Publishers Weekly on Berlin Book Three

“Berlin Book Three” / Publishers Weekly / June 18, 2018

The concluding volume of Lutes’s panoramic trilogy about between-the-wars Berlin opens with an answer to the last line of book two, City of Smoke: “What is the fate of the Weimar Republic?” National Socialists having won the election, Hitler is on a train racing toward the capitol, plotting his consolidation of power and by extension the destruction of the city’s messy and lively liberalism. Pulled back, architectural portraits shift to detailed close-ups of the life of the city, along with the further dissolution of relationships established in prior books: the Braun family divides between pro-communist mother and daughter and Nazi-allied father and son, while elsewhere in the embattled city disillusioned writer Kurt and would-be artist Marthe both look ready to give up altogether. The saga’s multiple story lines give the narrative a disjointed feeling, mirroring the political and social situation of the time, as disparate characters careen like the nation and the world toward similarly dark ends. Lutes’s sharp, noir-influenced art snaps the sometimes murky narrative into dramatic relief, highlighting the tragedy to come.

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