Back to Back: Book summary and reviews of Back to Back by Julia Franck

Back to Back

by Julia Franck

Back to Back by Julia Franck X
Back to Back by Julia Franck
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

Back to Back begins in 1954, and centers around a single family living in Berlin in the socialist East. The mother, Käthe, is a sculptor of Jewish heritage, who has been leveraging her party connections in order to get more important and significant commissions. Devoted entirely to becoming a success in the socialist state, she is a cruel and completely unaffectionate mother, putting the party above her children, who she treats as if they were adults - there is no bourgeois mollycoddling in her household.

Thomas and Ella's father emigrated to West Germany after World War II, and they deeply long to see him again and dream of a life where they could be allowed to have the kind of childhood that other children enjoy. But Käthe's hard-nosed brutality - a reflection of the materialistic, unsentimental state in which she lives - means Thomas and Ella are unable to live the lives they want to - instead of his dream of becoming a writer, Thomas is forced to study geology, and do hard labor at a quarry as the practical part of his education. And Ella, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly introverted and strange - not least because the Stasi lodger the government has billetted in their home is beginning to abuse her…

Heartbreaking and shocking, Back to Back is a dark fairytale of East Germany, the story of a single family tragedy that reflects the greater tragedies of totalitarianism.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Set in East Germany during the 1950s and '60s, this haunting novel depicts the constricted, oppressed lives of people living under the brutal policies of the country's Communist government... Heartbreaking reality." - Publishers Weekly

"Great for elevated book club discussion." - Library Journal

"Poetic and sensuous, but so unrelievedly grim that it borders on the unendurable." - Kirkus

"This novel, a deeply grim Sentimental Education from the early period of the "State of Workers and Farmers" leaves the reader lost for words. Was it really so bad? ... It was so much worse." - Saarbrücker Zeitung (Germany)

"Franck's prose is extremely delicate and yet so vivid that by the end of the book you feel like you've just seen a visually spectacular film - one that you will never forget." - Sie/Petra/Vital (Germany)

"The casualness with which Franck manages to evoke a mood of permanent mistrust, showing what it means when ones perceived reality does not correspond with the reality of others, with the reality of those in charge, is devastating. Rarely has the reader been so enjoyably on such shaky ground." - Spiegel.com (Germany)

"A virtuoso creator of poetically charged moods... never before has East Germany been so radically depicted as dead at birth as in the arresting, magical narrative web of Julia Franck." - Literarische Welt

This information about Back to Back was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Julia Franck Author Biography

Photo: Hans Weingartz

Julia Franck is a German writer. She studied German Literature and American Studies at the Free University of Berlin and spent some time in the United States, Mexico and Guatemala. She worked as an editor for Sender Freies Berlin and contributed to various newspapers and magazines. She lives with her children in Berlin.

Franck has received several awards, most notably the German Book Prize in 2007 and the 3sat Award at the esteemed Ingeborg Bachmann Competition in 2000. In 2010 The Blind Side of the Heart was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize as well as the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Literary Prize.

Her books have been translated over 35 languages. "West" (2014) is a film adaptation of her novel Lagerfeuer.

Link to Julia Franck's Website

Other books by Julia Franck at BookBrowse
  • The Blindness of the Heart jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more historical fiction...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: If I Survive You
    If I Survive You
    by Jonathan Escoffery
    In If I Survive You, author Jonathan Escoffery portrays a family falling apart with grace. Main ...
  • Book Jacket: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    by Sidik Fofana
    'Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale / Question is: Is it despair or prevail?' ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire Season
    Fire Season
    by Leyna Krow
    Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It ...
  • Book Jacket: The Story of Russia
    The Story of Russia
    by Orlando Figes
    In The Story of Russia, British historian and writer Orlando Figes shares panoramic and ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.