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Back to Back by Julia Franck
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Back to Back (2011)

by Julia Franck

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584204,058 (3.71)8

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This novel - which seems to be based at least loosely on the lives of the sculptor Ingeborg Hunzinger (Franck's grandmother) and her children - rather unexpectedly marries a Werther-like tragic-poet plot with the same sort of conflict between generations that informs a lot of other German fiction from after the Wende. Thomas and Ella, born in the closing stages of World War II, experience the DDR as a closed, prison-like society, full of abusive uses of power, whilst their mother, a communist, Jewish sculptor who spent the Nazi years in exile or in hiding, sees the Workers' and Peasants' State as a golden opportunity and the only bastion against a repeat of the horrors of the thirties. It's a book that is constantly on the edge of romantic and political cliche, especially in the later chapters after the Wall goes up, but it is saved (just about) by the immediacy and oddness of the children's life in their very unmotherly mother's Berlin-Rahnsdorf studio. (Apart from anything else, there is the bizarre way so many of the scenes have to be played in the nude - it's like finding yourself in the middle of a German park on a summer Sunday...) ( )
  thorold | Dec 27, 2017 |
Set in Post World War II East Berlin (the wall is erected during the period of the story), this is a dark tale of a brother and sister who are alternately ignored and and taunted by their mother.

It is bleak and hard to read, not only because of the disturbing nature of the story, but also because of the disjointed way of presenting it. It wanders from person to person, from reality to imagination, and it is really difficult to follow. I kept wanting it to be more mythic or more realistic, but it was a mishmash. ( )
  seeword | Mar 30, 2014 |
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Julia Franckprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bell, AntheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Das Boot lag im Schilf versteckt; sie hatten es wenige Tage zuvor an der Mole gefunden, es schaukelte auf dem Wasser, der Wind trieb es in die moorige Bucht, zusammen mit Blättern, Zweigen und grösseren Ästen, die der Sturm abgebrochen und angeschwemmt hatte.
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Raised by a harsh Jewish single mother who prioritizes her socialist party connections over her family in mid-twentieth-century East Berlin, Thomas is forced to abandon his dream of becoming a writer while his sister, Ella, becomes increasingly introverted.… (more)

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