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This novel whisked me away from home to war-time Berlin, in the midst of the brutal and terrifying regime of Hitler and the Nazis. It was a fantastic and devastating read that had me gripped from the start and the sheer number of characters made the plot gripping and interesting. The characters were written in such depth; giving a fantastic and touching insight into what it was like to be everyday citizen in Nazi Germany and how different people coped with the pressure to conform to what was expected of them.
At the centre of the story is Otta and Anna Quangel - a quiet couple, going day to day with work at a factory for him and housework for her. Never doing anything out of the ordinary and some days not even speaking a full sentence to one another. They soon receive news of one of their sons dying "for Führer and Fatherland" and Otto begins to feel that he should try to do something, however small, to resist the regime that not only brought about the death of their son but the death of hundred of thousands of others. Otto begins writing anonymous postcards with messages to whoever finds them, denouncing the Führer, the war and the regime and he leaves them in random buildings for others to find.
The novel then interweaves a vast array a people who have all been affected by the writings of these postcards. The hope of Otto and Anna is that the people who find these postcards will acknowledge the messages and then pass them for others to consider. However, they underestimate the terror that possesses people in this time of darkness and out of over 200 postcards dropped over 2 years only a small number of them did not get handed in to the Gestapo. The way Fallada linked these different types of people: criminals, SS, Gestapo, whores, and everyday honest working people amazed me. Fallada understood how different people behave in different ways to pressure depending on their background and past experiences, and at the base of it how strong of character people are when it comes to facing up to what they believe in.
Reading this novel I felt I understood more then before what it must have been like to have been in the situation of the German people under the Nazi regime. Fallada lived in Germany during this period and was frequently under observation due to his writing which at times had political undertones; he knew what it meant to live in a terrifying and unjust society and this shows in this outstanding novel.
(Also posted this review on my book review Tumblr)