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Book Review: News From Berlin by Otto de Kat

War divides families and no more so than the Verschuur family. It is June 1941, Oscar Verschuur, a Dutch diplomat has been posted to neutral Switzerland. His wife, Kate, works in a London hospital, while their daughter, Emma, is married to a ‘good’ German, Carl, who works at the Ministry of Foreign  Affairs in Berlin.

Oscar and Emma’s every move is watched by the Gestapo. Yet Emma has some vital information to give to her father, whom she believes will know how to handle such sensitive material: Operation Barbarossa, June 22, Germany’s invasion of Russia. Once given this political hot potato, Oscar, normally a decisive man, finds himself in a dilemma as he weighs up a number of potential outcomes. If he hands over the information, will he be sacrificing his daughter to the Gestapo, will the information be believed, will innocent lives be saved or not?

Espionage, in this slim novel, is the background to the real action going on. de Kat is interested in the psychological aspect of his characters: what motivates them, the dynamics with each other and consequently the outcome of their action or inaction. He rounds out his characters by dwelling on their memories, which we discover play an important role in their present lives, especially when it comes to deciding the next move. de Kat subtly plays off fear and hope to create tension to leave you spellbound until the end.

Written by Rachel Boser

Maclehose Press 

ISBN 978-1-84866-234-6


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