Three of his previous books took place in and around the holocaust, and The Girl From Berlin is no exception. Catherine and Liam are hired to try to prevent the eviction of their friend’s aunt Gabi from her small farm/vineyard in the Tuscan hills. A powerful corporation claims that they own the deeds even though she has her own set of deeds for the land.
Gabi sends Catherine a translated copy of a journal written by Ada Baumgarten, who was born in Berlin in 1918. Ada was the daughter of an accomplished first-chair violinist in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, and she herself became a prodigy. Flashbacks begin during her years enjoying Berlin’s rich culture as a small child, and go on through the years of Hitler’s Germany. We follow her escape to Italy and subsequent dealings with the Nazi’s there. We follow her career, her family and friends, and her forbidden romance, as everything is taken from the Jewish people during those years.
I often have trouble reading stories centering around this time period, but Balson’s books are different. He doesn’t try to hide the horrors, but he concentrates more on the bravery of his characters and the lives that they live. The actual concentration camp scenes are scarce and less graphic then many others I have read, but the message is no less powerful.
When the readers’ emotions reach a breaking point dealing with Ada, Balson brings us back to 2018 and the legal case that our protagonists are fighting to win in Italy. I spent a good deal of the book trying to figure out how Gabi came to be in possession of Ada’s manuscript, and the answer didn’t disappoint me.
Balson’s descriptions of a collapsing Germany and the beautiful hillsides of Tuscany add a depth to the book and lead me to highly recommend it for your collection.
Publisher - St. Martin’s Press
Date of Publication - October 9, 2018