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Summary

The new novel from the award-winning writer Ben Fergusson, author of The Spring of Kasper Meier and The Other Hoffmann Sister.

In West Berlin in 1989, 18-year-old Ralf has just left school and is living a final golden summer with his three best friends. They spend their days swimming, smoking and daydreaming about the future, oblivious to the storm gathering on the other side of the Berlin Wall. But an unsettling discovery about his family and a meeting with the mysterious Oz shatters everything Ralf thought he knew about love and loyalty. And as old Cold War tensions begin to tear his life apart, he finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, forced to make impossible choices about his country, his family and his heart.

©2019 Ben Fergusson (P)2019 W. F. Howes Ltd

Critic reviews

"The divided Berlin of the Cold War era is brilliantly resurrected on the cusp of momentous change in Ben Fergusson's An Honest Man...the novel movingly recounts Ralf's painful discoveries about love and loyalty." (Sunday Times)

"During the hot summer of 1989, a group of friends mooch about, fall in love, swim and party. All perfectly normal - except this is West Berlin which is still divided by the Wall and awash with spies and paranoia.... The author won awards for his debut, The Spring of Kasper Meier. This is equally atmospheric and thought-provoking." (Daily Mail)

"The stunning, powerful and addictive new novel by the prize-winning author of The Spring of Kasper Meier...." (Attitude Magazine)

What listeners say about An Honest Man

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Totally worth it - no spoilers in review.

I nearly gave up on this book after nothing very much happened in the first 2 or 3 chapters. The awards and juries and judging panels have lied to me again I thought.
Then there was a flicker of interest and I persevered.
By halfway through I was totally hooked.
This became one of those stories where the temptation to move ahead and find out what happened was almost too much to resist. I successfully avoided and the climax on the night of the fall of the Berlin wall was excellent.
The story is clearly a slow burn but catches after a while.
The narration is good and at times the petulance of a group of 18-year-olds coming of age, interspersed with interactions with a wide range of late-80s Berliners is voiced with a great deal of atmosphere. Some of the narrator's voices are disconcerting in how effective their characterisation is.

4 people found this helpful

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BERLIN at its best

I was an English undergraduate in Berlin in 1979/80, 20 years before this novel was set. I found it brilliantly written in such well researched or experienced detail. It took me right back there as a student. I read reviews for the book version and it is certainly true that you feel the need to read it a second time once you get to the end. You don’t get the full picture until the final sentence. Superb writing, I’m about to download the first of the trilogy. Joe Jameson truly brought it to life with his narration.
This took #1 position and was my favourite of all the books I “read” in 1979. Thanks Ben & Joe.

4 people found this helpful

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Gritty Novel, Well Performed

This is an enjoyable story about love, innocence, maturation, betrayal, disillusionment and change. The plot covers issues which are both personal and political. It is written in a frank and straightforward style, with many details of life in Germany in the 1980s. The plot is well sustained and is both tender and tense. I’m an adult, but I can see its appeal to a “young adult” readership. It is an honest account of a male, same sex relationship, set in the context of dramatic changes taking place in Germany (East and West) mainly before reunification. It is read by Joe Jameson, whose reading is always very expressive, flexible and measured.

2 people found this helpful

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Loved this book

Really liked the clever story, characters and historic details. Excellent narration. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book. Hope you do too.

2 people found this helpful

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Fantastic book great twists

Another really enjoyable book from Ben Fergusson. The twists in the plot were great and kept coming right up u to the end.

2 people found this helpful

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A coming of age story, a spy novel and a love letter to Berlin

Listening to this book has been a delight in so many ways.... The writing is beautiful without being self consciously literary and is read by Joe Jameson, whose voice and interpretation I loved since hearing his reading of The Charioteer by Mary Renault. The main character, Ralph, follows his journey of self discovery with typical teenage angst, a word so appropriate to the setting of this book, the city of West Berlin, just before the fall of the wall. The city is lovingly described, the smells, sounds and details bringing to life the unfamiliar places and somehow combining with the quirks of the characters to give the book a wonderful sense of place. The spy story within the book is well plotted and the twists and turns are a delight. There are very few things to criticise, some characters are a bit sketchy, the need for the unexpected, as required by the spy novel genre, detracts a bit from the verisimilitude, breaking the spell occasionally, but despite this, I cannot remember the last time I derived so much pleasure from listening to an audiobook. I will rush to buy the author’s other novels and, for the first time in my life, I am drawn to Berlin, feeling compelled to visit. Oh, and this book has the best ending I’ve read, or listened to, for a long time.

1 person found this helpful

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Astonishing—loved it.

This book is breathtakingly plotted AND subtly and convincingly written, which are qualities that don’t usually go together in contemporary fiction in my view. Really totally surprised to find a contemporary novel this good. The lazy comparison is le carre but I also saw shades of Andre aciman and Anthony Powell.

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Interesting story and times spoilt by narration

For once I wish I had read the novel than listening to it as I felt the narration marred an interesting plot set in a facination period of modern history with plenty of twists.Extremely annoying "voice" especially as the 18 year old hero - he didn't sound like one - and his depection of the female characters made my skin crawl!

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Not bad story

This book was ok. Not great but an easy listen. The ending was too neat and fairly obvious. Some of the dialogue stretched credibility (e.g. maturity and self-awareness of teenagers wasn't realistic) but fairly enjoyable overall.

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Excellent

Thoroughly enjoyed this. The research done for this book was amazing. So good that I thought this was perhaps the authors diary, but no. It has a biographical feel thanks to this research, but it is fiction. Written in such a way that it makes you guess what is to come and if you are like me you will get it wrong throughout. Don't expect thrills and spills, it is a lot more gentle than that but I recommend you give it a go!