The basics: Set during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Flight from Berlin is a story of espionage. It focuses on Eleanor, a young, married swimmer destined to win another Olympic gold medal despite her father's (a New York Senator) disapproval of the games that support Hitler, and Denham, a British journalist.
My thoughts: I'm a huge fan of the Olympics, and reading about the stories 1936 Olympics was quite intriguing. The opening pages of the novel were fascinating. I was instantly drawn to Eleanor and her feistiness. Granted, her dialogue was sometimes heavy-handed, but it worked for her:
"The fastest man on earth is on board this ship,’ she said, interrupting Helen, ‘and he’s a Negro. He’s going to win gold in Berlin in front of the whole world. Don’t you think that’ll be one in the eye for stupid, hokey race theories? I think it’s damned right that we’re going to these Games.’"The early chapters are told in alternating stories, and Denham's story took me longer to get into. He was less dynamic as a character.
Despite initially enjoying this novel, the stories never really took off for me. While I hoped the Olympics would provide a fascinating backdrop, it was more of an ordinary Hitler-era espionage story, and I found the pacing to be somewhat off kilter. At times this novel suffered from too much telling and not enough showing:
"Spies and journalists alike were in the information game, courting contacts, mining for secrets. In times like these the jobs were almost identical."After that quote, it seemed clear Denham would find his to espionage, yet the actual journey took awhile. What seemed most off about this novel were its expectations of the reader's knowledge. At times I grew bored because it seemed John assumed the readers knew nothing about the time, but at other times, he name dropped for seemingly little reason other than to emphasize what the reader does know about the time.
The verdict: While this novel didn't click for me, it will likely appeal to fans of World War II fiction and those who haven't read too much about this period. John combines real people from history with fictional characters well, but overall, it failed to impress.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 368 pages
Publication date: July 10, 2012
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours
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