Review: Our Friends In Berlin – Anthony Quinn

Our Friends In Berlin Anthony QuinnMy version: Hardback
Genre: Historical Fiction World War II, Britain
Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House
First published: 2018
Bought, signed

From the cover:

London, 1941.

The city is in blackout, besieged by nightly raids from Germany. Two strangers are about to meet. Between them they may alter the course of the war.

While the Blitz has united the nation, there is an enemy hiding in plain sight. A group of British citizens is gathering secret information to aid Hitler’s war machine. Jack Hoste has become entangled in this treachery, but he also has a particular mission; to locate the most dangerous Nazi agent in the country.

Hoste soon receives a promising lead. Amy Strallen, who works in a Mayfair marriage bureau, was once close to this elusive figure. Her life is a world away from the machinations of Nazi sympathisers, yet when Hoste pays a visit to Amy’s office, everything changes in a heartbeat.

To hopefully aid your reading and/or enjoyment of the book, I have put together a special Speesh Reads Pinterest board for Anthony Quinn’s Our Friends In Berlin, with pictures and links relevant to the book

Yes, it is a good concept and uncovers, for me anyway, an aspect of the early and middle days of World War II, until the Allied landings in Normandy, that I hadn’t really thought a whole lot about. The danger from home-based, home-bred, English/British Nazi sympathisers. And not those in the Aristocracy either. I guess it could be allowed for that there were people, as now, who thought Hitler was on the right track, but to go so far as gather intelligence and attempt to ship that intelligence back to Berlin, I hadn’t really considered it all that much. Yes, it is well written and plotted, but…it really should have been a lot better really. Stronger deeper characterisation, more tension, more of a feeling of dread that it could all go wrong and the war-effort on a knife-edge, especially when one of the friends from Berlin comes over. Especially that could have been handled better, made much more deadly. As it is, it all reads like a Wartime Romance novel, albeit one with a bit of an edge. I wouldn’t say it was lacklustre, there is a sense of purpose, and the first half, where he plays us along – that is, if you don’t read the back of book blurb – well done. Just a shame the marketing department at Penguin let him down rather and his hard, not quite revealing who is who and what strategy, is undone somewhat. He does however, I feel, get to the heart of the (excuse the pun) ‘little Hitlers’ that there were, who built their own self-importance up in wartime, by gathering ‘intelligence,’ and generally making themselves feel important to the only side that made them feel that way. The meetings in pubs, the passing of observations and the characterisations of these nobodies is the best thing in the book.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading it very much, but I really can’t see how it matches up to the praise I’ve seen written about it and the back of book blurb up top there. You should read it if you want a well-done period piece and a window onto an aspect of WWII in Britain that I don’t think there has been written too much about. But don’t go expecting a tense thriller.

You can buy Our Friends In Berlin from The Book Depository

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