Friday, September 13, 2013
Review of The Good German by Joseph Kanon (2001, Sphere)
The Good German has the feel of a Hollywood movie, blending a romance story with that of a thriller, accompanied by strong undercurrents of justice and morality during and after war – he’s a US reporter and she’s the German wife of a rocket scientist who’ve been separated by the conflict; he’s now searching for her at the same time as pursuing the biggest story of his career, one that puts them both in great danger. It’s a tale that seeks to be a mainstream romantic thriller, whilst also covering big themes such as war crimes and the Allies conflicting positions on how to deal with Germany and its people in the immediate aftermath of the war and the tensions and manoeuvring between them. Kanon manages to skilfully mix the style and substance, providing two long intersecting story arcs focused on Jake and Lena’s romance and the murder mystery with respect to the death of a US soldier, whilst also delivering a number of interesting subplots. The characterisation, historical contextualisation and sense of place and time are very good throughout. The writing and plotting is assured and engaging, though sometimes is a little longwinded and melodramatic, and the interconnection of all subplots is overly convenient and contrived. Nonetheless, The Good German is a compelling, atmospheric page-turner and thought-provoking read.