Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries

St. Martin's. Oct. 2014. 432p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781250051868. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250052407. HIST
MacLean tells the story of Berlin through a collection of essays about its people, past and present. He captures the city's fortunes and spirit by including the stories of artists, activists, authors, scientists, soldiers, and political leaders. The author's love for Berlin and its multifaceted history is demonstrated by his expressive and entertaining storytelling. In the afterward, MacLean explains his approach to his book thusly, "Berlin is a city of the imagination" and uses creative nonfiction throughout to expand upon both truths and misconceptions that have haunted the city throughout the years. The bibliography allows readers to "unpick the parts which have been combined to create the whole" but does not clearly distinguish which sections are fact and which are more akin to historical fiction.
VERDICT The mix of historical fiction, nonfiction, and personal narrative will frustrate the serious historian seeking scholarly material on this enigmatic German metropolis, but it will engage readers who welcome MacLean's use of different writing forms to propel the account.

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