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The Bicycle Teacher by Campbell Jefferys

The Bicycle Teacher

by Campbell Jefferys

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388477,975 (3.88)None
A novel. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 went the culture and identity of millions of people. Through the story of Michael Smith, an Australian who moved to East Germany in 1981, a different side of communism was shown, a more positive side focusing on the people who lived there, good people who had no ideological position. Michael married an East Berliner and began to raise a family. He further educated himself and became a teacher whereas he had been previously a mechanic. His life was fulfilling and satisfying; he succeeded in ways he could have never have hoped to in Australia. The fall of the wall brought his happiness to a crashing halt, especially because he had supported the protest for reform but feared a selling-out to the West. For him, the unification of Germany was an end and not a beginning. He could not reconcile that his happiness had been taken away from him by the West. His secret life as a Stasi (secret police) informer had him riddled with guilt. He uprooled his family back to Australia, and to a much better life than the one he had left behind, but not nearly as satisfying as it had been in East Germany. Author was born in Western Australia.… (more)



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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
(Note: I won this book in a LibraryThing.com book giveaway.)

This is a rather unique story from a perspective with which I'm rather unfamiliar, even though I have spent some time in what is formerly the East German part of Berlin. The author balances an engaging narrative with history and an examination of political ideology, including the failures of said ideology.

What is perhaps also fascinating is that I found myself nearly sympathizing with the main character's journey including his critique of capitalist desire--but not for long, as the main character also quickly realizes. The one aspect that I did not find myself sympathizing with in the end, however, was the degree of melancholic nostalgia for a system that he hoped would have worked, despite the fact that it's never "worked" materially in any actual instantiation of reality. Is this a product of a falsely dualistic Marxist view of history? In either case, the story seems to capture real events and experiences in a convincing manner. Recommended for those looking for a bit of a different read along the lines of historical fiction. ( )
  ericaustinlee | Apr 5, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was written form an interesting point of view: Michael grew up in a capitalist society where his chances in life are limited, and moves to communist East Germany to lead al life in which he is able to reach his goals. He lives in East Germany during a decade, until the Berlin Wall falls. Althought the point of view is interesting, the descriptions of the capitalist and the communist society are rather simplistic. People living in a capitalist society are always greedy, selfish and unable to enjoy life. People living in East Germany are happy, helpful and enjoying the pleasures of life and. And there are no exceptions to the rule. Even after the wall is down, Michael prefers East Berlin above West Berlin. Only in the end of the story, he learns about Stasi and what they did. I can hardly believe that one wouldn't know what Stasi is and does, and the culture of fear that ruled the country for decades, after living in East Berlin for that long. But maybe the fact that his wife cheated on him was symbolic for the way East Germay cheated on him: underneath the beauty lived something evil, but he never wanted to see it. ( )
  sneuper | Feb 25, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It was a intriguing look into "life on the other side" of the wall. However, having family that lived over "there" for most of their lives I still think that the author's view was too simplistic and rosy. Yes, the people tried to make due with the things they could get. But life outside of the capitol city was not as easy. My uncle would always talk about trying to find even the basic items (except bread, milk, etc.) and being told: "We don't have that, and we won't get it anymore either" (Haben wir nicht, kriegen wir auch nicht mehr!)
So I might disagree with some of the points in the book, but overall I still recommend it as a very interesting read! ( )
  yukon92 | Feb 15, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was an interesting story, but was a bit heavy on the details and descriptions of the joy of communism. Still, I've never read a happy book about East Berlin, so I really enjoyed that part of it. ( )
  Jillian_Kay | Feb 9, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received a free copy of The Bicycle Teacher through LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review. This book gives the reader another perspective of communism. The narrator moves from a capitalist world in Australia to a communist, later socialist, world in East Berlin at the time when the Berlin Wall still exists and later lives through the changes when the wall comes down. He comes to East Berlin as a guest worker. Because he knows the right people and he is well versed in English he is able to move from a mechanic to an English teacher. This would have never been possible for him in Australia. One of the important things in his life is equality vs freedoms. He sees West Berliners and Americans as arrogant. He misses the way life was in East Germany and becomes disillusioned after the reunification of Germany and moves his family to his roots in Australia and teaches in a local school. This book is well written, and I enjoyed reading it. ( )
  iadam | Feb 3, 2014 |
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