I knew I was guaranteed an excellent read.
This is a powerful story. Most of us will have read a lot about the two World Wars, but not be so familiar with the inside story of what life was like for Berliners, in the decades afterward. We will remember the Wall falling, but this book gives a really good idea of what it was like to experience it – from both sides. And also how those who had managed to escape continued to be adversely affected – for the rest of their lives.
The 5th-to-last sentence in the Epilogue was perfect, but it would be a spoiler to quote it...
4 1/2 stars

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More than 5 stars is deserved for this book! It totally blew me away. From the very beginning, I was invested in the lives of the characters.

The characters are absolutely amazing! The tenacity and courage that were displayed by each one was admirable! My favorites were Panzer and Willow! I used to be in a punk rock band, and punk is its own universe!

Katherine Reay's writing is extraordinary! I could picture each place in my mind where the story was taking place. My heart raced as Luisa and Haris ran from their perpetrators.

This time in history is bleak but also full of hope. The author's note at the end is worth the read.

I was provided a copy of the book from Harpur Muse via Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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I really enjoyed this book! It was well researched, and I learned a lot about this time in history. This book had it all-intense suspense, code breaking, family dynamics, and a bit of a love story. I was engaged throughout the book, and it got especially heart pounding towards the end! I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves historical fiction.

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Wow! I absolutely LOVED this book.

Katherine Reay books are fantastic because she is incredible at research and always manages to teach you so much while sharing an amazing story with you.

The Berlin Letters is a Cold War era novel, written in dual POV. One POV is from a man living behind the Iron Curtain and the other POV is from his daughter, raised in the US by her grandparents. The daughter’s timeline is set in the 1980’s, while her father’s is more broad from the 60’s to the 80’s.

I loved the writing style and the characters in this story so much. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. You know I love an amazing historical fiction, but I also find the CIA and code breaking so fascinating! This book had it all. I learned so much and loved every minute of it.

Bonus points: this is another clean historical fiction!

Beautifully written. Highly, highly recommend The Berlin Letters to you.

Thank you to @netgalley for my gifted e-copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

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Katherine Reay weaves a gorgeous historical fiction novel centered around a dark time in history that has not been braved by many of the historical fiction authors out there. Spanning decades and generations, the book follows Luisa and Haris Voekler’s path to freedom, love and foregiveness across the Berlin Wall. As with many books I read with historical time periods I’m less familiar with, I’m very interested in reading and learning more about the Berlin Wall after reading the Berlin Letters.

At times the book is a little wordy but I believed it had to have been important details Reay needed to include to set the scene.

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