The Berlin Crossing, by Kevin Brophy
Kevin Brophy’s novel The Berlin Crossing, is an exciting debut set after the fall of the German Democratic Republic. Set soon after the demise of the GDR and the end of the partition of East and West Germany, The Berlin Crossing examines the social and political effects of these changes. Brophy’s hero is card-carrying, party member Michael Ritter, a socialist from East Berlin who soon finds himself adrift due to the social and political changes of his homeland. Sacked from his job as a teacher, Michael embarks on a journey to find out about his father following the death of his mother Petra. Echoing spy thriller The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Brophy’s novel is a expertly constructed historical thriller continuing the interest in Berlin’s political history, apparent in the novels of John La Carre and Christopher Isherwood and films such as Goodbye Lenin.
Brophy’s novel is both the story of one man’s journey of discovery and that of a nation coming to terms with its past, present and future. Michael Ritter sets out to find out about the father he never knew which leads him to the small town of Bad Sarrow, where his mother Petra grew up. In Bad Sarrow Michael learns the truth about his father from a local priest, Pastor Bruck, who has hidden the secrets of his mother and her secret lover Roland for all this time. Pastor Bruck gives Michael a journal, written by Roland, which unlocks the secrets of his father’s and his country’s hidden past.
The second part of the novel is set in the GDR and is Roland’s story. Roland, is in London on holiday from his home in Ireland, with his brother Terry, when they are both arrested, after a man is knocked unconscious in Kensington High Street. Roland is fiercely protective of his brother Terry, and covers for him. Seizing an opportunity, Roland is promised Terry’s release, unharmed if he will undertake a mission for the government, the collection and safe delivery of a parcel from East to West Germany. Roland impulsively agrees and is sent on a dangerous journey to cross the wall and to collect the mystery package . When he arrives at his destination Roland is intercepted by Stasi officials and must go on the run to save his life. He is rescued by Pastor Bruck and taken to Bad Sarrow where he begins a passionate love affair with Michael’s mother. However the Stasi are close on his heels and Roland knows, to save Petra, he must give himself up.
Brophy’s novel is a pacy thriller, an intriguing story and a heart wrenching romance. Michael not only discovers the truth about who his father was, but has to reconcile that the party he believed in caused his father’s death. He must come to terms with the history of his homeland and try to move on to a new life in unified Berlin. As his present echoes the past, Michael journeys to Ireland to find his ancestors, and meets a girl whom he falls for. The ending of the novel is hopeful, for Michael’s journey has encouraged him to move on and make a new life for himself out of the rubble of his past.