Blue Skies Over Berlin
Author: John Steinberg
The urge to re-invent oneself isn’t often held up as one of the primal drives. Yet sometimes past events are so shattering that the desire to become someone new is as strong a pull as the genetic impulses that lead a caterpillar to start spinning a cocoon. As a German fleeing the horrors of her nation’s Nazi legacy, the ‘past events’ which drive Charlotte Brown (nee Eva Schlessinger) to abandon her birth name and move from Berlin to London circa 1956 are slightly more scarring than the average quarter-life crisis. A kind of psychic trauma that regrettably won’t be quieted by anything so simple as dying one’s hair pink.
With her father and brother killed in action during the war and her mother committed to a sanatorium, the newly rechristened Charlotte attempts to forge a new life in London are complicated by the attentions ruthless sharks who swim through faux-genteel and savage waters of the new London that has emerged since the wars end. Author John Steinberg paints a poignant picture of the struggle that comes with attempting to escape a past that still has you trapped like a fly in a spider-web. This dialogue-heavy novel’s rogues gallery of art-world criminality and opportunism serves as a dark mirror to some of the truths about modern life that we’d often prefer not to acknowledge. Steinberg paints Charlotte’s journey of painful self-discovery with clear eyes and despite the subject matter, it’s definitely a work to remember.