22.7.13

THE PIECES FROM BERLIN, by Michael Pye

Beautifully written, when it isn’t obscure and infuriatingly vague, this novel brings to life wartime Berlin, when young, lovely Lucia Muller-Rossi goes from opportunistic survivor to deadly scavenger. A half-century later, in Zurich where Lucia and her young son Nicholas had fled at war’s end, an elderly holocaust survivor sees her own table - the last piece the Jews’ systematic humiliation by the Nazis allowed her to keep - displayed in Lucia’s antique shop window: a piece from Berlin. And, as she tries to find out how the piece got into that shop, lives begin to unravel. Most of the novel and its depiction of wartime Berlin is riveting, horrifying, devastating. It's further disturbing as Sarah Freeman follows a path she can’t leave. But the end is so tangled it was frustrating to try to follow. Some of you may give this novel a 5. But there’s a reason many novel paragraphs and scenes have the characters’ names in them. Pye, an accomplished writer, has chosen to flaunt that custom, and too many of the novel’s final scenes are so murky the pleasure and discovery is lost. Regrettably, a 3.