Built on Sand


Read 01/05/2019-05/05/2019

Rating 5 stars

Paul Scraton’s Built on Sand is a fictional biography of the city he has made his home. Berlin is a city that I’ve only visited once but I was fascinated by the way it wears its past on its streets and buildings. I’ve read other books set in Berlin, in the lead up to and during the Second World War, books which make the place as much a character in their storytelling as the people. Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin and Mr Norris Changes Trains, the anonymous diary A Woman in Berlin and Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin all gave me a sense of knowing Berlin, some before I’d even travelled there. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation: from A Christmas Carol to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine


It’s the 2nd December and Christmas will be going up Chez Hicks today. The family tradition when I was growing up was to put Christmas up on the 1st December, which has been tweaked to the first Saturday of December in our house. Either way, I’m only a day late. Continue reading

Goodbye to Berlin


Read 25/09/2016-02/10/2016

Rating: 3 stars

This is the third book from my prize Willoughby Book Club subscription. I was thrilled when I unwrapped it. I have Mr Norris Changes Trains as yet unread on my Kindle (because it appears on the list of books David Bowie thought people should read and I’m a sucker for a celebrity recommendation), but I wanted to read Goodbye to Berlin first. Which is odd, because I’m usually obsessed with reading things in order of publication. I’m a bit weird, I know.

These are stories about life in the demi-monde of Berlin in the early years of Nazi rule. It made me think of Paul Auster in the way the narrator shares the author’s name but isn’t strictly the author. It made me think of Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. It made me think of Nancy Mitford. It made me think. Continue reading



Read 29/12/2015-31/12/2015

Rating: 3.5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

I wasn’t sure about this at first. Robert Harris seemed too accepting of the Nazi régime carrying on. It seemed like a police procedural set in a world where the Nazi régime hadn’t been defeated, and I wondered what the point was. Especially as it seemed to give a weird validity to the Third Reich. There wasn’t enough disapprobation. Then the point was made clear. If the Nazi régime was still going strong, there would be certain central pillars of their ideology that were kept secret from their loyal subjects. About halfway through the book came to life and the jeopardy became more believable. Imagine you had become an adult under that régime, had begun to question its purity, and then you discovered its most terrible secret. Robert Harris has used historical fact to imagine a different end game well. It is a clever book. I just wish he’d been more unaccepting sooner in the story.