Flight From Berlin by David John

With the London Olympic Games already under way, Flight From Berlin by David John is a novel that can demonstrate the political turmoil beneath even the most beloved sporting event across the globe.  It is set during the 1936 Olympic games in Germany just as Adolf Hitler is gaining more power, and British journalist Richard Denham is fully aware of the brutality the Nazis hope to hide behind the spectacle of the games.  Mrs. Eleanor Emerson is an Olympic hopeful whose father, a senator, is very much against the United States’ participation in the games and who eventually gets kicked off the team when her rebellious behavior aboard ship gets her into all kinds of trouble with her father’s nemesis.  Fate conspires to bring these two together as Emerson is offered a job as a reporter for William Randolph Hearst’s media empire given her connections with the team.

Embroiled unwittingly in a cloak-and-dagger search for a secret that could stop the rise of Hitler, Emerson and Denham run through the Berlin streets, attend society parties, and hide in back alleys as they seek to interview the only Jewish athlete on the German Olympic team.  The rebellious streak of Emerson draws Denham to her, but she’s intrigued by his passion to uncover the truth even without considering the consequences.  John’s prose is quick paced and appropriate for the old world espionage feel of the novel, and the relationship between Denham and Emerson is one of convenience and mutual respect.

“How strange, how small the things that change history, turn it from its darkened course, send it eddying off down new, sunlit streams.”  (Page 2 ARC)

However, the fast-paced nature of the story often takes over too much in that the relationship between Denham and Emerson is not fully realized and when declarations of love occur, it seems to be too soon.  While John does use the cliched oops moment of overhearing a conversation in the garden, the story is intriguing enough to keep the reader’s attention.  Meanwhile, the chapters on the Hindenburg are very well done and demonstrate the awe people at that time would have felt at seeing such ingenuity.

“It was like a film set built from an Erector set.  A gargantuan spider’s web of bracing wires and girders radiated out from the central axis, and looking along the corridor’s length was like seeing infinity reflected between two mirrors.  The air was much colder.

Together they walked along the corridor between towering gas cells, which hummed quietly with the vibration of the engines.”  (Page 66 ARC)

Flight From Berlin by David John provides the right mix of thrill and historical elements to anchor readers into the time between WWI and WWII when Germany was hosting the Olympic games and Hitler was hovering the line between diplomatic peace and alienating the entire world.  Denham, a former WWI soldier, is forced to recall his training and the tragic things he saw during the war, but it also enables him to remain sympathetic to the Jews and others he meets while working in Berlin on his journalistic stories.  Emerson is a socialite who is used to getting her way either through charm or her father’s connections, but she has to learn to be more observant of the world around her and that she has her own strength to get her through.  Another gem in the novel is the notes in the back about what characters were real and which were fictionalized.

About the Author:

DAVID JOHN was born in Wales. He trained as a lawyer but made his career in publishing, editing popular books on history and science. In 2009 he moved to Germany to write Flight from Berlin. He lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he is researching his second novel.

This is my 56th book for the New Authors Reading Challenge 2012.


  1. I love it when I find notes in the back of the book.

    How have you been? I’ve been visiting but I am trying to give the hand a rest since I am needing it all day for work, but it’s hard not to use it. I have stuff to post but can’t type long enough to get it down. I am just a big sobby mess over all of it. I rarely get depressed but it’s got me down.

  2. As a history junkie I can see myself really getting into Flight From Berlin. The years leading up to World War II so much was going on “behind the scenes” and with the fiction and non-fiction characters thrown into the mix I just know I’m going to be guessing who’s who and what’s what. Nice!

  3. Thanks so much, Serena! I’m going to add this to my TBR list. 🙂

  4. Sounds so good and so timely!

  5. This book seems particularly timely with the Olympics going on right now! I’m glad you enjoyed the book overall.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  6. So – is this primarily a thriller, or a romance?

  7. I didn’t buy their romance either, not at the beginning anyway, but it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the book overall.

  8. It’s sad that politics invades everything – even the Olympics. This sounds like the perfect read for right now.

  9. Lovely review, as usual — you captured the flavor of the novel so well. This one wasn’t a knockout read for me, but a solid historical thriller. The Olympics connection is perfect for this summer.

  10. Apt reading for the times!