A Guide To Berlin by Gail Jones – my thoughts

I am not a reviewer, but I like to share my thoughts when I read a good book. (I am proud to say I am currently reading some great books by Australian writers.)

A Guide To Berlin was written by one of my favourite Oz writers, Gail Jones. Don’t get me wrong, I am not biaised here; I don’t necessarily enjoy all the books written by my favourite authors.

From the beginning I was drawn into this book through excellent characterisation. I felt a real sense of them all. Cass, the reluctant Aussie; Marco, leader, real estate agent and writer, the tragic Gino, friends from Italy; Yukio and Mitsuko, writers from Japan; and the funny, high spirited Victor on sabbatical from the US.

They are connected by a shared interest in the work of Vladimir Nabokov, a Russian American  novelist. At least once a week they meet in empty apartments to share their thoughts and impression of his writing; but also they begin to share their own stories and deep memories.

It is during one of these meetings that one of them commits a violent act they did not see coming. How this impacts the rest of the group, and what happens next, makes for riveting reading.

I found this book compelling and as dark as I imagine a Berlin in winter to be. I can’t say the ending satisfied me, but any other ending would have disappointed, if that makes sense. It left me pondering and wanting more. Isn’t that the way a good book should end?

“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” Vladimir Nabokov

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