Sunday 10 July 2011

After Midnight by Irmgard Keun - Book Review

Title: After Midnight
Author: Irmgard Keun
Publisher: Melville House
Publication Date: 24th May 2011 (1987)
Pages: 135
Format: E-book - PDF
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: ARC from NetGalley

Sanna and her ravishing friend Gerti would rather speak of love than politics, but in 1930s Frankfurt, politics cannot be escaped—even in the lady's bathroom. Crossing town one evening to meet up with Gerti's Jewish lover, a blockade cuts off the girls' path—it is the F├╝rher in a motorcade procession, and the crowd goes mad striving to catch a glimpse of Hitler's raised "empty hand." Then the parade is over, and in the long hours after midnight Sanna and Gerti will face betrayal, death, and the heartbreaking reality of being young in an era devoid of innocence or romance. (Goodreads Synopsis)

This is a very intense piece of writing, offering a glimpse of the life led by everyday people in Hitler's Germany.

The tension runs high from start to finish as the characters deal with the difficulties of life, under constant threat of being reported for the slightest hint of offense against the regime.

There was a sense of urgency about every scene in this book, which was a little tiring at times, but which I also think was necessary to convey the fear of the characters as they each battled their personal demons. I certainly put the book down at the end with a sense of relief that I could now take a moment to breathe.

I never really felt I fully engaged with the characters, but I wonder if that was intentional on the part of the author, given the detachment of the characters themselves as they look for ways to escape their various lives and situations.

This is a quick read at only 135 pages, but I would not necessarily say it was a light one, despite the moments of great satirical humour that save the piece from becoming too depressive; more one for a dark, long night than a simple rainy afternoon, but worth the effort for those of you who like a deeper type of literary fiction.

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