The House by the Lake: A Story of Germany
The eponymous house is a small wooden cottage located on the banks of Groß Glienicke Lake to the west of Berlin. It was built in 1927 by the author’s great-grandfather, who wanted a summer retreat for his family away from the heat and bustle of Germany’s capital. But Alfred and his family were Jewish, and thus the rise to power of the NSDAP led to the departure of the family to England. The house was bought very cheaply by a music impresario and his actress wife, and after the end of the Second World War, the house was located on the very border between what became the state of East Germany and West Berlin. In 2013, Thomas Harding goes to the now-ramshackle house and traces its history. He uses the house as a leitmotif for the troubled history of Germany during the Nazi era, the divided Cold War period and then the uncertainties of reunification that followed, concluding on a note of harmony and optimism. This is an absorbing and enjoyable narrative, with my only criticism being the existence of references at the back of the book, which I only found after completing the text.