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Shadows of Berlin

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A captivating novel of a Berlin girl on the run from the guilt of her past and the boy from Brooklyn who loves her.   1955 in New York City: the city of instant coffee, bagels at Katz’s Deli, new-fangled TVs.  But in the Perlman’s walk-up in Chelsea, the past is as close as the present. Rachel came to Manhattan in a wave of displaced Jews who managed to survive the horrors o A captivating novel of a Berlin girl on the run from the guilt of her past and the boy from Brooklyn who loves her.   1955 in New York City: the city of instant coffee, bagels at Katz’s Deli, new-fangled TVs.  But in the Perlman’s walk-up in Chelsea, the past is as close as the present. Rachel came to Manhattan in a wave of displaced Jews who managed to survive the horrors of war. Her Uncle Fritz fleeing with her, Rachel hoped to find freedom from her pain in New York and in the arms of her new American husband, Aaron.   But this child of Berlin and daughter of an artist cannot seem to outrun her guilt in the role of American housewife, not until she can shed the ghosts of her past.  And when Uncle Fritz discovers, in a dreary midtown pawn shop, the most shocking portrait that her mother had ever painted,  Rachel’s memories begin to terrorize her, forcing her to face the choices she made to stay alive—choices that might be her undoing.   From the cafes of war-torn Germany to the frantic drumbeat of 1950's Manhattan, SHADOWS OF BERLIN dramatically explores survival, redemption and the way we learn to love and forgive across impossible divides.


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A captivating novel of a Berlin girl on the run from the guilt of her past and the boy from Brooklyn who loves her.   1955 in New York City: the city of instant coffee, bagels at Katz’s Deli, new-fangled TVs.  But in the Perlman’s walk-up in Chelsea, the past is as close as the present. Rachel came to Manhattan in a wave of displaced Jews who managed to survive the horrors o A captivating novel of a Berlin girl on the run from the guilt of her past and the boy from Brooklyn who loves her.   1955 in New York City: the city of instant coffee, bagels at Katz’s Deli, new-fangled TVs.  But in the Perlman’s walk-up in Chelsea, the past is as close as the present. Rachel came to Manhattan in a wave of displaced Jews who managed to survive the horrors of war. Her Uncle Fritz fleeing with her, Rachel hoped to find freedom from her pain in New York and in the arms of her new American husband, Aaron.   But this child of Berlin and daughter of an artist cannot seem to outrun her guilt in the role of American housewife, not until she can shed the ghosts of her past.  And when Uncle Fritz discovers, in a dreary midtown pawn shop, the most shocking portrait that her mother had ever painted,  Rachel’s memories begin to terrorize her, forcing her to face the choices she made to stay alive—choices that might be her undoing.   From the cafes of war-torn Germany to the frantic drumbeat of 1950's Manhattan, SHADOWS OF BERLIN dramatically explores survival, redemption and the way we learn to love and forgive across impossible divides.

30 review for Shadows of Berlin

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sujoya

    In 1949, twenty-one-year-old Rashka Morgenstern emigrates to New York from Berlin following the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. Her only surviving family is her mother’s brother Friedrich Landau, her Feter Fritz, an Auschwitz survivor. Her mother was a prolific artist who perished in the Auschwitz–Birkenau concentration camps and her father had passed away when she was only two years old. With the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Rashka and her Feter Fritz find a place to live in New Yor In 1949, twenty-one-year-old Rashka Morgenstern emigrates to New York from Berlin following the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. Her only surviving family is her mother’s brother Friedrich Landau, her Feter Fritz, an Auschwitz survivor. Her mother was a prolific artist who perished in the Auschwitz–Birkenau concentration camps and her father had passed away when she was only two years old. With the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Rashka and her Feter Fritz find a place to live in New York and attempt to acclimatize to their new circumstances in the aftermath of their harrowing experiences during WW2. The novel begins in 1955,New York where we meet our protagonist Rashka, now Rachel Perlman, married to Jewish-American Aaron Perlman who works as a manager in a seafood restaurant. Aaron had served in the Army but had not seen combat having been posted stateside in California. He admits that his knowledge of the plight of Jews during the Holocaust in Europe is limited to what he has seen in newsreels. He is a loving husband but is unable to fully comprehend the extent to which Rachel’s experiences during the Holocaust have cast a shadow on her present life. Rachel is unable to reconcile with her new life and is haunted by her memories of her years in Berlin – the anti-Semitic sentiments and Nazi policies that led to the loss of her home and the destruction of her mother’s art, her time scrounging for food and shelter on the streets of Berlin evading capture, their subsequent arrest and her Eema's deportation and subsequent death. Rachel is also an artist but is unable to pursue her passion on account of her personal demons. The burden that lays heaviest on her soul is the memory of what she had to do to stay alive and avoid deportation. Her memories are easily triggered and though she regularly sees a psychiatrist and is on mild medication, her anxiety and guilt find their way into every aspect of her life – from a breakdown in a posh department store where she used to work that leads to a brief stay in a psychiatric ward, her unwillingness to have children, to her discomfort around her building super who is a German immigrant. She considers herself not only an outsider but also refers to herself as an “oysvurf” a person with a “dead soul” a fact she admits to her sister-in-law Naomi’s black boyfriend who she assumes will understand her state of mind, himself being on the receiving end of racial discrimination and prejudice. When one of her mother’s paintings, thought to have been destroyed by the Nazis, resurfaces in a pawnbroker’s shop it takes her back to her most traumatic experiences during the War and Rachel’s horror and guilt threaten to suffocate her and she realizes that she must face her past to finally be able to have a future. The narrative is set in 1950s New York, with flashbacks from Rachel’s past in WW2 Berlin that give us insight into the plight of “submarine Jews” (commonly referred to as U-boat Jews) who submerged beneath the surface of the city in a bid to escape deportation, removing the Judenstern ( the Star of David that was mandatorily sewn into their clothes)in an attempt to avoid identification and arrest and the black marketeers who exploited them for shelter, forged papers and ration slips. We also get to know more about “Der Suchdienst”, The Search Service , that granted select Jews(commonly referred to as the “Grabbers” or “Catchers”)special permissions and tasked them with patrolling the streets, parks and other establishments frequented by fellow Jews (U-Boats hiding in plain sight) and arresting them. Shadows of Berlin by David R. Gillham is a compelling novel that revolves around the themes of grief, mental illness, survivors' guilt and the far-reaching effects of past trauma. This is a slow-paced novel that took me a while to get into and is not an easy read. The tone of the novel is dark and sad for the most part but also sheds a light on the inner strength and resilience of Holocaust survivors in starting over after everything they had been through. Heart-wrenching and profoundly moving, this is a memorable novel that I would recommend to readers who enjoy historical fiction set in the post-WW2 era. Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for providing the digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    RoshReviews

    In a Nutshell: An excellent piece of literary fiction with well-carved characters and well-thought-out themes. It covers the post-WWII period, with some flashbacks set during the war itself. The audiobook enhances the experience. Story: New York, 1955. Rachel is married to a young Jewish hotel manager named Aaron. She hopes to find solace in this marriage and escape the demons of her younger years in WWII-era Germany, as a U-boat Jew struggling to stay alive and away from the Nazis. But with the In a Nutshell: An excellent piece of literary fiction with well-carved characters and well-thought-out themes. It covers the post-WWII period, with some flashbacks set during the war itself. The audiobook enhances the experience. Story: New York, 1955. Rachel is married to a young Jewish hotel manager named Aaron. She hopes to find solace in this marriage and escape the demons of her younger years in WWII-era Germany, as a U-boat Jew struggling to stay alive and away from the Nazis. But with the ghost of her mother constantly around her and the memories of the war always fresh, Rachel is stuck in the past and hopeless about the future. Aaron meanwhile is battling his own inner feelings with respect to the war and his wife. Will this young couple be able to overcome their individual struggles and cleanse their marriage of the shadows that hang over it? The story is narrated mainly from Rachel’s limited third person pov. The main characters are carved quite well. Rachel especially is such a layered character with her deep-rooted guilt over the past affecting every action of hers in the present. Aaron’s character begins in an oafish way but soon his personality starts revealing its shades. He is understanding in many ways and stubborn in many others. I liked his character much more than I had expected because a male character is rarely shown with such complicated yet realistic emotions. The rest of the characters range from intense to annoying to loveable to caricatured. The NY Jews (except, to a certain extent, for Aaron) felt more stereotypical than the German Jews, but as this is a story based in the 1950s, I am not sure how much of the ‘stereotype’ had its basis in historical facts. The German flashbacks reveal a part of the WWII not commonly found in this genre. I hadn’t read about the U-boat Jews, the German Jews who survived the war submerged below the surface of daily life. Most of the portrayal of life as a German Jew in the 1940s was quite interesting to read. The NY segment was almost equally appealing, primarily due to the focus on PTSD and other mental health issues faced by Rachel. Aaron too struggled with his own version of survivor’s guilt as a Jew who didn’t face as many terrors as his German counterparts did. While this makes the book pretty serious, the author balances these dark topics with a healthy dose of humour and many light-hearted scenes. I found the story built up wonderfully. What begins as myriad pieces of individual, seemingly unrelated subplots comes together into a perfectly cohesive whole as the book reaches its finale. There is no linear plotline and not even flashbacks to fixed points in the past. The narration goes back and forth to various historical time points and when this is added to the present narrative of 1955, the story fleshes itself out and reveals its depth and scope. On the flip side, there is a lot of rambling at times. The pace is quite slow, though this is to be expected in literary fiction. A part of the writing seemed anachronistic for the time period. I got strong vibes of Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” from this book. The stories aren’t similar at all but in both novels, a painting is at the centre of the action, both are strongly character-driven, both have characters struggling with their pasts and trying to make peace with their presents, both deal with prejudice, both deal with PTSD, and both have grey characters than clear-cut black or white ones. I suppose “Shadows of Berlin” comes out the winner in comparison for completing within 416 pages what “The Goldfinch” required 750+ pages to accomplish. And it has a better ending. The audiobook, clocking at 16 hours, is narrated by Suzanne Toren. She does an outstanding job keeping this complicated book together. With multiple timelines, a whole load of characters and various languages (English, German, Yiddish, and possibly French), her task wasn’t easy but she handles it extremely well. At the same time, I wish the writing had incorporated the time points to which the story goes in the past. There is no reference made to the time period and it is only as the events in that chapter unfold that we understand which timeline the story is in. I would definitely recommend the audio version but only to those comfortable with the audio format. Newbie listeners might find themselves a bit lost in the proceedings. I think I would have liked this book even if I had read it, but the audiobook definitely turned my experience into an even better one as the slow pacing didn’t bother me as much. 4.25 stars. My thanks to RB Media and NetGalley for the ALC of “Shadows of Berlin”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the audiobook. *********************** Join me on the Facebook group, Readers Forever! , for more reviews, book-related discussions and fun.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn

    Never have I read such a believable and haunting book about the guilt of surviving the Holocaust as in Shadows of Berlin by David R. Gillham. He was able to capture the essence of survival guilt along with the haunting memories that lingered in daytime thoughts and reoccurred over and over in nightmares. It was both poignant and powerful. At its core, it explored the unimaginable guilt of being a survivor and the undeniable difficult concept of learning to forgive oneself for being alive while s Never have I read such a believable and haunting book about the guilt of surviving the Holocaust as in Shadows of Berlin by David R. Gillham. He was able to capture the essence of survival guilt along with the haunting memories that lingered in daytime thoughts and reoccurred over and over in nightmares. It was both poignant and powerful. At its core, it explored the unimaginable guilt of being a survivor and the undeniable difficult concept of learning to forgive oneself for being alive while so many perished. David Gillham admitted in his author’s notes that he had always “been very interested in the idea of survival guilt, and wanted to explore the aftereffects of trauma and what the living owe to the memory of the dead.” His research was impeccable and his storytelling was masterful. Rashka Morgenstern grew up in Berlin, Germany and was six years old when Hitler first began to emerge on the political scene. She was the only daughter of a famous woman artist. Her father had died when she was a toddler. Rashka survived the war and the Holocaust. However, her mother did not. When she arrived by herself seeking refuge in a displaced persons camp, her knowledge of Yiddish allowed her entry. The displaced persons camp was run by the Americans. It was there that Rashka was reunited with Feter (uncle) Fritz, her mother’s younger brother and her only remaining living family member. Rashka and her Uncle Fritz immigrated to America and arrived on the Marine Starfish in 1949 at the Port of New York. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society helped them secure the littlest apartment in a tenement building with other displaced Jews on Orchard Street. By 1955, Rashka Morgenstern had become Rachel Perlman, the loving wife of Aaron Perlman, a Jew from Flatbush. After seven years of marriage, something set off Rachel’s docile acceptance in her role as an American housewife. The trauma of her past, long hidden but not forgotten, surfaced and a psychiatrist was commissioned to help Rachel confront her past. She went out of her way to avoid talking about her past. Her past also influenced Rachel’s opinion about having a baby. Rachel and Aaron could not agree with each other on the subject of having a baby and growing their family. Aaron desperately wanted a child but Rachel wasn’t so sure. Feter Fritz kept appearing in Rachel’s life especially when he needed something from her and it was usually money. One day, Uncle Fritz asked to see Rachel. At their meeting, he revealed that he had discovered one of her mother’s paintings in a pawn shop. He needed fifty dollars from Rachel to secure it. Her uncle would not reveal to her which painting he had discovered. Rachel went to the pawn shop and came face to face with the most shocking portrait her mother had ever painted. After the painting was revealed to Rachel, memories of the war and choices she was forced to make back then came flooding back to her. The secret she had kept hidden from all who knew her for all those years was once again haunting her. It was hard for Rachel to think of anything else but that painting and what it represented. It brought back the agonizing choice she made back then in order to stay alive. Shadows of Berlin by David R. Gillham was about love, loss, guilt, secrets, hope, abuse, trauma, survival, redemption and choices. It was full of memorable characters and the plot was engaging . I loved the references to the ionic places that existed in New York City in the 1950’s . I remember vividly eating at The Automatic with my grandfather and my cousins and at Katz’s delicatessen with my parents when we ventured down to the lower East side of New York City. The use of Yiddish words and phrases also brought back memories of my grandparents. It was hard for me to fathom the feelings of guilt the Rachel Perlman’s of the world must have been harboring inside them after surging the Holocaust. Most survivors avoided talking about their horrific ordeals and experiences. It is so important for these stories to shared, though. I tip my hat to David R. Gillham for his conception for the subject matter for Shadows of Berlin and its unforgettable characters. I also had never read about how Jews acted as “U boats” during the war, going undercover and emerging only for food and necessities. Rashka and her mother were forced to live in this way after the massive roundups of Jews began in Berlin. This was their only way to survive but in the long run they were captured anyway. Shadows of Berlin was well written and I highly recommend it. I had won a copy of Shadows of Berlin by David R. Gillham in a goodreads give away. Unfortunately, I did not receive my copy until after the publication of the book but still wanted to read it and review it. Thank you to Sourcebooks landmark for sending me an advanced reader’s edition of Shadows of Berlin by David R. Gillham in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karren Sandercock

    Rachel moved to Manhattan with her uncle Fritz after WW II ended, like many Jewish people they found themselves displaced and wanted to escape Europe. After a quick courtship, Rachel marries Aaron Perlman, he works in a restaurant and they live in Chelsea. Five years later all their friends are having children, Rachel is reluctant to have a baby and this causes friction in their marriage. Rachel is the daughter of a famous artist Lavinia Morgenstern and her uncle Fritz discovers one of her paint Rachel moved to Manhattan with her uncle Fritz after WW II ended, like many Jewish people they found themselves displaced and wanted to escape Europe. After a quick courtship, Rachel marries Aaron Perlman, he works in a restaurant and they live in Chelsea. Five years later all their friends are having children, Rachel is reluctant to have a baby and this causes friction in their marriage. Rachel is the daughter of a famous artist Lavinia Morgenstern and her uncle Fritz discovers one of her paintings in a midtown pawnshop. A monochrome in red of a nude woman, for Rachel the memories associated with it are bad and she’s on edge. People in America have seen movies of what happened to Jewish people during the war and they don’t really understand. Living in Berlin, Rachel and her mother were forced to hide in plain sight, she had to do terrible things to survive and she doesn’t want anyone to find out. I received a copy of Shadows of Berlin from Edelweiss and Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review, David R. Gillham looks at the war from a different point of view, Rachel’s suffering from a severe case of survivor’s guilt and the effect long term trauma has on her, how she struggles to cope and even someone with a German accent can cause her to have flashbacks. A historical fiction story about a young woman haunted by the little girl in the burgundy beret, Rachel being a “U-boat” and five stars from me. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/ https://www.facebook.com/KarrenReadsH...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    Too long with characters that are ever so hard to get close to. I quit at 33%

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    This is a Historical Fiction. I just could not make myself care about the characters in this book, and I could not get into the storyline/plot of this book. I ended up DNFing this book. I received an ARC of this book. This review is my own honest opinion about the book like all my reviews are.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews

    The trauma, horror, and survivor guilt never leave you...Rachel knows it all very well. Rachel is now in America and married to Aaron, but her time during the war haunts her, and she can't be happy. We follow Rachel as she can’t help re-living the horror and tries to be a good American wife. She resents that Aaron has family and she has lost everyone but Uncle Fritz. She had lived with Uncle Fritz when they came to America until she married Aaron. Uncle Fritz can be an "operator." He was during the The trauma, horror, and survivor guilt never leave you...Rachel knows it all very well. Rachel is now in America and married to Aaron, but her time during the war haunts her, and she can't be happy. We follow Rachel as she can’t help re-living the horror and tries to be a good American wife. She resents that Aaron has family and she has lost everyone but Uncle Fritz. She had lived with Uncle Fritz when they came to America until she married Aaron. Uncle Fritz can be an "operator." He was during the war and still appears to be. Rachel goes through her days with the smallest thing reminding her of the war and her crime and speaks to and sees her critical mother. One day Uncle Fritz who always needs money summoned her to meet him because he found a painting in a pawn shop her mother had painted and one that had survived the war. The only problem is that they couldn't afford the fifty dollars to buy it. When they went back to try to get it at a cheaper price, the painting had been sold. That photo brought back bad memories, but she wants it. Rachel doesn't trust her Uncle and thinks he found fifty dollars and took the painting and sold it for more money. We go back and forth from wartime to present day as Mr. Gillham masterfully blends both timelines and as you are feeling what Rachel is feeling during the horror of wartime and her suffering in present day as she tries to forget and to adapt to her life in America. SHADOWS OF BERLIN is another gem by Mr. Gillham that will tear at your heartstrings but also have you hoping that Rachel can overcome her nightmares and be happy. 5/5 This book was given to me by the publisher for an honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Erika Robuck

    In a poignant novel saturated in the rich hues of time, place, and art comes the unforgettable story of Rachel Perlman—a child of war, grown in body but held captive in soul by a past of abuse, guilt, and unimaginable trauma. Yet even from the ruinous embers of war, Gillham skillfully, tenderly allows Rachel to rise, revealing the life-affirming truth that we may always begin again, no matter where we are. Though timeless, SHADOWS OF BERLIN is novel for our time because it provides what we despe In a poignant novel saturated in the rich hues of time, place, and art comes the unforgettable story of Rachel Perlman—a child of war, grown in body but held captive in soul by a past of abuse, guilt, and unimaginable trauma. Yet even from the ruinous embers of war, Gillham skillfully, tenderly allows Rachel to rise, revealing the life-affirming truth that we may always begin again, no matter where we are. Though timeless, SHADOWS OF BERLIN is novel for our time because it provides what we desperately need all the time: Hope.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Diana | Book of Secrets

    The writing isn't flowing for me particularly well, so I'm setting this one aside at 25%. It just didn't grab my attention at the moment. Thank you to Sourcebooks Early Reads for the opportunity to read this book. The writing isn't flowing for me particularly well, so I'm setting this one aside at 25%. It just didn't grab my attention at the moment. Thank you to Sourcebooks Early Reads for the opportunity to read this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nita

    I knew the moment I first held Shadows of Berlin in my hands that I was holding a good read. But I was totally blown away with the masterful writing! This is the book that I never wanted to end because I was so drawn into Rachel's story and the 1950's of Manhattan. And the cold hunger reality of war torn Berlin. I was drawn to Aaron, who though Jewish still had a hard time understanding the horror that his wife lived but then can anyone understand that has never lived through such a nightmare? M I knew the moment I first held Shadows of Berlin in my hands that I was holding a good read. But I was totally blown away with the masterful writing! This is the book that I never wanted to end because I was so drawn into Rachel's story and the 1950's of Manhattan. And the cold hunger reality of war torn Berlin. I was drawn to Aaron, who though Jewish still had a hard time understanding the horror that his wife lived but then can anyone understand that has never lived through such a nightmare? Mr. Gillham does a marvelous job of making it real and opening up the past and drawing me in!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shereadbookblog

    Shadows of Berlin is a perfect title for this book as the shadows of all the atrocities and betrayals visited upon the Jews in Germany (and elsewhere) follow Rachel to America and affect all the days of her life. She marries, but her survivor guilt and what is now called post traumatic stress infiltrate this relationship. It took me a while to get into and appreciate this book. It is at its best with its detailed descriptions of New York in the 1950s and when Rachel’s reflects back to the unimagi Shadows of Berlin is a perfect title for this book as the shadows of all the atrocities and betrayals visited upon the Jews in Germany (and elsewhere) follow Rachel to America and affect all the days of her life. She marries, but her survivor guilt and what is now called post traumatic stress infiltrate this relationship. It took me a while to get into and appreciate this book. It is at its best with its detailed descriptions of New York in the 1950s and when Rachel’s reflects back to the unimaginable horrors of Berlin under the Nazis. Characterization was well developed, although I felt the husband was quite unlikable, presented almost as a caricature. This is a well written, worthwhile book. If you have initial difficulty reading it, I encourage you to stick with it. The past few years, I’ve read quite a bit of historical fiction about the World War II era and its after effects. At first, I saw them as lessons for our times, but now, with what is going on in the world, I keep asking: How can this be happening again? Thanks to #netgalley and #sourcebookslandmark for the DRC.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    SHADOWS OF BERLIN by David R. Gillham Sourcebooks Landmark Pub Date: Apr 19 Shadows of Berlin is an intense and important look at the Holocaust and its lasting impact on survivors. Rachel and her uncle, Jewish immigrants, have relocated to New York and while they have started a new post-war life -- with Rachel even marrying a kind Jewish American -- she struggles profoundly with survivor's guilt, especially with what she had to do to live. Emotions of terror, guilt and sadness haunt her, and intens SHADOWS OF BERLIN by David R. Gillham Sourcebooks Landmark Pub Date: Apr 19 Shadows of Berlin is an intense and important look at the Holocaust and its lasting impact on survivors. Rachel and her uncle, Jewish immigrants, have relocated to New York and while they have started a new post-war life -- with Rachel even marrying a kind Jewish American -- she struggles profoundly with survivor's guilt, especially with what she had to do to live. Emotions of terror, guilt and sadness haunt her, and intensify after her uncle finds her artist mother's most disquieting painting in a local pawn shop. How can Rachel ever cope with the feelings evoked by her mother's art? Shadows of Berlin's sensitive narrative, though slow-paced at times, offers a compassionate view of what it takes to survive war trauma, and to heal from its searing aftermath. Thanks to the author, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for the ARC. Opinions are mine. #ShadowsofBerlin #DavidRGillham #sourcebookslandmark #NetGalley #histficnovels #holocaustfiction #holocaustsurvivorsfiction #survivorsguilt #bookstagramcommunity

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Rosner

    A powerful, heartrending story of guilt and forgiveness, loss and love, war's long shadow over the living and our memories of the dead. With exquisite poignancy, Gillham asks what it means to survive profound trauma and find hope in a broken world. A powerful, heartrending story of guilt and forgiveness, loss and love, war's long shadow over the living and our memories of the dead. With exquisite poignancy, Gillham asks what it means to survive profound trauma and find hope in a broken world.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn Baron

    I read a lot of WWII historicals and I am also Jewish, so I understood the Yiddish colloquialisms. The intense depression, guilt, and struggles were very historically relatable. This is a 5-star recommended read. Marilyn Baron

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anushree

    I heard the audiobook and it certainly did wonders; the narrator Suzanne Toren is unforgettable! I must thank Roshni (@roshreviews) for the recommendation. The lead character in the story, Rachel, is suffering from PTSD with psychotic symptoms of visual and auditory hallucinations (or imagination?). The story is about how the shadows of the holocaust haunt her and her marriage. How trauma can colour what we see, hear and understand is portrayed not only with keen insight and clinical depth but u I heard the audiobook and it certainly did wonders; the narrator Suzanne Toren is unforgettable! I must thank Roshni (@roshreviews) for the recommendation. The lead character in the story, Rachel, is suffering from PTSD with psychotic symptoms of visual and auditory hallucinations (or imagination?). The story is about how the shadows of the holocaust haunt her and her marriage. How trauma can colour what we see, hear and understand is portrayed not only with keen insight and clinical depth but undeniable humanity. There are several characters, brilliantly fleshed out and so real I felt their sigh and their claws on my skin! Through the narratives of Jews who were burnt yet survived the persecution and through Jews who were miles away and went unscathed, unaffected, the author has explored how the Holocaust affected a whole generation of Jews. The best part was the unflinching portrayal of evil without any self-consciousness, an unnerving straightforward, unapologetic ownership. The novel left me so touched and overwhelmed that I wrote this review almost a month later. This novel speaks of U-boat Jews, something I hadn't read earlier. A must-read, even if you have read many novels on this subject.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sydney Long

    An unforgettable story of the shadows of war and its hold on those trying to move forward. The year is 1955 and Rebecca Perlman is married and living in New York City. Her past, however, haunts her. As a German Jew, she managed to survive the hell that was WWII and was able to make her way to America. What she experienced during the war and the guilt of surviving that she carries with her makes things difficult at times as she begins a new life with her husband, Aaron. Aaron, also Jewish, served An unforgettable story of the shadows of war and its hold on those trying to move forward. The year is 1955 and Rebecca Perlman is married and living in New York City. Her past, however, haunts her. As a German Jew, she managed to survive the hell that was WWII and was able to make her way to America. What she experienced during the war and the guilt of surviving that she carries with her makes things difficult at times as she begins a new life with her husband, Aaron. Aaron, also Jewish, served in the war but stateside. He never witnessed first hand what Rebecca did and at times, that puts a strain on their marriage. Back in Berlin, Rebecca was the daughter of a famous artist. When the Nazis came to power, her work was banned and then destroyed but miraculously…one painting survived and made its way to New York. Seeing the painting opens old wounds and memories she’s trying to bury begin to haunt Rebecca once more. One of the things I love the most about David Gillham is the way he brings to survivors guilt to the page. He does so with great compassion and eloquence. It’s a very real topic that resinates with so many people on so many different levels. Thank you so much to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Landmark and David Gillham for access to this story. I’ll carry Rebecca with me for a while.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    I am taking a break from writing reviews for a while but this was just terrific. Brilliant descriptive characters whose manner of speaking was so visual that I had a movie running through my head. Holocaust literature is of deep interest to me; having many friends whose parents are survivors it is always striking to see how the parents' past suffering has affected their upbringing. This book not only is about survivor's guilt and the fallout from trauma, but the question of how much obligation d I am taking a break from writing reviews for a while but this was just terrific. Brilliant descriptive characters whose manner of speaking was so visual that I had a movie running through my head. Holocaust literature is of deep interest to me; having many friends whose parents are survivors it is always striking to see how the parents' past suffering has affected their upbringing. This book not only is about survivor's guilt and the fallout from trauma, but the question of how much obligation do we have to keep the memory of the dead alive!..It is a keeper.. ps. For those who speak or parents spoke Yiddish, there are a lot of phrases that will bring a smile!!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Thank you to Early Reads and Sourcebooks for a free ecopy of this book, but unfortunately I just can’t get into it. I cannot relate to any of the characters, there is way too much German and Yiddish interspersed within the dialogue and the pace of the book is stultifying slow.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Abigail Sitton

    Really interesting perspective. I’ve always held a high importance to reading stories of the Holocaust, and over time I’ve started thinking more about the life following such trauma for those who survived. This was an interesting look into survivors guilt and how it could impact familial relationships and life afterward... which of course impacts many generations to follow. Very interesting! 4 stars instead of five because the flow of this book was hard for me to keep up with at times.

  20. 4 out of 5

    theliterateleprechaun

    Can the past be redeemed by the future? Author David Gillham writes to explore wartime trauma and survivor’s guilt. He explores the consequences of the Holocaust both in those who suffered at home and afar. Written so beautifully, he contrasts his two main characters, a husband and wife, who struggle because they can’t understand each other. Both suffer from survivor’s guilt and neither can understand how it manifests in their loved one; Rachel is consumed by her past whereas Aaron is focussed o Can the past be redeemed by the future? Author David Gillham writes to explore wartime trauma and survivor’s guilt. He explores the consequences of the Holocaust both in those who suffered at home and afar. Written so beautifully, he contrasts his two main characters, a husband and wife, who struggle because they can’t understand each other. Both suffer from survivor’s guilt and neither can understand how it manifests in their loved one; Rachel is consumed by her past whereas Aaron is focussed on the future. Rashka Morgenstern, 29, carries much more than physical baggage when she crosses the ocean to start a new life in New York. She’s come as a displaced Jewish Berliner after surviving the horrors of Nazi occupation. She changes her name to Rachel and marries Jewish American, Aaron Perlman, who has spent the war in California in the Catering Corps. Like many married couples throughout history, they discover that discussions around starting a family only add fuel to an already unstable relationship. Transitioning to an ‘ordinary housewife’ is not easy for Rachel. The author brings readers to the point where they realize that ‘saving’ each other isn’t enough for marriage nor does it look the same for each spouse. Hope needs to be the catalyst for healing and for change. Stepping back ten years to her experiences in Germany, Rachel shares about the Jewish laws which took everything from her and her widowed mother. You’ll read about fleeing with her uncle, the Red Angel and her role in Rashka’s life, a found portrait and see how these link to what the author reveals about U-boats. I’d never read about this expression before, despite reading a variety of wartime historical fiction. I absolutely loved being immersed in the New York atmosphere! I was right there with the characters in the residence in the Lower East Side, in the cafes and gardens, and could almost hear the Yiddish and New York accent as I turned the pages. I loved how the author immersed me in the story. His exploration of his character’s motives was extremely interesting for me and I think this would make a great book club choice for this reason: knowing a character’s motive doesn’t always precipitate sympathy. I’d gladly read another of this author’s books. Beautifully imagined and expertly written, Gillham writes about survival and redemption. He explores (1) if it’s possible to learn to love and forgive after a life-altering and traumatic experience and (2) what, if anything, do the living owe to the memory of the dead? I was gifted this advance copy by David R. Gillham, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pat Trattles

    I am an historical fiction fan and I couldn’t wait to read this story. Unfortunately it did not deliver. And I wondered why so many others gave it glowing reviews whereas I had to force myself to finish it. And then I realized why it did not resonate with me. I read as a writer more than as a reader. The story fell flat because it was mostly telling. Although I did learn some things about the Jewish population in World War II Berlin that I was totally unaware of, it was as if I were reading a ne I am an historical fiction fan and I couldn’t wait to read this story. Unfortunately it did not deliver. And I wondered why so many others gave it glowing reviews whereas I had to force myself to finish it. And then I realized why it did not resonate with me. I read as a writer more than as a reader. The story fell flat because it was mostly telling. Although I did learn some things about the Jewish population in World War II Berlin that I was totally unaware of, it was as if I were reading a newspaper account rather than experiencing the situation along with the story characters. Just when it got to a point where the author could show us the depth of emotion, fear, or whatever that the character was experiencing he would switch to “current” (late 1940s) time period. Because the author ignored the primary rule – show, don’t tell – I didn’t care what happened to Rachel or any of the other characters in the book. But more important than that, the story was historically inaccurate. When writing an historical fiction piece authors must not only be accurate in situations, mannerisms, etc, but also language. And it is in the latter that the author failed. Writers of historical fiction may not use language that was not part of the lexicon during the period they are writing about. This book was loaded with F-bombs. And people in the 1940s did not use them. Men and women did not swear like they do today. Swear words, if used, were much milder. And men did not swear in front of women or if they did they would say something like, “pardon my French” thus showing some respect for the woman. This disregard for language accuracy of the time period, plus the telling nature of the narrative doomed the story for me. I gave it two stars rather than one because there were a couple sections where I did get caught up in the story. Sadly they were few and far between. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    DNF. Not grabbing me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sally Koslow

    A raw, powerful exploration of the scars trauma leaves, even if you survive. City of Women, one of the author's previous novels about World War II is one of my favorite books, and Shadows of Berlin is its equal. The dialogue is especially well-written. A raw, powerful exploration of the scars trauma leaves, even if you survive. City of Women, one of the author's previous novels about World War II is one of my favorite books, and Shadows of Berlin is its equal. The dialogue is especially well-written.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    I thought the subject matter was interesting. The writing was difficult to follow, rather disjointed and it didn’t flow very well. Thanks to Edelweiss and Sourcebook Landmark for the advance copy.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    The novel starts in 1955 in New York City where Rachel lives with her husband Aaron. Rachel has only been in the United States for several years after entering the country from Germany as a displaced person with her uncle, her only family left alive after the war. She tries to acclimate to life in New York as a housewife but is consumed with her memories of war time Berlin and the survivor's guilt that haunts her. Even though Rachel is living what should be a happy life with her husband, her memo The novel starts in 1955 in New York City where Rachel lives with her husband Aaron. Rachel has only been in the United States for several years after entering the country from Germany as a displaced person with her uncle, her only family left alive after the war. She tries to acclimate to life in New York as a housewife but is consumed with her memories of war time Berlin and the survivor's guilt that haunts her. Even though Rachel is living what should be a happy life with her husband, her memories are easily triggered about her life in Berlin during the war. Her husband had been in the Army during the war but never left the US and she tells him constantly that he has no idea of what it was like to be a Jew in Berlin during the war...how she and her mother, a famous painter, hid in plain sight and tried not to be discovered by the Gestapo...how she never had enough food and rarely had a bed to sleep in. Every day was a struggle and when she and her mother were discovered by the Gestapo, life got much worse as they struggled to stay alive despite the ever growing threats to their lives. Now she's in New York and can buy food, travel round town, dress well and always has a place to sleep. Her husband loves her and tries to make her happy but she is so overwhelmed with her survivor's guilt that she isn't able to truly return his love. Her mind is constantly remembering her life in Germany with her mother and it takes very little for her to remember her past. When her uncle calls and tells her that he's found one of her mother's painting at a pawnshop, she has to see it despite the memories that it brings. Rachel believed that all of her mother's paintings were destroyed by the Germans. She tries to buy it but someone else buys it first. Rachel is also an artist but won't return to her painting because she feel that her talent is nothing compared to her mother. Aaron tries to help her acclimate to her life in New York but is not successful. He would love to have children but doesn't push the issue because she just doesn't feel like she can bring a child into this world or be a good mother to her child. I read many WWII era books but this is the first one I've read that takes such a introspective look at a survivor of the war and the way they deal with their guilt - not only that they survived and others didn't but also their thoughts that they could have done something - anything to save people that they loved. This is a beautiful look at loss and love and learning to live with memories of the past. This is a fantastic, well written book about survival, redemption and learning to love again - not only your family but more importantly yourself. This book haunted me after I finished it and I was unable to start a new book for a few days. Even weeks after I finished it, I still think about Rachel and her valiant struggle to learn from her past and not allow her past memories control her current life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    3.5 challenging stars, rounded up to 4 Shadows of Berlin gives a unique perspective to the plethora of WWII historical fiction novels currently crowding the shelves. Gillham deep dives into survivor’s guilt, family relationships, belonging, and racial prejudice in this novel covering WWII Berlin and 1950s New York. It is not a light or fun read but offers many perspectives to ponder. (Discussion worthy for book groups!) Rachel, the female protagonist, is a multi-faceted character with traumatic e 3.5 challenging stars, rounded up to 4 Shadows of Berlin gives a unique perspective to the plethora of WWII historical fiction novels currently crowding the shelves. Gillham deep dives into survivor’s guilt, family relationships, belonging, and racial prejudice in this novel covering WWII Berlin and 1950s New York. It is not a light or fun read but offers many perspectives to ponder. (Discussion worthy for book groups!) Rachel, the female protagonist, is a multi-faceted character with traumatic experiences having lived as a “underground” Jew in Berlin during WWII. Hunger and the loss of her family came across the ocean with her. Adjusting to life as a New York City housewife in the 1950s adds in a whole new set of issues. She struggles to fit in and understand post-was life and to resume her work as a talented artist. Aaron, her husband, puts in lots of hours running a restaurant. He is a bit dull and can’t understand her trauma. Plot moved along quickly, alternating between the Berlin and New York settings about a decade apart. The narrator’s voice was not the easiest to listen to. Characters were easy to differentiate, but the overly strong Jewish accent, especially of husband Aaron, was off-putting. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christine M in Texas

    This poignant novel is about Rachel and Aaron Perlman opening up in 1955. The couple have been married for several years and Aaron’s wants to start a family. Rachel’s memories from surviving as a Jew in Berlin during WWII still haunt her and she finds it difficult to move forward. She is not sure she wants to bring a child into the world. Even though this novel is set in 1955, and focuses on the present, her flashbacks and painful memories are in the forefront. The flashbacks focus on her mother This poignant novel is about Rachel and Aaron Perlman opening up in 1955. The couple have been married for several years and Aaron’s wants to start a family. Rachel’s memories from surviving as a Jew in Berlin during WWII still haunt her and she finds it difficult to move forward. She is not sure she wants to bring a child into the world. Even though this novel is set in 1955, and focuses on the present, her flashbacks and painful memories are in the forefront. The flashbacks focus on her mother, an artist, who lost all her possessions and comfortable life when the Jews were rounded up and sent to camps. On an outing, Rachel discovers an art painting in a local New York pawnshop, which sparks all these painful memories and she tries to track down the painting. Can the couple move forward from the past? Rachel’s husband did not have the same experiences and is trying to patient with her. With the help of a psychiatrist can Rachel heal? Emotion, heartwarming, heart wrenching, and a must read for historical fiction fans.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    The setting for this book is the 1950’s in Manhattan. It is the post WWII era and Rachel Perlman is a new bride trying to acclimate to her new life. Rachel has many demons and ghosts that haunt her and has had a recent “breakdown” that has her now seeing a psychiatrist. Rachel is a Jewish refugee who as a child suffered, along with her mother, as they tried to escape the Jewish persecution and concentration camps. Rachel is a survivor but unfortunately her mother was not. Her method of survival h The setting for this book is the 1950’s in Manhattan. It is the post WWII era and Rachel Perlman is a new bride trying to acclimate to her new life. Rachel has many demons and ghosts that haunt her and has had a recent “breakdown” that has her now seeing a psychiatrist. Rachel is a Jewish refugee who as a child suffered, along with her mother, as they tried to escape the Jewish persecution and concentration camps. Rachel is a survivor but unfortunately her mother was not. Her method of survival has haunted her into adulthood and she suffers from survivor’s guilt. Like many novels today the story goes back and forth from Rachel’s childhood in Berlin to the present 1950’s. As the story progresses we learn about what actually happened to Rachel and begin to understand why she is so so troubled and unstable. I was quite moved by Rachel’s story. I was totally absorbed in this story and empathetic to Rachel’s plight. and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in WWII historical fiction.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Unreadable

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mary McBride

    Great historical fiction about a young Jewish refugee who survived the Holocaust and the guilt that consumed her..

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