“[A] novel of fractured childhood in East Germany . . . a powerful elegy” from the author of the international bestseller, The Blindness of the Heart (Booklist, starred review).
Echoing themes of Julia Franck’s German Book Prize–winning novel, The Blindness of the Heart, Back to Back begins in 1954 and centers around a single family living in Berlin in the socialist East. A cruel and unaffectionate mother, Käthe, is a sculptor of Jewish heritage, devoted entirely to becoming a success in the socialist state. Thomas and Ella’s father emigrated to West Germany after World War II, and they deeply long to see him again. But Käthe’s hard-nosed brutality—a reflection of the materialistic, unsentimental state in which she lives—means Thomas and Ella are unable to live the lives they want to. As the siblings grow up, “the enchanted bubble of childhood fades, replaced by a sense of pitiless confinement—an ideological claustrophobia made concrete as the wall is constructed around them, touching off the book’s devastating climax” (Vogue).
“Like an expert geologist, Franck is digging deep into her family’s extraordinary history creating things of great beauty from its dark recesses. Diamond-hard and full of glittering prose, Back to Back is a powerful and moving book. I suspect there are more gems to come.” —Daily Telegraph
“Intoxicating . . . a curious fusion of stark realism tempered with quirkily stylistic flights of fancy: the trademark of one of Germany’s finest contemporary novelists.” —Literary Review
“Mournful and intense . . . captures a slice of life during a particularly harsh and brutal time and place, through the lens of a quickly disintegrating childhood innocence.” —Bust Magazine