A year-long diary set in LONDON
In search of the Stumble Stones in Berlin plus book review
10th May 2018
In search of the Stumble Stones in Berlin…
Stumble Stones: A novel by Marilyn Baron, novel set mainly in Berlin.
We spent a couple of days in Berlin and naturally took a selection of books set in the city to read in the city, as that is TripFiction’s remit. Having read Marilyn’s piece on the Stumble Stones (Stolpersteine) we decided to keep an eye for these memorial plaques set in the pavement. It is an art project for Europe by Gunter Demnig to commemorate the victims of National Socialism, keeping alive the memory of all Jews, Roma and Sinti, Homosexuals, Dissidents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and victims of euthanasia who were deported and exterminated. You can find out more about the project on the Stolpersteine website.
We headed to the New Synagogue on Oranienburgstrasse where there are many Stolpersteine to be found dotted around, set into the pavement. It is a sobering experience but also quite uplifting that someone has made a project of commemoration which can still resonate incredibly today. After discovering several and in need of refreshment, we settled down for a coffee in the garden of Clärchens Ballhaus (Ballroom), a vintage venue with a mirrored hall, dining and dancing, a perfect find for the 1930s/40s era, in which the novel Stumble Stones is partly set.
We also ended up at the beautiful Art Nouveau complex, the Hackesche Höfe nearby, a magnet for tourists and shoppers alike.
Book Review: In the novel Stumble Stones, the author interweaves two time periods. In the contemporary story Hallelujah Weiss has just broken up with her husband. She writes the main characters (Polly and Parker) in the steamy potboiler soap opera on TV called “As the Planet Spins”. In a twist, straight out of the Ocean’s Eleven film series, she is in Business Class flying to Rome for a well earned break and some ‘me’ time, when a classy Italian slips in beside her and asks her to look after a small, valuable package. He doesn’t return (even though they are in mid-flight) and she takes a peak and finds several exceptional diamonds. The Italian, who in real life is Alexander, hedge fund manager from Berlin, scoops her up at Fiumicino, diamond bag still in hand, and scoots off with her on a Ducati, away from the evil henchman who are determined to steal the diamonds.
And that essentially is how the book starts, at 100KM per hour. Alexander has bought a rather nice house in the Dahlem quarter, in Berlin, where he recently observed the ceremony of setting a group of four Stolpersteine (Stumble Stones) into the pavement by his house, clearly pertaining to the original WW2 owner and his family. The backstory of the Hirschfeld family, in residence during the war, and their fate, is fed into the current day story. Fortunately Alexander has enough wherewithal to pursue their history, fighting off thugs, and taking Hallelujah on a cruise which was actually originally booked as his honeymoon cruise (that’s a long story). The Hirschfelds were the original owners/guardians of the diamonds, which Alexander happened to find in his house during his renovations.
This is a short novel of just over 200 pages that scampers up all kinds of avenues. It is a little like a written-down soap opera in itself – mirroring the exploits of Hallelujah’s TV soap characters Parker and Polly – where Hallelujah (now tearing around Europe with Alexander) experiences life, daredevil twists and some quite ridiculous scenarios. And yes, it did at times have the preposterous feel of Thunderbirds and the Lady Penelope and Parker duo which for some reason popped into my mind….
It is a well written romp, with an incredibly serious phenomenon at the heart, and it is a brave author who will overlay something so sombre and disturbing with a cavorting romantic storyline.
There are erotic scenes (be warned!) … “She found herself sitting on top of a giant boner. Mount Vesuvius was about to blow” (only you will be pleased to know it didn’t).
Overall, the phenomenon of the Stolpersteine is well portrayed in the novel and perhaps just allow yourself to be carried along by the fast moving romance story that crowns the historical story.
Tina for the Tripfiction Team
Do come and join team TripFiction on Social Media:
And for plenty more books to transport you to Berlin, just access the TripFiction database!