Friday, February 24, 2017
Review of Flight from Berlin by David John (Bourbon Street Books, 2012)
Flight from Berlin is set around the 1936 Olympics and follows the escapade of American athlete and socialite, Eleanor Emerson, and British journalist, Richard Denham, as they tangle with the Nazi regime. Emerson is loosely based on Eleanor Holm, the US swimmer who was thrown off the US team for partying on the journey to the games. Another central character, Hannah Liebermann, is based on Helene Mayer, who was the only ‘non-Aryan’ to compete for Germany. Numerous other real-life characters populate the story, as do some real-world events, along with a couple of rumours surrounding Hitler’s medical notes from the First World War. John weaves a fictional narrative around these centring on a plot to discredit Hitler and the Nazi regime and to undermine the propaganda surrounding the games. The characters of Emerson and Denham are well-penned and for much of the story the plot is engaging and intriguing. In fact, I was thoroughly hooked up to the initial flight from Berlin. At that point, the story becomes increasingly ridiculous, progressing through an endless succession of clunky and unbelievable plot devices designed to create a series of dramatic moments leading to a climatic denouement. This was a real shame as it was all going so well before it spiralled into a series of staged chases. Overall, an interesting story with strong characters that became more-and-more implausible.