I’ve learned over the years to tell a story in the small details. The bouquet of plucked dandelions scattered around the place where a child was kidnapped, is a lot more affecting than the screaming and crying and screech of tires. That’s what Hughes is doing in this book, she’s telling her story in the details, in vignettes about the lives of the people who essentially created the culture of the street she lives on, both while they lived there and afterward. And in doing this, she tells the story of the Holocaust and how it touched Berliners. She does tell more contemporary history, but the stories of the Jewish families who were among the first to make their homes in this particular street takes up most of her narrative.
So I don’t really understand why this book didn’t touch me. It’s well written, the subject matter is one of my most enduring interests, and yet, I felt removed from it as a reader. Possibly it’s Hughes’ writing style that never quite meshes with the way I think. Or possibly I sense that there was a point for which she was reaching, but which she never quite grasps. It never felt pulled together for me. And that’s a shame because it’s clearly a labor of love for Hughes.
Nevertheless I give her points for her scholarship, her pursuit of the details of people’s lives. I wish I’d found it more engaging.