Review: The House By The Lake by Thomas Harding

9780434023233This is history writing at it’s finest. Taking a small microcosm to tell the story of a country over the last 100 years.

On a trip to Berlin in 2013 author Thomas Harding visited the summer lake house his great-grandfather built. Upon discovering the house in disrepair and scheduled for demolition Harding began researching the history of the house and it’s occupants. Harding traces back the story of the small village and the estate that the house is built in and then tells the story of each occupant.

Following the First World War a young doctor builds the house as a weekend and summer escape from Berlin. Following the Nazis’ rise to power in the 1930s they are forced to give up the house and flee to England. The house changes hands again following the Second World War as Berlin and Germany is carved up by the victorious Allies. The building of the Berlin Wall literally cuts the house off from the lake. And after the wall comes down and Germany is reunited the true owner of the house is hotly disputed until Harding pays his visit in 2013.

Telling the story of Germany through this one house gives a new and deeply personal perspective of what has happened in Germany in the last 100 years. From the turmoil of the Weimar Republic to the rise of Nazism to The Stasi and the end of the Cold War this book shows how history affected the people living through like no other book on the subject.

This is a marvelous piece of non fiction and I am reliably informed the author’s previous book Hanns and Rudolf is even more outstanding. I can’t wait to read it too.

Buy the book here…

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Jon Page

Jon Page is a bookseller and author of the Bite the Book Blog.