Excerpt from Shadow and Light by Jonathan Rabb, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Shadow and Light

A Novel

By Jonathan Rabb

Shadow and Light
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Mar 2009,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2010,
    384 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Joanne Collings

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter One

They say it is rare to have good reason to leave Berlin. In the summer you have Wannsee, where the beaches are powdered and cool, and where for a few pfennigs even a clerk and his girl can manage a cabana for the day. The cold months bring the Ice Palast up near the Oranienburger Gate, or a quick trip out to Luna Park for the rides and amusements, where a bit of cocoa and schnapps can keep a family warm for the duration. And always there is that thickness of life in the east, where whiskey (if you're lucky) and flesh (if not too old) play back and forth in a careless game of half-conscious decay. No reason, then, to leave the city with so much to keep a hand occupied.

And yet she was empty—not truly empty, of course, but thin to the point of concern. A phenomenon had descended on Berlin in early February, something no one could control or predict. Naturally they could explain it, but only in the language of high science and complexity. For the rest, it was simply Weisserhimmel—white sky—days on end of a too-bright sun without the sense to generate a trace of heat. Every forty years or so, it came as a faint reminder of the city's Nordic past, but history was not what Berliners chose to see. They were unnerved, their world made too clear, and so they left: businesses took unexpected holidays, schools indefinite recesses. It would all pass in a few days' time, but in the meanwhile, only the stalwarts were keeping the city alive.

Still, a few hours on the outskirts of town could do wonders. The sun might have been no less forgiving, but at least the surroundings were unfamiliar for a reason. Nonetheless, Nikolai Hoffner continued to glance into his rearview mirror as he drove. The Berlin he saw seemed compressed, small, her reflection strangely misleading. Even distance was doing little to help. He knew it best not to stare.

Instead, he opened his mouth wide and chanced a look at his teeth; they seemed to shake with the car's motion. The tooth, he had been told, would have to come out. Funny, but it didn't look all that different from the others, a bit thick, crooked, yellowed by tobacco. Hoffner had little faith in doctors, but he believed in pain, and that was enough. He was meant to rub some sort of ointment on his gums every few hours, at least until he could make time for an appointment. He was finding a brandy worked just as well.

The road to Neubabelsberg—the new road to Neubabelsberg—was straight and smooth, and for the price of a few pfennigs had you out to the film studios in less than half an hour. Someone had had the brilliant idea that Berlin needed a racing circuit, an asphalt totem to Mercedes and Daimler and Cadillac—although no one spoke of Cadillac—that ripped through the satiny pine needles and heavenly green leaves of the Grunwald. There had always been something of an escape when it came to the woods and lakes and beaches of the great, untamed forest. Now even that was gone, or going, eighteen kilometers uninterrupted. It seemed to dull everything.

With a quick press of the accelerator, Hoffner decided to test the old car. The exhaust roared and a hum rose as the rubber tires heated on the road. That was always the trick: to smell when they had reached their limit. These had the tang of disarmament surplus, the good military stuff that appeared now and then from some unknown warehouse. Everyone knew not to ask.

A big Buick hooted angrily from behind, and Hoffner checked his mirror again: the car had come from nowhere. He waved the driver on and watched as first the radiator, then the cabin, raced by. The Kriminalpolizei had yet to invest in speed. It would take something else to catch the criminals.

There was a sudden thud to his undercarriage—a parting gift from the Buick—and Hoffner waited for the agonizing scrape of metal on asphalt, but none came. Still, there might have been a puncture, or something wedged in where it wasn't meant to be. Not that Hoffner knew anything about a car's tending-to, but he reckoned he should take a look. After all, he would need a bit of grease on his face and hands to show at least some effort to the boy they would be sending out to tow him.

Excerpted from Shadow and Light by Jonathan Rabb. Copyright © 2009 by Jonathan Rabb. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  119Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson
  2.  31The Arsonist:
    Sue Miller

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist


Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.