The House by the Lake

The House by the Lake

One House, Five Families, and A Hundred Years of German History

Book - 2016
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In the summer of 1993, Thomas Harding traveled to Germany with his grandmother to visit a small house by a lake on the outskirts of Berlin. It had been a holiday home for her and her family, but in the 1930s, she had been forced to flee to England as the Nazis swept to power. Nearly twenty years later, the house was government property and soon to be demolished. It was Harding's legacy, one that had been loved, abandoned, fought over -- a house his grandmother had desired until her death. Could it be saved? And should it? As Harding began to make inquiries, he unearthed secrets that had lain hidden for decades about the lives of the five families who had lived there: a wealthy landowner, a prosperous Jewish family, a renowned composer, a widow and her children, and a Stasi informant. All had made the house their home, and all -- bar one -- had been forced out. The house had been the site of domestic bliss and of contentment, but also of terrible grief and tragedy. It had weathered storms, fires and abandonment; witnessed murders, had withstood the trauma of a world war, and the dividing of a nation. As the story of the house began to take shape, Harding realized that there was a chance to save it, but in doing so, he would have to resolve his own family's feelings towards their former homeland -- and a hatred handed down through the generations. -- For readers of Edmund de Waal, Daniel Mendelson, and David Laski.
Publisher: New York : Picador, 2016.
Edition: First U.S. edition.
Copyright Date: ℗♭2015
ISBN: 9781250065063
Branch Call Number: 943.1546 H219
Characteristics: xix, 442 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps, genealogical tables ; 25 cm


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Jun 11, 2017

An incredible, engrossing well written account of one house and 5 families that spans a century - the 20th - of Germany's history. It is written and told in a way that makes it much more enjoyable than a straightforward history. I could not put it down! And I learned so much! I highly recommend this amazing true story.

Mar 20, 2017

An interesting way of viewing history: through the various owners and tenants of a much-loved house. The place was originally built by a Jewish doctor in the mid 1920's Germany, near to Berlin and sitting within view of a lovely lake. When the Nazis came to power, of course, then the original family fled and the house was then occupied by a variety of renters. This house saw the glory days of the 20's, the rise of Nazism, the days of Stalin and Soviet influence, and finally the fall of the Wall and freedom. Lots of photos and a personal tie to the house by the author make the entire story come alive.

Nov 25, 2016

Recommended by Jan Michalek

Sep 19, 2016

The Alexander family built, in 1927, a modest lake home near Potsdam, outside Berlin, as a weekend retreat. Their grandson, a British journalist, revisits it in recent years, finding it abandoned and ready for demolition. His book looks at those who lived there, but more interesting, writes a history of a small community just outside the Berlin Wall after World War II.

Reading this book is wonderful social history. It reminded me of a book read a few years back, Simon Mawer’s 'The Glass Room,' which tells the stories of those who built and lived in Villa Tugendhat, designed by Mies van der Rohe, in Brno in the Czech Republic. Theirs is a story, like the Alexanders, of a Jewish family who had to abandon so much that they loved to escape the Nazis.


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