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The Empire of the Senses    by Alexis Landau order for
Empire of the Senses
by Alexis Landau
Order:  USA  Can
Pantheon, 2015 (2015)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

This story is about Berlin from 1918 to the 1930s. It's a time when the upper class leads a gay, frivolous life, while swirling around them are social forces that will upset everyone. We focus on an interfaith marriage between Josephine, a Christian, and Lev, a Jew. Their children, Vicki and Franz, grow up in this time, and respond to society's changes in very different ways.

At the same time, the story traces Lev's life, from before World War I to after World War II. There is a wonderful opening part that tells why he joined the first World War and what happened to him during that time. It was a life-changing experience for him. The Epilogue of the novel finds him in Argentina, where he has fled when he could no longer stay in Berlin. These two pieces are really, to this reader, the most interesting part of the book.

In the much longer Part Two, we lose track of Lev because the focus is on all the other characters and events. Although this part is meticulously researched, and we get a very good view of life in Berlin at that time, with its social customs, the conflicting political views and the increasing discomfort of the Jewish population, it drags a bit. There seems to be too much detail about Josephine, Franz and Vicki. This section could have been shortened if the author had chosen to present it from Lev's point of view. Readers, what do you think?

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