Berlin: City of Stones


Author: Jason Lutes

Title: Berlin: City of Stones

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2001

Number of Pages: 209

Geographical Setting: Berlin, Germany

Time Period: September 1928-May 1st 1929

Series: Berlin Trilogy

Plot Summary: This is the first part of a trilogy that chronicles the lives of several characters as they struggle with their own hopes and dreams along with the larger (and darker) events that are happening around them.  This masterful piece of historical fiction documents the twilight years of the Weimer Republic, as well as the disillusionment of the Germans after World War I and the rise of two different political parties: Communism and National Socialism.  We see how the personal circumstances of some of the characters draw them to one party or another, while others simply try to live out their lives in spite of the events unfolding around them.  The two main characters are Kurt Severing, a cynical and world-weary journalist, and Marthe, a naïve but gifted and insightful art student exposed to the city of Berlin for the first time.  These central figures are only two of the characters who provide and intimate and emotional glimpse into a dark period of history.

Subject Headings: Art students, Journalists, Fascism—Germany, Men/Women relations, Communists, The Twenties (20th Century).

Appeal: Strong sense of place, intricately detailed, dark, compelling, atmospheric, engrossing, historical details, character-driven, cinematic, layered, thought-provoking, sexy, emotional, stirring, vivid.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Compelling, atmospheric, intricately detailed.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman:  For those who are interested in reading more about the Jewish struggle during and after World War II, this Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel does a great job describing the horrific story of the author’s parents fight to survive the Holocaust and how the survivor’s children are affected.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi: Another nonfiction graphic novel that would appeal to those who like Berlin’s focus on character and its thought-provoking analysis of a society during a specific time in a specific place.  Although this is about the daughter of Marxists growing up in Tehran and therefore has a very different plotline, the historical detail and atmospheric nature of the novel will appeal to those who like these same elements in Berlin.

Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920’s by Otto Friedrich:  A nonfiction book that profiles some of the “colorful personalities” who contributed to the social, political, and cultural environment of Berlin in the 1920’s.  A good nonfiction crossover that would appeal to those who read this graphic novel and are interested in the history of Berlin, particularly the years between the world wars.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

V For Vendetta by Alan Moore: Although this graphic novel takes place in the future, it will appeal to those interested in totalitarian regimes and the people who fight against them.  Despite its larger meaning, this will appeal to those who like the focus on characters in Berlin as well its bleak and suspenseful elements.

The Golem’s Mighty Swing by James Sturm: A graphic novel that follows a traveling Jewish team in the early days of baseball, this will appeal to those who like the historical elements of Berlin, the Jewish characters in Berlin, as well as the bittersweet appeal that Berlin carries.

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation by Tim Hamilton:  A classic novel that envisions a dystopic future.  A good crossover for fiction readers or vice versa.  Despite the sci-fi genre that is very different from Berlin, this is a character-centered and profound story that will grip almost any reader.


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