A big welcome to my turn on the blog tour for Half a World Away by Sue Haasler.
Half a World Away is published on 12th April 2018 by Dome Press.
Charming and talented Alex dreams of becoming a professional saxophonist while working long hours in the family bakery. Detlef, lonely, repressed, and a small-time Stasi informer, develops an obsessive love for him.
But Alex has eyes only for Nicky, an English woman visiting East Berlin as an au pair. With no natural outlet for his feelings, Detlef’s passion becomes destructive, his need for approval enmeshed with the latent homophobia of the regime.
As Alex takes up with more successful musicians, he moves closer to influences considered subversive by a state that has eyes and ears everywhere, and Detlef’s passions threaten to endanger them all.
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A big thank you to Emily Glenister at Dome for issuing me with my review copy of the book and for asking me to participate on the blog tour.
I’ve not read that many books set in 1980’s Germany before the Berlin Wall fell so it was very interesting to read what life was like then and especially from people who had different experiences of it.
We follow Alex who works for his family bakery but his real love is his saxophone. His parents have mixed emotions when he informs them he has applied to study music at university. His father is overjoyed as he has passed his love of jazz to his son. His mother however is not so pleased. Living as a Russian in Germany hasn’t been easy for her but she has a happy life with her husband, son and bakery. She is concerned about her husband working too hard and knows that Alex is there to help which will all change if he follows his lifelong dream. He has also fallen in love with an English girl, Nicky who is working as an au pair, which will possibly have serious ramnifications.
Detlev is a completely different character and a complete contrast to Alex. He isn’t a very nice character but is determined to try and better himself from his current life working in the payroll department of a factory, by becoming an informer for the GDR. He has dreams of becoming an officer but I think he just wants to try and show how important he is (when in contrast he isn’t really). He spies on his neighbours and informs on his work colleagues to a mysterious figure that he meets each week from the GDR.
When Detlev, meets Alex he immediately falls in love with him but also questions his feelings as being a gay man in 1980’s Germany is just not allowed. Especially one who has higher ambitions in the GDR for himself. Alex is unaware of Detlev’s feelings much to Detlev’s annoyance and he becomes increasingly jealous of Nicky and Alex’s love.
Alex begins to associate with other musicians, people who aren’t classed as desirable by the big brother state and Detlev battles with his feelings for Alex and his feelings for wanting to belong to something big and me SOMEONE.
I must admit that I was quite young when the Berlin Wall was pulled down but Sue Haasler does a magnificent job of describing how harsh and completely different things were depending on which side of the wall you were on. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story but I found this book to be one that I didn’t know a lot about going into but learnt a lot at the end of the journey.
A compelling and highly emotional story that I’m glad I was introduced to.
To follow the rest of the blog tour….
About the Author
Sue is the author of the first ever official tie-in book for the BBC TV series HOLBY CITY, which will be published at the beginning of 2018. It’s based on interviews with all of the current cast and many of the people working behind the scenes, and will lift the lid on the journey of the show from script to screen.
Also in 2018, Sue’s novel Half A World Away will be published by The Dome Press. It’s set in East Berlin in 1987, two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Sue’s first book, Two’s Company, was published in the UK, Japan and France and was optioned for film by Warner Bros. It was followed by Time After Time, True Colours and Better Than The Real Thing.
Her proudest achievements so far have been her daughter (though she can only take part of the blame/credit for her) and having Two’s Company reviewed in an edition of Hello! magazine that had Hugh Grant in leather trousers on the cover.
When not writing books, Sue can be found slumped on the nearest sofa watching TV and blogging about it for the website http://www.pauseliveaction.com