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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

Throughout the twentieth century, Berlin stood at the centre of a convulsing world. This history is often viewed as separate acts: the suffering of the First World War, the cosmopolitan city of science, culture and sexual freedom Berlin became, steep economic plunges, the rise of the Nazis, the destruction of the Second World War, the psychosis of genocide, and a city rent in two by competing ideologies. But people do not live their lives in fixed eras. An epoch ends, yet the people continue – or try to continue – much as they did before. Berlin tells the story of the city as seen through the eyes not of its rulers, but of those who walked its streets.

In this magisterial biography of a city and its inhabitants, bestselling historian Sinclair McKay sheds new light on well-known characters – from idealistic scientist Albert Einstein to Nazi architect Albert Speer – and draws on never-before-seen first-person accounts to introduce us to people of all walks of Berlin life. For example, we meet office worker Mechtild Evers, who in her efforts to escape an oncoming army runs into even more appalling jeopardy, and Reinhart Cruger, a 12-year-old boy in 1941 who witnesses with horror the Gestapo coming for each of his Jewish neighbours in turn.

How did those ideologies – fascism and communism – come to flower so fully here? And how did their repercussions continue to be felt throughout Europe and the West right up until that extraordinary night in the autumn of 1989 when the Wall – that final expression of totalitarian oppression – was at last breached? You cannot understand the twentieth century without understanding Berlin; and you cannot understand Berlin without understanding the experiences of its people. McKay’s latest masterpiece shows us this hypnotic city as never before.

© Sinclair McKay 2022 (P) Penguin Audio 2022

Critics Review

  • McKay’s powerful imagery and magnetic prose combine to produce an electrifying new account of Berlin. ‘You cannot understand the twentieth century without understanding Berlin’, claims the author. He makes a compelling case

    Julia Boyd, author of Travelers in the Third Reich
  • Powerful. Visceral. Truly revelatory. Beautifully written and utterly compelling. I didn’t think Sinclair McKay could top his previous book, Dresden, which was masterful. He has proven me wrong with Berlin

    Damien Lewis, author of SAS Bravo Three Zero
  • One of my favourite historians

    Dan Snow, History Hit
  • Great subject, well-researched, brilliantly written. Anyone who wants to understand Berlin’s incomparable place at the very centre of twentieth century history should begin with Sinclair McKay’s remarkable, mesmerising book

    Keith Lowe, author of Savage Continent
  • Powerful . . . there is rage in his ink. McKay’s book grips by its passion and originality

    Max Hastings, Sunday Times, on Dresden
  • Painstakingly researched and fascinating

    John Harding, Daily Mail on The Secret Listeners

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