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The House by the Lake

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‘A passionate memoir.’ Neil MacGregor

‘A superb portrait of twentieth century Germany seen through the prism of a house which was lived in, and lost, by five different families. A remarkable book.’ Tom Holland

‘Personal and panoramic, heart-wrenching yet uplifting, this is history at its most alive.’ A.D. Miller

In 2013, Thomas Harding returned to his grandmother’s house on the outskirts of Berlin which she had been forced to leave when the Nazis swept to power. What was once her ‘soul place’ now stood empty and derelict. A concrete footpath cut through the garden, marking where the Berlin Wall had stood for nearly three decades.

In a bid to save the house from demolition, Thomas began to unearth the history of the five families who had lived there: a nobleman farmer, a prosperous Jewish family, a renowned Nazi composer, a widow and her children and a Stasi informant. Discovering stories of domestic joy and contentment, of terrible grief and tragedy, and of a hatred handed down through the generations, a history of twentieth century Germany and the story of a nation emerged.

From Publishers Weekly

31 October 2016 – Harding (Hanns and Rudolf), a British-American journalist and nonfiction writer, profiles five diverse families that over the course of nearly a century either owned or rented a single house on the outskirts of Berlin. Harding uses these families the Wollanks, the Alexanders (Harding's ancestors), the Meisels, the Fuhrmanns, and the K hns as a prism through which to look at the history of 20th- and early 21st-century Germany. Given his Jewish family's experience, he pays particular attention to the house and the town in which it was situated, Gros Glienicke, during WWII French POWs were housed there, and Soviet forces subjected the town's women to mass rape in 1945 and in the Cold War, when the house and town were located in East Germany. Harding notes how the town prospered after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but the house itself fell into disrepair, housing squatters until Harding and his family, as well as some locals, made an effort to clean and reconstruct it. Harding's well-written, thoroughly researched work brings a long period of German history down to a local, human scale. Maps & illus.

Customer Reviews


I couldn't put this book down, as I found it utterly compelling. The narrative was easy to read, concise in its facts yet the book paints a time, not so long ago, that no longer exists. History at its best, but not plodding through the mire that sometimes can be attached to history telling, neither pompous nor overbearing in its story. For me, just magic.

The House by the Lake
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  • £5.49
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Europe
  • Published: 24 September 2015
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Print Length: 464 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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