Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Flight from Berlin by David John

Flight from Berlin by David John - 372 pages

Well to begin, this historical fiction lover actually found a book with a sports theme for this month.  With the first half of the book set amid the 1936 Berlin Olympics, many of the festivities and tournaments are depicted during the course of this thriller.  Richard Denham is a British journalist based in Berlin.  While he was meant to be covering German politics, a chance encounter aboard the Hindenburg's flight over the opening Olympic ceremony leads to his attendance at the games.  During this time he encounters Eleanor Emerson, a swimmer who was booted from the Olympic team while aboard the ship to Germany.  Courtesy of a friend, she was allowed to remain in Germany as a guest journalist.  While working together to uncover the story of Germany's sole Jewish participant in the games, fencer Hannah Liebermann, they and the Liebermann family find themselves trapped in an espionage game with the German SD, the Nazi secret intelligence service.  All must get out of Germany.  Will they succeed?

I found the book to be enjoyable, if a bit predictable.  Historical facts and people, including actual athletes and political figures, are encountered in the appropriate places and these inclusions are managed flawlessly.  It helps that Denahm is the only truly original character as Eleanor and Hannah are based on real athletes, respectively swimmer Eleanor Holm and fencer Helene Mayer; only their non-Olympic life is truly fictionalized.

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