my challenges

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Pieces from Berlin

The Pieces from Berlin, by Michael Pye.

It was a good thing that I read the back cover of this book for a plot synopsis before starting it, or I never would have figured out what was going on.  This book ostensibly tells the story of a woman who takes in property from German Jews facing imminent deportation to death camps, and then absconds with it to Switzerland at the end of the war, setting up shop as an antiques dealer.  Some fifty years later, a survivor discovers one of their beloved possessions in the shop window, and justice must be done.  That was the story I expected to read, and it sounded plausible and interesting, a unique way of exploring what had happened to the owners of the stolen items.  That was not the story I got, however.  At least, not in any linear, understandable, enlightening form.  Instead, the author hops from one person's perspective to another's, one time period to another, with no warnings or road maps, and sometimes it is not even clear who is doing the talking.

There were a few interesting sections, those sections told from the thief's perspective during the events in question, and those sections told from her son's perspective during the war years.  Otherwise, however, I found very little redeeming in this book.  The characters, for the most part, were so underdeveloped that it was hard to sympathize with them or care about what was happening to them, and there was no real sense of "country," of the book being about Germans as opposed to any other nationality living through the war years.  Even the scenery described, with the exception of some of the rural Swiss locales, was relatively generic.  This book was a huge disappointment, one I expected to love and had high hopes for, and which instead I ended up utterly indifferent to.  As a result, I find I can't really recommend this book, and give it a 1.5 out of 5.

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