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A personal and panoramic new history of Germany in the twentieth century by the Sunday Times bestselling author of Hanns and Rudolf

SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD 2015
LONGLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE 2016

A RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK


‘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

In 2013, Thomas Harding returned to his grandmother’s house on the outskirts of Berlin which she had been forced to leave when the Nazis swept to power. What was once her ‘soul place’ now stood empty and derelict. A concrete footpath cut through the garden, marking where the Berlin Wall had stood for nearly three decades.

In a bid to save the house from demolition, Thomas began to unearth the history of the five families who had lived there: a nobleman farmer, a prosperous Jewish family, a renowned Nazi composer, a widow and her children and a Stasi informant. Discovering stories of domestic joy and contentment, of terrible grief and tragedy, and of a hatred handed down through the generations, a history of twentieth century Germany and the story of a nation emerged.

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'

A fascinating and revealing account of a century of German social and political history, told in an effortlessly accessible way.

David Lodge

This revelatory and compelling book is a clear must-read for anyone interested in German history during the past tumultuous century. The House By The Lake is a deeply moving story of endurance – of place as well as people. It is also uplifting as we learn of how the crumbling wreck of the house is restored to a haven of reconciliation and peace for the community and visitors to enjoy, and to heed its history which has been so brilliantly exposed.

Lyn Smith, author of Forgotten Voices

[A] personal yet historically wide ranging account…it is Harding’s great achievement that he has painted a large canvas of history, but has done so with glinting individual stories. He has persevered in listening to those ‘quiet voices'.

Guardian

This emblem of tyranny [the Berlin Wall] was just another fact of life for those living in its shadow. And that is, perhaps, the most important lesson of Harding’s book. History, which we learn about as a series of ideological abstractions, is lived concretely. This is why an ordinary house can serve so effectively as a symbol of the German experience.

Adam Kirsch, New Statesman

An admirably clear and concise history of modern Germany. It’s an impressive feat of archival and investigative research. Fascinating revelations abound…[A] powerful book.

The Economist

A gentle but rewarding book, carefully tuned into the marginal voices recorded in the history of one small house by a lake... often poignant, sometimes heartening, and never other than intimate.

Clare Mulley, Spectator

A fascinating window on a tumultuous period.

Jamie Waters, Financial Times

Impressive... a deft history.

Marcus Tanner, Independent

With the narrative drive of a great novelist and the meticulous research of a great historian, Harding has crafted a moving, instructive and very important book.

Irish Examiner

It would be hard to write an original and moving account of the tortured 20th-century history of Germany. But in The House by the Lake, Thomas Harding succeeds remarkably . . . It is a fitting and moving epitaph on a tragic and beautifully told history.

Jewish Chronicle

An original and highly personal take on this corner of history. Harding writes engagingly and sympathetically...an uplifting story.

Anne Sebba, Literary Review

The real history of twentieth-century Germany seen through the windows of one abode with the Berlin Wall right outside. It’s original and camera-vivid.

Daily Express, Books of the Year

This is a compelling book…It’s a story of endurance – of place as well as people – and ultimately, it’s uplifting.

Psychology, 'Our Friends at BBC 4'

A brilliant way of coming at the history of Berlin and Germany itself, which shows how people coped with the vicissitudes of the regime.

Country and Town House

Harding has recorded the fate of the house and its inhabitants, from the Weimar republic until reunification. This is German history in microcosm ... as exciting as a good historical novel.

Die Welt

An inspirational read: highly recommended.

Western Morning News

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099592044

    June 13, 2016

    Windmill Books

    464 pages

    RRP $28.00

    Online retailers

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    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

  • EBook

    9781473506558

    September 24, 2015

    Cornerstone Digital

    464 pages

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    • Amazon Kindle NZ
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