The House by the Lake (Paperback)Thomas Harding
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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
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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.
The story... More