Review: A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones
I was immediately taken by the beautiful prose, which as I was soon to discover was the novel's greatest strength, along with its depictions of Berlin through the eyes of Cass, an Australian who had grown up in Broome, and now found herself in Berlin in mid-winter. The two places could not be any more different and it was interesting to read Cass' reactions to her new surroundings. The stories that her companions share are utterly heart wrenching. That said, while the author writes beautifully, I did not get a great feel for the characters. Even the descriptions of the city, while relevant to Cass, don't always do the reader justice. I felt the perspective was a bit too limiting. As for the characters, I spent the whole book feeling as though I was watching them from afar, especially after the twist. It is difficult to understand how they could all be so complacent. Cass and Marco's relationship felt dull, as though they were two people going through the motions for the hell of it, rather than them having any kind of sexual or romantic attraction to one another. Ultimately, A Guide to Berlin starts strong, but falls flat. Beautiful prose cannot atone for a story and characterisation that lacks depth. That said, I've read and enjoyed a number of other novels by this author and would not hesitate to pick another of her novels up again.