The Love of Geli Raubal
I was not aware that Hitler had a niece, Geli Raubal, nor that his love for his niece, bordering on the inappropriate, caused senior Nazis grave concern. It was with interest that I began reading The Love of Geli Raubal, and Brenda Squires’s story of Max Dienst, a fictional journalist searching for the truth about the mysterious circumstances in which Raubal died.
However, The Love of Geli Raubal is not a mystery novel, and Raubal’s fate is not the key concern of the book. Instead, it revolves around the lives of various individuals living in Berlin in 1932, primarily the German Max and his Welsh wife Rhiannon. When Max’s employer recalls them to Berlin from London, they see firsthand the unstable nature of a city on the edge of crisis, and the hatred and racism that the Nazis are both causing and manipulating.
I felt that The Love of Geli Raubal was let down by its lifeless characters. Despite coming from very different backgrounds, the characters’ dialogue was indistinguishable. The background descriptions of early atrocities, the mistrust that arose between neighbours, and the clamping down on cabaret were interesting enough (although I was not surprised to see Squires credit Christopher Isherwood in her acknowledgements, as those descriptions reminded me strongly of his Berlin Stories) but the foreground story of Max and Rhiannon became predictable.
I would suggest that for anyone wanting to read about Berlin in the 1930s, there are more entertaining options, including Isherwood’s eyewitness accounts. Geli Raubal did not play enough of a role in this novel to warrant her inclusion in the title. However, I am grateful to Squires for bringing her to my attention, and I will certainly be seeking out the other sources that Squires mentions, which deal with her story.