The House by the Lake (Paperback)
  • The House by the Lake (Paperback)
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The House by the Lake (Paperback)

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£8.99
Paperback 464 Pages / Published: 02/06/2016
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Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award 2015

Longlisted for the Orwell Prize 2016

A Radio 4 Book of the Week

I picked my way round it slowly, touching flaking paintwork and boarded-up doorways, until I found a broken window. Climbing through, my way illuminated by my iPhone, I was confronted by mounds of dirty clothes and soiled cushions, walls covered in graffiti and crawling with mould, smashed appliances and fragments of furniture, rotting floorboards and empty beer bottles… There was a sadness to the place, the melancholy of a building abandoned.

In the spring of 1993, Thomas Harding travelled to Berlin with his grandmother to visit a small house by a lake. It was her 'soul place', she said - a sanctuary she had been forced to leave when the Nazis swept to power. The trip was a chance to see the house one last time, to remember it as it was. But the house had changed.

Twenty years later Thomas returned to Berlin. The house now stood empty, derelict, soon to be demolished. A concrete footpath cut through the garden, marking where the Berlin Wall had stood for nearly three decades.

Elsewhere were signs of what the house had once been - blue tiles showing behind wallpaper, photographs fallen between floorboards, flagstones covered in dirt. Evidence of five families who had made the house their home over a tumultuous century.

The House by the Lake is a ground-breaking work of history, revealing the story of Germany through the inhabitants of one small wooden building: a nobleman farmer, a prosperous Jewish family, a renowned Nazi composer, a widow and her children, a Stasi informant. Moving from the late nineteenth century to the present day, from the devastation of two world wars to the dividing and reuniting of a nation, it is a story of domestic joy and contentment, of terrible grief and tragedy, and of a hatred handed down through the generations from the bestselling author of Hanns and Rudolf.

‘A passionate memoir.’ - Neil MacGregor

‘A superb portrait of twentieth century Germany seen through the prism of a house which was lived in, and lost, by five different families. A remarkable book. – Tom Holland

‘Personal and panoramic, heart-wrenching yet uplifting, this is history at its most alive. – A.D. Miller

Publisher: Cornerstone
ISBN: 9780099592044
Number of pages: 464
Weight: 438 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 33 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
"A passionate memoir about Germany." -- Neil MacGregor, author of A History of the World in 100 Objects and Germany: Memories of a Nation
"A superb portrait of twentieth century Germany seen through the prism of a house which was lived in, and lost, by five different families. A remarkable book." -- Tom Holland
"In The House by the Lake, the simple villa loved and lost by Thomas Harding's family magically becomes the setting for the great clashes of the twentieth century, and for a technicolour cast - victims, villains and ordinary compromisers - struggling not to be crushed by them. Personal and panoramic, heart-wrenching yet uplifting, this is history at its most alive." -- A. D. Miller, bestselling author of Snowdrops and The Faithful Couple
"I loved this book. I admire the elegance of it, the hope, the honesty and the generousness with which every resident is given his or her place. It has made me think about our individual parts in the bigger story, and the coming and going-ness of things. It is a book that will stay with me for a very long time." -- Rachel Joyce
"Diamond brilliant... the history of modern Germany as seen through the windows of the wooden house beside the lake. This is an extraordinary book." -- John Lewis-Stempel * Sunday Express *
"A superb work of social history, told with tremendous narrative verve." -- Ian Critchley * Sunday Times *
"This is far more than a family memoir: by tracing the lives of the different families who lived there, Harding sheds light on the German 20th century, a tale of war, spies, murder and political, social and racial division . . . His account of the house is a superb work of social history, told with tremendous narrative verve." * Sunday Times *
"Thomas Harding again pulls off the admirable feat of showing us anew the history of German's troubled twentieth century by focusing on a single story. With the narrative drive of a great novelist and the meticulous research of a great historian, Harding has crafted a moving, instructive and important book." -- Dan Brotzel * The Herald *
"It would be hard to write an original and moving account of the tortured twentieth-century history of Germany. But, in The House by the Lake, Thomas Harding succeeds remarkably... a tragic and beautifully told history." -- Oliver Kamm * Jewish Chronicle *
"An unusual, evocative and moving account of modern Germany...The book succeeds remarkably, in providing a fresh and original insight into the twin totalitarian systems that disfigured Germany in the twentieth century." * The Times, 'Books of the Year' *

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Reviews

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“A very accessible read”

I’m not a great reader of history books, but I really liked this one. This is the history of a small holiday house by a lake, in a little village just outside Berlin and of all the people who lived in it.

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