German Reunification: Background information when reading All Tomorrow's Parties

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

All Tomorrow's Parties

A Memoir

by Rob Spillman

All Tomorrow's Parties by Rob Spillman X
All Tomorrow's Parties by Rob Spillman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2016, 400 pages

    Feb 2017, 352 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
Buy This Book

About this Book

German Reunification

This article relates to All Tomorrow's Parties

Print Review

In his memoir All Tomorrow's Parties, Rob Spillman, the son of American expat musicians, includes a flashback to his childhood in Germany. He paints a bleak portrait of East Berlin in the 1970s, with its worthless currency, "sour-faced" military guards, secret police, and drab institutional architecture. It is not surprising that by the late '80s, citizens were spoiling for revolution and a domino effect of political events and popular uprising resulted in just that. In the more contemporary sections of the book, Spillman and his wife spend time in East Berlin as reunification is underway.

In addition to the factors mentioned above, widespread economic crisis worsened dissatisfaction among the East German populace. In 1989, Hungary removed its border fence allowing for a mass exodus of East Germans into the western region. Meanwhile, the authorities were unable to quell massive worker strikes and demonstrations across Plauen, Dresden, and Leipzig. Fanning the flames, a newly uncensored media reported on the unchecked corruption and greed of government officials including instances of illegal and unethical trade practices.

The demonstrations led to a more civic-minded populace. Art galleries, cafes, and bars for lively discussions popped up and outlawed films and banned books trickled in, radically altering the cultural landscape. In All Tomorrow's Parties Spillman describes visiting a couple of these bars where he and his wife meet members of The New Forum, a rising group of independent Socialists integral to the Round Table discussions that would hammer out logistics for a popular election and the shutdown of the Stasi (secret police). The utopian Socialist society they envisioned, however, was not to be.

Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate on eve of reunification In October 1989, East Germany leader Erich Honecker and his entire cabinet stepped down and in November the border between East and West Germany was officially opened. The public celebrated by spontaneously assembling to dismantle the Berlin Wall.

In the end, moderation won out and radicalism faded, the election held in March of 1990 brought to power the Christian Democratic Union under the leadership of Lothar de Maiziere on a platform of speedy reunification and economic growth. The CDU's Helmut Kohl would become the first Chancellor of a unified Germany. The reunification treaty between East and West was signed in August of that year, followed in September by the "Two Plus Four Treaty" establishing German unity among representatives from the Soviet Union, United States, France, and the U.K. The follow-through was an immensely complicated affair of restructuring where economies, cultures, infrastructures and political institutions were in a state of flux that to some extent continues to this day. The idealists of the New Forum proved out of touch with the desires of vast swathes of the population who no longer wanted anything to do with Socialism, reformed or otherwise.

Last year marked the twenty-five year anniversary of reunification, an occasion for taking stock of the present circumstances. Economic disparity continues, with West Germany remaining substantially wealthier. Trade reflects this with more consumer goods moving from West to East than vice versa and a higher unemployment rate in the East. The remains of the Socialist ideology prevalent in the East account for better systems for child care and education. German Chancellor Angela Merkel grew up in East Germany and has been outspoken about the need for continued efforts for equality and a more complete unification.

You can watch a PBS special, The Wall for more insights about the world before and after the reunification. Here is a preview:

Picture of Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate by Sue Ream

Filed under People, Eras & Events

Article by Lisa Butts

This "beyond the book article" relates to All Tomorrow's Parties. It originally ran in April 2016 and has been updated for the February 2017 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
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!

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Bloodbath Nation
    Bloodbath Nation
    by Paul Auster
    In recent years, Booker Prize­–nominated novelist Paul Auster has increasingly turned to ...
  • Book Jacket: The Nazi Conspiracy
    The Nazi Conspiracy
    by Brad Meltzer, Josh Mensch
    The Nazi Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch was a big hit with our First Impressions readers...
  • Book Jacket
    by Jabari Asim
    The captivating historical novel Yonder turns an intimate lens towards the tragedy and survivorship ...
  • Book Jacket: After Sappho
    After Sappho
    by Selby Wynn Schwartz

    "Someone will remember us, I say, even in another time."
    —Sappho, fragment ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Love of My Life
by Rosie Walsh
An up-all-night love story wrapped in a mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Ghosted.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    by Wendell Steavenson

    A young woman struggles to break free of her upper-class upbringing amid the whirlwind years of the sexual revolution.

  • Book Jacket

    by Jane Harper

    A captivating new mystery from New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jane Harper.

  • Book Jacket

    This Other Eden
    by Paul Harding

    A novel inspired by the true story of Malaga Island from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Tinkers.


Solve this clue:

It's A G T Me

and be entered to win..

Who Said...

Life is the garment we continually alter, but which never seems to fit.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

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.