Summary and book reviews of The Good German by Joseph Kanon

The Good German

by Joseph Kanon

The Good German
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2001, 482 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2002, 482 pages

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Book Summary

This thriller is both a touching love story and a masterful portrayal of the struggle for geopolitical control of postwar Germany.

With World War II finally coming to an ending, Jake Geismar, former Berlin correspondent for CBS, has managed to wangle one of the coveted slots for the Potsdam Conference. His assignment: a series of articles on the American occupation of postwar Berlin. His personal agenda: to find Lena, the German mistress he left behind at the outbreak of the war. When he stumbles onto a murder -- an American soldier has washed up on a lakeshore on the conference grounds -- he thinks he has found the key that will unlock his Berlin story. What he finds instead is a larger story of corruption and intrigue reaching deep into the heart of the occupation and a city not only physically but morally devastated, where children scavenge for food in the rubble, sex can be had for a cigarette, and the black market is the only means of survival.

Berlin at zero hour is like nowhere else -- a tragedy, and a feverish party after the end the world. And nothing is simple-not the murder of a soldier and not any of the lives, American and German, that Jake encounters as he tries solve it. More unsolvable still is the larger crime that hangs over everything in 1945, a crime so huge it seems beyond punishment.

At once a murder mystery, a love story, and a riveting portrait of a unique time and place, The Good German is a historical thriller of first rank.

CHAPTER ONE

The war had made him famous. Not as famous as Murrow, the voice of London, and not as famous as Quent Reynolds, now the voice of the documentaries, but famous enough to get a promise from Collier's ("four pieces, if you can get there") and then the press pass to Berlin. In the end, it was Hal Reidy who'd made the difference, juggling the press slots like seating arrangements, UP next to ScrippsHoward, down the table from Hearst, who'd assigned too many people anyway.

"I can't get you out till Monday, though. They won't give us another plane, not with the conference on. Unless you've got some pull. "

"Only you."

Hal grinned. "You're in worse shape than I thought. Say hello to Nanny Wendt for me, the prick." Their censor from the old days, before the war, when they'd both been with Columbia, a nervous little man, prim as a governess, who liked to run a pen through their copy just before they went on the air. "The Ministry of ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What do we learn about Jake Geismar in the opening pages of The Good German? What are his personal and professional reasons for returning to Berlin, now that the war in Europe has ended? And what does he hope to find after his big discovery at the Potsdam Conference? Also, explain how Jake's personal history-as a somewhat heroic yet exiled American, a cynical but honest journalist, a former citizen of Berlin, and so forth-influences the novel's tone, atmosphere, narrative focus, and plot.
     
  2. Explain the meaning of the novel's title, giving special attention to the ironic connotations of the word "good." How-and where, specifically-does this novel address the difficult issue of ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Publisher's Weekly

The book ultimately falters under the weight of a ponderous, edgeless plot

Library Journal

Recommended only to meet demand, which may be considerable, given the book's heavy-duty marketing budget.

Booklist - Bill Ott

Superb popular fiction, combining propulsive narrative drive with a subtle grasp of character and a fine sense of moral ambiguity

New York Times

Provocative, fully realized fiction that explores...the reality of history as it is lived by individual men and women.

Los Angeles Times

Kanon demonstrates an eerie mastery of evocative historical detail....You can feel the shattered glass crunching beneath your feet as you read.

Reader Reviews

D. Allan Carpenter

Praise for The Good German
A brilliant story. A person cannot help but immerse themselves in Kanon's work. He brings history to life.

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