Review

Flight from Berlin

by David John

David John has a hit with his first novel, FLIGHT FROM BERLIN, whose publication will coincide with the present-day summer Olympic Games this year in London. John’s story takes place at the beginning of the controversial 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin. Hitler’s heavy hand is seen in all aspects of German life, with a brief but bright respite for the games. Jews are reviled by the Hitler regime, with their persecution just coming to public light, but mostly ignored on the world stage. 

"References to Adolf Hitler, his closest henchmen and others in the Nazi hierarchy provide the backdrop for this intriguing historical novel.... I highly recommend FLIGHT FROM BERLIN and hope to read more from David John in the future."

Richard Denham, a cynical British journalist, lives in Berlin and is determined to print the truth about Nazi atrocities veiled by the celebrations that are being held for the world games. In particular, Jewish fencing champion Hannah Liebermann is coerced to take part in the Berlin Olympics after her parents and brother are placed under house arrest and threatened by the Nazis. Her father, a wealthy art collector and businessman, stands to lose his entire fortune to the government, as well as his life. Denham interviews Hannah in an attempt to expose Hitler’s real intentions.

In the meantime, an American swimming medalist from the previous Olympics, Eleanor Emerson, joins the American team on its voyage to Berlin. On board the ship, the wealthy daughter of a Senator defies team rules and parties with elite British and American passengers on board, and these transgressions result in her dismissal from the competition. Well-connected, Eleanor obtains reporter credentials and plans to chronicle the games. At a reception, she and Denham meet, growing closer as the plot expands. Together, they thwart a Nazi scheme and quickly become involved in a British spy drama that spans over the entire European continent. 

In addition to its timely release this summer, John has researched both American and German athletes who participated in the 1936 Olympics. He has patterned a number of his fictional characters, including Eleanor, after real-life participants in those games. References to Adolf Hitler, his closest henchmen and others in the Nazi hierarchy provide the backdrop for this intriguing historical novel. The author has been meticulous in his research, documenting the various personalities in the notes section at the end of the book. 

Denham’s struggles, both personal and professional, strengthen his character, along with a sensual appeal to the strong American swimmer. Eleanor manages to wriggle free of her own marital constraints when she falls in love with Denham and fights for them both. The Olympic setting provides the backdrop for an engaging spy drama that covers the enormity of dirigible travel, Jewish persecution and a rapid advancement toward word chaos. 

I highly recommend FLIGHT FROM BERLIN and hope to read more from David John in the future.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on August 2, 2012

Flight from Berlin
by David John