by David Downing
Review by Linda Marie Schumacher
Soho Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569474945
Date: May 2008 List Price $24.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Wikipedia Entry / Show Official Info /
Silesian Station, by David Downing, is about the life of John Russell, a journalist in Berlin prior to World War II. The novel is a continuation of Zoo Station, which started earlier in the year 1939. Since the end of the first novel, Russell has changed his citizenship from British to the US. His son from his first marriage and his girl friend are still in Berlin. The Nazi regime is in power, and Russell ends up working for them as a journalist, although his participation is not always "optional".
Russell is extremely anti-Nazi and manages to contribute his part to the war effort by using his journalistic connections to help shed poor light on the Nazi regime. Russell also is working as a spy for the USA, as part of his being granted US citizenship. He also ends up working for the Russians, not necessarily by choice. All of his juggling is part of the story. His journalistic jobs make him travel around Eastern Europe, which gives us perspective from the areas surrounding Germany. Russell realizes that the best way to survive in the world of the Nazi regime, is to keep quiet as much as possible, but he is willing to take risks to do things that he thinks are right. All of these connections are Russell's way of fighting against the Nazis.
Russell is also willing to help individuals. Often friends and coworkers ask him to help, and he is able to twist his efforts to help individuals out of trouble. Russell realizes that he cannot stop the war of the Nazis, but by helping individuals he also contributes his part to fighting the Nazis. Russell's character development through the two novels is outstanding. He starts out very ambivalent and only trying to cover himself enough to stay out of trouble. By the end of Silesian Station, Russell is active with numerous underground organizations, and is willing to accept big risks.
One other interesting development in Silesian Station is that Russell's girl friend, Effi, has also joined his efforts. Effi is an actress and is able to use her connections to help Russell's underground efforts.
The most interesting part of the novel is the insights into Berlin right before the start of World War II. As a WWII fiction fan, the Nazis fascinate me. It is not because of what they did, all that is very well documented. I am fascinated about the motivation behind what they did. What drives a person to think that way? David Downing gives me insight into the other side of Germany---he talks about the views of the normal citizens during these times. It helps me to form a better perspective.
I am enjoying this series of books by David Downing and I highly recommend them to all readers, and especially to World War II fiction fans. John Russell has moved from struggling to get by and keeping himself out of trouble, to actively helping the underground war effort against the Nazis. It is a great perspective into World War II, and albeit fiction, it helps me to understand the motivation of the powers of the time.