Blue Skies Over Berlin by John Steinberg has been reprinted with a brand new cover.
On a cold, drizzly April morning, a young woman got out of a taxi at the exclusive Mirabelle restaurant on Curzon Street, where she was greeted by a man in a uniform and swiftly ushered into the noisy, smoke-filled establishment. Once inside, she immediately felt out of her depth, for she had not been in such opulent surroundings for a very long time — and certainly not since she came to live in London. Charlotte Brown had been looking forward to this lunch and in fact had spent a week’s wages on her new, navy-blue belted dress. She had thought she looked smart, but as she saw other women wearing chic little hats, tight-fitting pencil skirts and dark red lipstick, she began to wish she had refused the invitation.
This is an intriguing story about a German woman, Eva Schlessinger. As a young woman she takes Swiss nationality through her mother and changes her name to Charlotte Brown. Following her History of Art degree, she takes a job at the National Gallery and moves to London. The book begins as Charlotte is offered a new job by Bernard Morris, running his new Bernard Morris Gallery in Mayfair.
From the blurb, I had expected a mystery or thriller — but Blue Skies Over Berlin is a much slower-paced story. If you enjoy a slower burn, then this is a real gem of a book. It reminded me of Tully by Paullina Simons, which follows a woman’s life from a teenager to middle age. It feels very realistic and like you are hearing about a real person’s life.
The book follows Charlotte’s life from her 30s to 70s. I felt that this story had two distinct parts to it. The first part is when she is involved in the art gallery, the second is after she begins working as an art teacher. Characters that Charlotte meets in the first half seem to be forgotten in the second half. There are rich characters around Charlotte, but they seem to be irrelevant until very late in the book.
At the start of the book Charlotte is very naive and easily influenced by others. For example, she chooses to believe other people’s opinions of her partner and packs her bags to leave him — without even speaking to him first to find out if what she was told is true! She is also easily taken in by Susana, despite disliking her when they first met earlier in the story. However, Charlotte does begin to grow as a character. She seemed much more alive and real to me in the second part of the book.
I felt sorry for Bernard. He is a genuine, caring man who is taken advantage of by everyone around him. Even after his death, his former staff still use his influence and name to steal from Charlotte with no consequences (much like real life, I guess).
Finally, I really like John’s writing style. It is very straight-forward and to the point, which I like. The Practical Magic series by Alice Hoffman is written in a similar, no-nonsense way.
The book blurb
A young German woman, thinking she can escape her memories of wartime Berlin, moves to London in 1954 under her new name of Charlotte Brown. The offer of a prestigious job at the National Gallery leads her to believe that she can establish a new life in a city itself emerging from the ruins of war.
With her new identity, Charlotte hopes she has left Eva Schlessinger far behind… but when her job brings her into contact with a ruthless set of art dealers with dubious wartime connections, she fears they can see behind her facade. Priceless masterpieces start appearing at auction, stolen from murdered Jewish families by the Nazis, and she herself is implicated. At this point, Charlotte makes a solemn promise — one that will take her a lifetime to fulfil.
Blue Skies Over Berlin is a novel about secrets and guilt in an uncertain time, balanced by friendship and enduring love — and ultimately the need to make amends for just standing by.
About the author, John Steinberg
Born and raised in North London in 1952, John still lives in the city with his wife and three children. Privately educated, John left school after ‘A’ levels and completed a business diploma in what is now the University of Westminster, before entering banking.
He started training as an accountant but did not complete the course, choosing a position in his family’s furniture manufacturing business instead. John started his own mergers and acquisitions business in 1987, which he ran for almost 20 years before quitting to become a full time writer in 2007.
John has co-written and produced comedies for the stage and has created a series of books for children. “Previously, I had only been interested in comedy and finally started to write down the things I said or thought of. That led me to co-write and produce a play, In the Balance, and then W for Banker – which appeared at the New End Theatre, Hampstead. It was then I decided to quit the world of business in favour of writing full-time, and move toward more serious subjects. My first novel has taken two years to write and is the first in a series of books I am calling the Steinberg Stories.”
Where to buy Blue Skies Over Berlin
Thank you very much to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in this one-day promo blitz for this book. I purchased the book myself from Amazon (it was not gifted to me).