The Most Dazzling Girl In Berlin

Written by Kip Wilson
Review by Elisabeth Lenckos

Hilde is barely eighteen and a recent escapee from an orphanage, yet she stands poised to conquer 1930s queer Berlin. At the Café Lila, where she finds work as a waitress, she experiences head-on what it means to straddle the social, racial, and gender divide in this city, which offers a home not only to uncensored cabarets, ingenious lesbian balladists, and gay performers, but to the burgeoning National Socialist movement, which is out to destroy this diverse, liberal scene. Whilst Hilde falls in love and charts out a singing career, Hitler’s heinous supporters, not content with terrorizing every aspect of public life, are set to invade the private sanctuaries of Berlin’s gay community, of which she forms part. Can Hilde, her young lover, and their friends escape the lethal Nazi threat and erect a safe place somewhere else? The reader, who is bound to be smitten with Hilde and her cast of characters, will wish and hope fervently that her story, at least, will end in peace and safety.

Girl, you are indeed dazzling, and not only in Berlin. Contemporary audiences worldwide are likely to love you, as well. This young adult novel is written in verses that read like modern songs, or in the historical context in which the story is set, like the urban ballads of Berthold Brecht, performed by Marlene Dietrich or Ute Lemper, which tell of the fall of early 20th-century German industrial society and prophecy its descent into darkness. The language is as shiningly beautiful as the leading characters, Hilde and Rosa, and an absolute pleasure to read. A brilliant addition to the canon of LGBTQ young adult literature.