My novel THE BEAST'S GARDEN is a retelling of the Grimm brothers' version of 'Beauty & the Beast' set in Nazi Germany.
The story takes place between Kristallnacht in November 1938, and the fall of Berlin in April 1948, with most of the action centred on Berlin, the nerve centre of the Third Reich.
I read a great many books to help me imagine what life must have been like in Berlin during those tumultuous years. Here is a list of those that helped me most:
BERLIN AT WAR - Roger Moorhouse
This book rarely left my desk for the months and months it took me to research and write THE BEAST'S GARDEN. Lucidly written and a mine of information, it is probably the best book on what it was like for ordinary Germans to live at the epicentre of Hitler's war. I can recommend this to anyone!
THE FALL OF BERLIN 1945 - Antony Beevor
The story of the Fall of Berlin is one of terror and betrayal, destruction and bloodshed, rape and revenge, and is not one for the faint-hearted. Antony Beevor has examined every aspect of the events leading up to the cataclysmic destruction of Berlin in April 1945. The book is incredibly well-researched, and beautifully written, but is best for those who have already extensively studied the history of Germany in the Second World War, or those with a particular acute interest in warfare and battles - every manoeuvre, every push and retreat, is given space on this book's pages. Perfect for me, since I needed a day-by-day breakdown of the city's fall!
INSIDE HITLER'S GERMANY: Life Under the Third Reich - Matthew Hughes and Chris Mann
A broad and accessible look at life in the Third Reich, with lots of pictures and breakout boxes. Useful and informative, with a good bibliography.
VICTORY IN EUROPE - Gerald Simons (with the editors of Time-Life Books)
A simple and well-illustrated look at the final months of the Second World War in Europe, with lots of maps and photographs and newspaper headlines. It is one of a whole series of Time-Life illustrated books on World War II which I bought at a second-hand booksale in an old church in the Hunter Valley (with thanks to my brother Nick who lent me the money to buy them, then carried the heavy box out to the car.)
I also read a number of memoirs of life in Berlin during the war. The most useful to me were LETTERS FROM BERLIN by Margarete Dos and Kerstin Lieff, and BERLIN DIARIES 1940-1945, by Marie Vassiltchikov. You can read more about them here.
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