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The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin

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A fascinating historical novel about Hilde, a former orphan, who experiences Berlin on the cusp of World War II and discovers her own voice and sexuality and finds a family when she gets a job at a cabaret, by award-winning author Kip Wilson After her eighteenth birthday, Hilde, a former orphan in 1930s Berlin, goes out into the world to discover her place in it. But findin A fascinating historical novel about Hilde, a former orphan, who experiences Berlin on the cusp of World War II and discovers her own voice and sexuality and finds a family when she gets a job at a cabaret, by award-winning author Kip Wilson After her eighteenth birthday, Hilde, a former orphan in 1930s Berlin, goes out into the world to discover her place in it. But finding a job is hard, at least until she stumbles into Café Lila, a vibrant cabaret full of expressive customers—and Rosa, the club’s waitress and performer. As the café and all who work there embrace Hilde, and she embraces them in turn, she discovers her voice and her own blossoming feelings for Rosa. But Berlin is in turmoil. Between the elections, protests in the streets, and the beginning seeds of unrest in Café Lila itself, Hilde will have to decide what’s best for her future . . . and what it means to love a place on the cusp of war.


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A fascinating historical novel about Hilde, a former orphan, who experiences Berlin on the cusp of World War II and discovers her own voice and sexuality and finds a family when she gets a job at a cabaret, by award-winning author Kip Wilson After her eighteenth birthday, Hilde, a former orphan in 1930s Berlin, goes out into the world to discover her place in it. But findin A fascinating historical novel about Hilde, a former orphan, who experiences Berlin on the cusp of World War II and discovers her own voice and sexuality and finds a family when she gets a job at a cabaret, by award-winning author Kip Wilson After her eighteenth birthday, Hilde, a former orphan in 1930s Berlin, goes out into the world to discover her place in it. But finding a job is hard, at least until she stumbles into Café Lila, a vibrant cabaret full of expressive customers—and Rosa, the club’s waitress and performer. As the café and all who work there embrace Hilde, and she embraces them in turn, she discovers her voice and her own blossoming feelings for Rosa. But Berlin is in turmoil. Between the elections, protests in the streets, and the beginning seeds of unrest in Café Lila itself, Hilde will have to decide what’s best for her future . . . and what it means to love a place on the cusp of war.

30 review for The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Queer centered historical fiction?! Don’t mind if I do! I was able to get my hands on an ARC of this and I cannot sing its praises loudly enough. The book takes place in Berlin in 1932, before Hitler fully comes into power and the queer community is at the end of a period of freedom to meet and be themselves (think Cabaret). It’s written in verse, beautifully captures a sapphic romance, has a cast of queer characters you’ll want to be friends with, and especially in retrospect is a story that is Queer centered historical fiction?! Don’t mind if I do! I was able to get my hands on an ARC of this and I cannot sing its praises loudly enough. The book takes place in Berlin in 1932, before Hitler fully comes into power and the queer community is at the end of a period of freedom to meet and be themselves (think Cabaret). It’s written in verse, beautifully captures a sapphic romance, has a cast of queer characters you’ll want to be friends with, and especially in retrospect is a story that is both beautiful and heartbreaking. While there were some anxiety producing parallels to today’s political climate, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

  2. 5 out of 5

    TL

    Just as good as her first, definitely want a physical copy:) highly recommend She knows how to sweep you along and immerse you into the characters lives/atmosphere. Narration: 4 stars 🌟 Story/characters: 4 stars 🌟

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nostalgia Reader

    Probably more like 3.5 stars, but enjoyable and short enough to round up. I didn't know this was a novel in verse when I checked it out, so it took me by surprise when I started reading; however, I quickly settled into the cadence of it, and even though I focused on just reading it as a novel, rather than a poem, I still was able to appreciate the intentional poetry aspects of it. It would be interesting to reread it, focusing on it as a poem to get an even more powerful reading out it. As I rea Probably more like 3.5 stars, but enjoyable and short enough to round up. I didn't know this was a novel in verse when I checked it out, so it took me by surprise when I started reading; however, I quickly settled into the cadence of it, and even though I focused on just reading it as a novel, rather than a poem, I still was able to appreciate the intentional poetry aspects of it. It would be interesting to reread it, focusing on it as a poem to get an even more powerful reading out it. As I read it, though, it was still very moving and while it was all around very predictable, remained an engaging read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Meredith Ann

    ARC courtesy of the publisher. This book really blew me away. A story, told in verse, about Hilde, a young woman finding her voice, her people, and real love in early 1930s Berlin, with the rise of Hitler hanging over the city and its people. There's so much joy and pride in the queer community where Hilde finds herself that the club and the characters brilliantly come to life in Wilson's writing. I couldn't put it down! ARC courtesy of the publisher. This book really blew me away. A story, told in verse, about Hilde, a young woman finding her voice, her people, and real love in early 1930s Berlin, with the rise of Hitler hanging over the city and its people. There's so much joy and pride in the queer community where Hilde finds herself that the club and the characters brilliantly come to life in Wilson's writing. I couldn't put it down!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    3 stars. Not particularly unique in terms of the writing itself. For being a story told in poems, I expected the poems themselves to be stronger. The story was not like any I've read before, however, and three cheers for an untold queer historical fiction piece. 3 stars. Not particularly unique in terms of the writing itself. For being a story told in poems, I expected the poems themselves to be stronger. The story was not like any I've read before, however, and three cheers for an untold queer historical fiction piece.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Allison S-B

    I was able to get access to an ARC. This was a fantastic story of the time period between WWI and WWII in Berlin centering queer culture. It is written in verse and although there are few words on each page it reads very visually. I was very impressed with the depth of the story and characters that was conveyed in this format. Although it is set around 1932 there are many haunting parallels to modern day politics in the U.S. I wouldn't normally be drawn to a book in verse but this was so beautif I was able to get access to an ARC. This was a fantastic story of the time period between WWI and WWII in Berlin centering queer culture. It is written in verse and although there are few words on each page it reads very visually. I was very impressed with the depth of the story and characters that was conveyed in this format. Although it is set around 1932 there are many haunting parallels to modern day politics in the U.S. I wouldn't normally be drawn to a book in verse but this was so beautifully done and I enjoyed reading it very much!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    I LOVED this. A novel in verse that takes place *right before* Hitler and the Nazis fully take over Germany. If you've seen the movie Cabaret, that will give your mind some visuals throughout (and if you haven't, WHY NOT, it's an amazing flick). This was a coming of age story, an awakening story, a figuring out who the hell you are and who you want to be story. It's full of sweet moments, tragic moments, and intense realizations on a personal level, while at the same time it is the story of the I LOVED this. A novel in verse that takes place *right before* Hitler and the Nazis fully take over Germany. If you've seen the movie Cabaret, that will give your mind some visuals throughout (and if you haven't, WHY NOT, it's an amazing flick). This was a coming of age story, an awakening story, a figuring out who the hell you are and who you want to be story. It's full of sweet moments, tragic moments, and intense realizations on a personal level, while at the same time it is the story of the Nazi creep overtaking the country, of nationalism becoming jingoism, of patriotism turning fascist and everything that entails (anti-gay, anti-joy, etc.). I found it very touching, such an easy read (did I mention it's written in verse?). You want to be there to experience their cafe performances, to watch as Hilde figures out how to care about people and get to know them. I *almost* bought this on my Independent Bookstore crawl day, didn't, got it from the library instead (aka I'm an idiot). This would be a great book for a high school social studies/literature cross over class. (But I probably would not put it in my middle school classroom library. They don't know enough history yet, most of this would just fly over their heads. And believe me, I HAVE TRIED. I have an amazing short story I love to read with them but there's too much WWII / Germany background in it and no matter how much prep you give them, it's not in a sixth grader's wheel house [nor should it be. This is a hard thing as a teacher, you have to teach to where your kids are, and sometimes I definitely think I should be teaching high school because I could go so much further with certain things. Eh.])

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lilibet Bombshell

    I can see from reading other’s reviews that I'm in the majority when I say I did not like this novel. I had an extremely hard time staying interested and invested in it due to the combination of its verse format (the entire novel is done is verse) combined with the length. I love briefer stories in verse form, but I’ve never read a book this long done in verse and it became more and more burdensome to read as the boom continued. I need some sort of narrative flow to enjoy a novel this long and t I can see from reading other’s reviews that I'm in the majority when I say I did not like this novel. I had an extremely hard time staying interested and invested in it due to the combination of its verse format (the entire novel is done is verse) combined with the length. I love briefer stories in verse form, but I’ve never read a book this long done in verse and it became more and more burdensome to read as the boom continued. I need some sort of narrative flow to enjoy a novel this long and there was no flow to be seen. I’m sure that for some it’s a perfectly lovely novel–it just simply wasn’t for me, which is a shame, because I had been looking forward to reading it very much. Thanks to NetGalley and Clarion Books for early access to this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. As per personal policy, this review will not be posted on any bookseller or social media sites due to its review rating of 3 stars or lower.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Sabatini

    I have always been fascinated by Berlin, reading about it often and once, even exploring it in person. Wilson's take on this historic city is unique and suddenly all too familiar as daily, I watch heart-crushing events unfold on the world's stage. This was a raw, but beautiful story that can't help but give me hope that one day, we'll finally learn the lessons we insist on repeating. This is a fast-paced, lyrical read that you won't want to miss. I have always been fascinated by Berlin, reading about it often and once, even exploring it in person. Wilson's take on this historic city is unique and suddenly all too familiar as daily, I watch heart-crushing events unfold on the world's stage. This was a raw, but beautiful story that can't help but give me hope that one day, we'll finally learn the lessons we insist on repeating. This is a fast-paced, lyrical read that you won't want to miss.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    I wrap up my thoughts about this book in this video. This historical fiction told through poetry details the lives of queer performers at a Berlin night club shortly before the Nazi party took power. The titular character is also Jewish, as are many people we meet along the way, and this book didn't shy away from the brutality of hate. I wrap up my thoughts about this book in this video. This historical fiction told through poetry details the lives of queer performers at a Berlin night club shortly before the Nazi party took power. The titular character is also Jewish, as are many people we meet along the way, and this book didn't shy away from the brutality of hate.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shoshanna

    Everyone should read this. YA historical fiction with queer elements. This book takes place in Weimar Berlin in 1932, on the eve of Nazi control, when cabarets are still flourishing, and some democracy remains, though SA are already terrorizing people. TBH, growing up Jewish, I don't really feel like I can read a lot more Holocaust narratives, but this exploration of the life of young queer people, some of whom are Jewish, on the edge of the abyss, is really really interesting. Lots of attention Everyone should read this. YA historical fiction with queer elements. This book takes place in Weimar Berlin in 1932, on the eve of Nazi control, when cabarets are still flourishing, and some democracy remains, though SA are already terrorizing people. TBH, growing up Jewish, I don't really feel like I can read a lot more Holocaust narratives, but this exploration of the life of young queer people, some of whom are Jewish, on the edge of the abyss, is really really interesting. Lots of attention to detail, no punches pulled. I love the actual novels, songs, musicians referenced, and the afterword has a lot of sources the author used. I'm 100% going to check some of them out. Above all, it is a story of precarious love, between two women, and to a city that no longer exists.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    It’s a quick read, full of figurative language but little emotional pull and cryptic. About two gay young women in early 30s Berlin, one is Jewish. The Afterword, where the author fills in information is most interesting.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vianne

    in the words of diana morales, "i felt nothing" while reading this book (respectfully) in the words of diana morales, "i felt nothing" while reading this book (respectfully)

  14. 5 out of 5

    S

    ***Review based on ARC.*** Pros: Well-constructed verse writing elevates the story. It's fun and fast to read. Read like fantasy or YA romance, not historical fiction (my original framework when I started it). The author is skillful at emotionally evocative verse. Independently, some of the "chapters" are 4 star verse compositions. Also, made me more aware of the historical reality of gay culture prevalence during the Weimar Republic. I wish there had been more exploration of this (see the histori ***Review based on ARC.*** Pros: Well-constructed verse writing elevates the story. It's fun and fast to read. Read like fantasy or YA romance, not historical fiction (my original framework when I started it). The author is skillful at emotionally evocative verse. Independently, some of the "chapters" are 4 star verse compositions. Also, made me more aware of the historical reality of gay culture prevalence during the Weimar Republic. I wish there had been more exploration of this (see the historical fiction expectation, above). ***Many spoilers in the cons.*** Cons: The plot was obvious from a mile a way - nothing remotely surprised me. Lena's betrayal - saw when she was described as blonde and bitter. Character depth is limited, and provided in the "tell" format when offered. Hilde's good fortune as a lesbian female orphan is head-scratchingly unbelievable even in a fantasy framework -- finding a job almost immediately at a gay night club, a coworker who immediately provides her housing (she has a crush on her and they get together), getting the attention of a record producer the first night she sings and actually completes a song, and her prescient decision to leave Berlin for Paris with her Jewish girlfriend so we get a tidy and sweet ending with only a hit of potential pain (in Tante Esther staying behind).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    The year is 1932 in Berlin and now that Hilde is eighteen, she must leave her orphanage and set out on her own. She quickly discovers, however, that finding a job is near impossible in these economically depressed times. But fate intervenes one night when she meets Rosa, who brings Hilde to Café Lila where she meets a cast of characters that soon become her chosen family. As Berlin falls further and further into the authoritarian grip of the Nazis who are scapegoating Jews and the queer communit The year is 1932 in Berlin and now that Hilde is eighteen, she must leave her orphanage and set out on her own. She quickly discovers, however, that finding a job is near impossible in these economically depressed times. But fate intervenes one night when she meets Rosa, who brings Hilde to Café Lila where she meets a cast of characters that soon become her chosen family. As Berlin falls further and further into the authoritarian grip of the Nazis who are scapegoating Jews and the queer community, Hilde along with the employees and patrons of Café Lila continue to remain quietly hopeful and defiant... until trouble comes loudly knocking on their door. Just as the title suggests, this YA historical fiction in verse by Kip Wilson is dazzling. Berlin is my favorite city on earth, mostly because there has always been a provocative, defiant, avant-garde, and counter-cultural energy about it. That was true in 2004 when I visited for the first time, and it was certainly true when this novel takes place. But just as this book is a window into 1930s Germany, it's also an alarming mirror to societies, including American society, that allow idealogues and populists to rise to power. Read my entire review on my blog.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    It still amazes me how an author, under such tight constraints, can paint the picture so accurately. With a limited use of language and the power of space, Kip Wilson carried me back to the 1930’s where being yourself, whoever you were, was still acceptable, even in the city of Berlin. Although, not a city void of criticism, for there would always be wolves ready to attack, this brief time period gave individuals the opportunity to find their crowd and be embraced. Written in verse, it was an in It still amazes me how an author, under such tight constraints, can paint the picture so accurately. With a limited use of language and the power of space, Kip Wilson carried me back to the 1930’s where being yourself, whoever you were, was still acceptable, even in the city of Berlin. Although, not a city void of criticism, for there would always be wolves ready to attack, this brief time period gave individuals the opportunity to find their crowd and be embraced. Written in verse, it was an incredible journey where the sights and sounds of Berlin, were at my fingertips. Through the use of language and space, Hilde’s story was composed on 397-pages, words arranged so strategically that it reads like a work of fiction. Hilde’s gates were finally open as she leaves her controlled world and enters a world where she can find her own niche. She must find employment to begin her new life but with the economy in shambles, Hilde’s options are limited. When Hilde finds Rosa, I think she was able to fully breathe and embrace who she was. This was an emotional read for me as Hilde finally gets to see the world behind her own eyes. 5 stars

  17. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Grise

    6 A love story in 1932, Berlin. Hilde is 18 and on her own. Grieving the loss of her girlfriend and adjusting to life outside of the orphanage, she seeks to find her people. She finds Cafe Lila, a queer club, and Rosa, its captivating performer. As the title implies, Hilde is dazzled - by the girl, by the kindness of these people, by finding other people like her in such an accepting place. But the political climate is changing with Hitler's rise in influence. The Cafe Lila family has to find the 6 A love story in 1932, Berlin. Hilde is 18 and on her own. Grieving the loss of her girlfriend and adjusting to life outside of the orphanage, she seeks to find her people. She finds Cafe Lila, a queer club, and Rosa, its captivating performer. As the title implies, Hilde is dazzled - by the girl, by the kindness of these people, by finding other people like her in such an accepting place. But the political climate is changing with Hitler's rise in influence. The Cafe Lila family has to find the balance between living their life and safety. Wilson illustrates the vibrancy of the queer culture in Berlin before the Nazis took control. Written in verse, this book takes us back to the "before," providing human stories to the statistics we've read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Moe

    My first Young Adult novel (apart from the graphic novel variety) in some time, Kip Wilson's, "The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin" reminds one that home is not four walls and a roof; it is the people that you love without question, and that return that love in full. Given my recent historical fiction wheelhouse of "1920's and 1930's glitz and glamour", I was immediately sold on giving Wilson's second novel a try. I did not know it was written in prose until it arrived at the library, but I honestl My first Young Adult novel (apart from the graphic novel variety) in some time, Kip Wilson's, "The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin" reminds one that home is not four walls and a roof; it is the people that you love without question, and that return that love in full. Given my recent historical fiction wheelhouse of "1920's and 1930's glitz and glamour", I was immediately sold on giving Wilson's second novel a try. I did not know it was written in prose until it arrived at the library, but I honestly cannot imagine the book in any other format (except for a graphic novel adaption, of course). The landscapes and interiors of the Café Lila and Rosa's home felt almost familiar, even though I have never been to Berlin, due in part to Wilson's ability to paint a scenario with just the right words so that the tone transcends borders and time. The same goes for the inner and outer dialogue, whether in English or in German. For fans of glossaries there is one at the back of the book for the German words that sprinkle the pages and tongues of the cast, and for fans of further reading there is a bibliography worth diving into as well. The final moments readers spend with this novel will be bittersweet, given what travesties lie ahead for Europeans, and what we do not know when it comes to our heroine duo's future. Since the novel is a piece of historical fiction, one would love to see the atrocities to come never take shape, and that all the pain and ugliness of bigotry was silenced by a song. A song about a girl. A song about the most dazzling girl in Berlin.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    probably the fastest i’ve ever read a book; i started it around 3 and finished at 5:25 (one sitting). the writing style was great and i just couldn’t put it down. i enjoyed this book more than Kip’s debut novel White Rose and i felt like the verse style really worked for the story. also rosa is the queer jewish representation we all needed

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eva B.

    This sounds like a sapphic version of Cabaret and I am so here for it

  21. 4 out of 5

    Delara

    Oh hello, shall I place my five reasons I love this book review for THE MOST DAZZLING GIRL IN BERLIN by @kipwilsonwrites here on Goodreads? Ok/ Thank you to the author and @versifybooks for the ARC! Let’s jump right in: - I read this YA historical fiction in verse in one day. Didn’t mean to, I swear! I opened it to read the first page and when I looked up I was on page 300. Absolutely captivated me. - Weimar Republic, Berlin. 1932. A time of glitz and glamour and prosperity right before the Nazi P Oh hello, shall I place my five reasons I love this book review for THE MOST DAZZLING GIRL IN BERLIN by @kipwilsonwrites here on Goodreads? Ok/ Thank you to the author and @versifybooks for the ARC! Let’s jump right in: - I read this YA historical fiction in verse in one day. Didn’t mean to, I swear! I opened it to read the first page and when I looked up I was on page 300. Absolutely captivated me. - Weimar Republic, Berlin. 1932. A time of glitz and glamour and prosperity right before the Nazi Party took control (CW here for all that entails, including antisemitism and homophobia). What Wilson does so well is her superb use of language; we know everything is about to go horribly wrong but still Hilde has hope and a yearning for love. - Found family! Found in a queer nightclub! And it’s sapphic! Yep. Hilde is queer and so is this book. - Music plays a huge part. Hilde is a singer, but is still figuring out who she is and afraid of the stage, of failure—surely a metaphor for coming of age and finding one’s voice when all around you want to stifle it. - So yeah, I love that the book doesn’t downplay the shift from prosperity to nationalism. Hilde isn’t Jewish, but the people she’s staying with are. As someone who is Jewish but wasn’t raised in the religion, I loved seeing it on the page. Sapphic historical fiction in verse? I mean, give me more books featuring queer people being queer throughout history and I’ll read it! In fact, if you liked Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, I think you’ll love this too.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gail Gilmore

    I loved this book. The language is beautiful, and the book well-researched; there's an excellent list of resources at the end for those who'd like to learn more about this specific time period in Berlin's history (especially as it pertains to the LGBTQ community), as well as a helpful glossary. Because it's a novel-in-verse, the pace is fast and the story immersive; there's a lot of space for the reader, and as a result I felt like I was right there with Hilde, Rosa, and the rest of the crowd at I loved this book. The language is beautiful, and the book well-researched; there's an excellent list of resources at the end for those who'd like to learn more about this specific time period in Berlin's history (especially as it pertains to the LGBTQ community), as well as a helpful glossary. Because it's a novel-in-verse, the pace is fast and the story immersive; there's a lot of space for the reader, and as a result I felt like I was right there with Hilde, Rosa, and the rest of the crowd at Cafe Lila as the Weimar Republic was coming to a devastating, violent end with the beginning of the Nazis' rise to power and the safety of the LGBTQ community newly at risk - especially for those who, like Rosa, were both lesbian and Jewish. My heart broke as I read the final poem or two, because unlike Rosa and Hilde I knew what was coming for Europe. But even so, the ending is one of hope and love, and I found myself rooting so hard for Hilde and Rosa to find both in their new life together, if even for a shorter time than they wanted and deserved. Highly recommend!

  23. 5 out of 5

    tiff

    LOVED !!!! This was my first wlw book and it was so cute and also very illuminating on what it might've been like for commoners just trying to get around during the holocaust era (?? i am so sorry idk how to phrase it) LOVED !!!! This was my first wlw book and it was so cute and also very illuminating on what it might've been like for commoners just trying to get around during the holocaust era (?? i am so sorry idk how to phrase it)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I really do love history that centers LGBTQ+ people - however The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin fell flat for me. The actual historical events were glossed over as though far too familiar to the reader. They seemed to happen to characters who knew these events would happen, and not in the natural shock and unprecedented nature that was 1930s Berlin. I also found the main character not very compelling and her relationships seemed very one-dimensional. The villains were clear from a mile away - in I really do love history that centers LGBTQ+ people - however The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin fell flat for me. The actual historical events were glossed over as though far too familiar to the reader. They seemed to happen to characters who knew these events would happen, and not in the natural shock and unprecedented nature that was 1930s Berlin. I also found the main character not very compelling and her relationships seemed very one-dimensional. The villains were clear from a mile away - in the tone and descriptors you could guess the plot. Also, the miraculous good luck of this main character, it was just a lol moment when everything just works out for her. Overall, a quick read that left much to be desired. It read more like middle-grade than YA, and seemed to just gloss over reacting to actual history.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    On her eighteenth birthday, Hilde is sent out of an orphanage and into a cold Berlin winter on her own and hardly anything to her name. Fortunately, she stumbles into a job at Cafe Lila, a gay cabaret-- and her new coworker Rosa is as kind as she is alluring. The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin is an enthralling historical novel-in-verse that explores the highs and lows of LGBT living in 1932 Berlin, just before the cusp of the Nazi invasion.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alex Baugh

    April is National Poetry Month so what better time to read this novel-in-verse by Kip Wilson, author of the excellent White Rose. Like me, Kip has a PhD in German Literature and also seems to have an interest in the Weimar years and its aftermath. After all, how could you write two novels that are this good without some serious interest in this time period? The story begins in February 1932. Eighteen-year-old Hilde has just aged out of the Catholic orphanage she has lived in since her mother's pa April is National Poetry Month so what better time to read this novel-in-verse by Kip Wilson, author of the excellent White Rose. Like me, Kip has a PhD in German Literature and also seems to have an interest in the Weimar years and its aftermath. After all, how could you write two novels that are this good without some serious interest in this time period? The story begins in February 1932. Eighteen-year-old Hilde has just aged out of the Catholic orphanage she has lived in since her mother's passing eight years ago, leaving with the clothes on her back, a few possessions, and some Reichsmarks in her pocket. After sleeping a few nights in a park, unable to find a job, Hilde discovers and wanders into a Berlin cabaret called the Café Lila after getting drenched in a rainstorm. Feeling out of place, but before she can leave, Hilde is stopped by Rosa, a beautiful performer and waitress at the café. Before she knows it, Hilde is waiting tables, serving round after round of drinks to the patrons and, at the end of the night, hired on the spot. Realizing that Hilde has no place to go, Rosa takes her to the home she shares with her Tante Esther. It doesn't take long for Hilde to realize that Rosa and her aunt are Jewish, that the Café Lila is a queer cabaret, and that she is attracted to Rosa. But, while Hilde quickly finds herself feeling at home in the café, making friends with the other women and working hard waitressing tables, she learns that she is also expected to perform. Although Hilde has a beautiful singing voice and would like to pursue a career in music, she is hesitant to perform at Café Lila. As Hilde begins to come into her own as a queer woman, and her relationship with Rosa begins to become more mutual, outside in Berlin, things are heating as the political climate changes and Hitler's popularity grows, especially after the runoff election in April 1932. Soon, Brownshirts are everywhere, spreading hate and violence. But when Brownshirt violence comes into Café Lila, will Hilde lose everything she loves and for which she has worked so hard? I really enjoyed reading The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin. I've read a lot of books that were written and set in those turbulent last days of the Weimar Republic and this book felt like it could have been written by anyone of those authors. The research is so impeccable that Hilde's Berlin became another important character for me, not just a good setting for a novel. Little details like the park Hilde slept in, or walking alone the Kurfürstendamm, the newspapers of the time, and so much more give the story a real sense of authenticity. I even pulled out my 1928 street map of Berlin to follow Hilde's footsteps whenever possible. The Weimar period is really an interesting study in contrasts. On the one hand, there were those who wanted the conservatism of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, on the other, there was the sense of openness and freedom to be who one really is, and as Hilde tries navigate this new-to-her Berlin, I think that Wilson has absolutely captured that dichotomy, presenting the two differences very realistically. The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin is a poignant novel, taking place between February and August 1932, and written in spare free verse. Each poem adds to an at times broad, at other times personal picture of the dying of Weimar Republic and people's reactions that Wilson has so brilliantly created. Today's readers will most definitely have no trouble relating to Hilde's coming-of-age story, whether or not they are part of the LGTBQ+ community, and given the times we are living in now. Confession: the biggest surprise for me is just who the most dazzling girl in Berlin turned out to be. I wasn't expecting that. Be sure to read the back matter, which includes the author's inspiration for this novel, an explanation of what is factual and what is fiction, and a glossary of German words and phrases. You might also be interested in checking out the author's blog for a more personal look at her research and a playlist on Spotify. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mere

    I was really excited for this book, but unfortunately, I had a lot of problems with it. First, as a queer jew who has studied Hitler's rise to power and nazi Germany extensively (and has read too many holocaust/WWII books to count), I have a unique perspective on this book. This book features a queer community in Berlin as it contends with the rise of the Nazis, and many of the principle characters are Jewish. I was really excited to read about queer people in this era, but other factors ultimate I was really excited for this book, but unfortunately, I had a lot of problems with it. First, as a queer jew who has studied Hitler's rise to power and nazi Germany extensively (and has read too many holocaust/WWII books to count), I have a unique perspective on this book. This book features a queer community in Berlin as it contends with the rise of the Nazis, and many of the principle characters are Jewish. I was really excited to read about queer people in this era, but other factors ultimately made this experience unfulfilling. There were a lot of questionable choices made by the author. In particular, there was a character that was literally seen at a nazi rally where they were explicitly using anti-Semitic imagery. However, the main character--despite living with and falling in love with a Jewish woman--decides that this nazi girl should be given the benefit of the doubt. Other characters believe that maybe she didn't really know what she was supporting--despite being at the rally with the anti-Semetic imagery! She knew what she was doing, but she was forgiven time and time again by the main character and her friends. What's more, this forgiveness and acceptance is portrayed as a good thing! And it happened at a gay bar! What was the author thinking? And the Jewish character doesn't really react to the acceptance of this girl. The queer people don't really care. She is a threat to their existence, she clearly knows what she is supporting, but they're like...eh she probably doesn't really get it and she's fine, I guess. I hated that so much. Also, I was just really annoyed at the ways the characters reacted to the Nazis gaining power. The main character seems like she's always realizing that the Nazis are bad people and they're saying/doing bad things. But there is never any fear. Never any uncertainty. It's just really strange to read because the Nazis are threatening her life, her community, and the community of people she loves and her only reaction is "aren't these people doing horrible things?" Other than that, there wasn't much I liked about the book. Rosa doesn't have a personality. Her only character trait is that she's pretty and she likes Hilda. The romance is kind of unbelievable, especially the story of them beginning to live together. Hilda's inability to sing even when she desperately needed to was very annoying. However, there is a reason that I didn't give this book only one star. There were three things that I adored about this book. 1) Rosa exposes Hilda to some Jewish practices, and the way they are described is beautiful. 2) Rosa's aunt is completely accepting of her sexuality and relationship with Hilda, and there is no coming out; it's just pre-established. 3) The audiobook has someone actually sing the music portion of the book, and it's a really beautiful experience. Overall, here are my final thoughts: I did not like this book. I don't like the way it treated the subject of Hitler's rise to power. I didn't like the characters, and the plot was strange/slow. The romance was not compelling, and parts were not believable. However, if you still want to pick up this book, it is imperative that you listen to the audiobook because the singing is a great touch.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paige Johnson

    *Free NetGalley Advanced Reader Copy* I didn’t expect this to be prose-formatted though read like a regular story. The poetic design is impressive how it perfectly encapsulates movement and emotion, but the writing is definitely suited for high schoolers who aren’t after the flowery-ness nor gravity of Anne Frank’s diary. Set in preWWII Germany, I don’t think the semi-simple vernacular is exactly realistic but not glaring. It’s got the slow pace of an old Hollywood picture. The lesbian romance i *Free NetGalley Advanced Reader Copy* I didn’t expect this to be prose-formatted though read like a regular story. The poetic design is impressive how it perfectly encapsulates movement and emotion, but the writing is definitely suited for high schoolers who aren’t after the flowery-ness nor gravity of Anne Frank’s diary. Set in preWWII Germany, I don’t think the semi-simple vernacular is exactly realistic but not glaring. It’s got the slow pace of an old Hollywood picture. The lesbian romance is ever-present though not overblown, though sometimes the MC seems too nonchalant about coming onto/interpreting others as though it’s 2030, not 1930. My fav bit: “Identical dresses discarded, identical nightgowns donned, a chorus of whispers, a symphony of bedsprings, lights out, door closed.” I wish the book started in the orphanage where all the steamy stuff happened and skipped to her as like a showgirl because all the lead up is tedious. MC a little too self-pitying and we don’t know much about when/how she became an orphan. I’m unsure of her age actually. Upon rereading the description, I see it says 18 but that seems at odds with her childlike attitude, circumstances that should’ve toughened her, and how extra immature/coddled she would be for the era. There’s just not enough believable or explaining emotions when big betrayals happen. She immediately hugs the person who makes her homeless, there are no visceral thoughts about her kidnapper or why he even is doing such a thing. Even though the MC is always crying, most of the book is physical actions. She doesn’t feel terribly real. Also, for a place as architecturally and fashionably beautiful as Berlin, we get no description even in these should-be super-interesting cabarets. We are just told there are cigarettes and a piano. The book is at least good in showing how politics are a background thing until they gradually push their way into everyone’s lives. I just always think there are too many similar-looking and -acting girls with plain names to confuse. The MC weirdly has it easy. Goes from orphan to making money just singing and staying in her crushes’ houses straightaway seemingly for free, getting singing deals upon deals when it’s like how did she even train her voice or have place to sing when orphan and why was she never pushed into regular child labor back then if things were so tough? Like you don’t need those things but it’d be a nice contrast and to know when she discovered her own talent. I also just don’t see very young, rather frivolous women spending so much time rudely shouting about politics in public in this era BEFORE anything with Hitler has even happened. When do they have time or inclination for that, no one side-eyes them? We could have been given actual examples of why this is so pressing at the time, especially in a book for unknowing youths, but we’re not. This is a very hindsight/looking back in 2020 book that doesn’t paint a picture for the era.

  29. 4 out of 5

    kim baccellia

    What worked: Heartwrenching, powerful historical of a queer girl trying to find her place in 1932 Berlin. I'm a huge fan of verse novels and Wilson's novel has readers rooting for Hilde, an orphan, who after she turns eighteen leaves the orphanage, searching for a place to belong. Set in 1932 Berlin, this novel includes the political upheaval, along with how freedoms some took for granted, were slowly being taken away. Hilde struggles with confidence in herself and while looking for work, she stu What worked: Heartwrenching, powerful historical of a queer girl trying to find her place in 1932 Berlin. I'm a huge fan of verse novels and Wilson's novel has readers rooting for Hilde, an orphan, who after she turns eighteen leaves the orphanage, searching for a place to belong. Set in 1932 Berlin, this novel includes the political upheaval, along with how freedoms some took for granted, were slowly being taken away. Hilde struggles with confidence in herself and while looking for work, she stumbles into Cafe Lila, a cabaret. Once there she meets Rose and falls for the dazzling girl. I really loved how Wilson shows Hilde trying hard to fit in and also her compassion for others like Lena, who she has to compete against to keep her job. The love story slowly builds as Hilde longs to be more than just friends with Rose and worries about how safe it is to act on her feelings. Hilde's fears of the change sweeping her country. Hilde is courageous, loyal, and empathic to others. Fast-paced, tension-filled scenes that had me on the edge of my seat. What Berlin went through in 1932 and what our country went through in 2016 are eerily similar. Hilde longed for a community where she could fit in and feel wanted. Cafe Lila offered that. Those scenes were powerful and also bittersweet, knowing what would happen in 1933. Beautifully written verse novel of a young queer girl who searches for her place in Berlin while change comes. I totally loved this story and rooted for Hilde and Rose. A must-read for all those who love historicals with queer protagonists. Originally posted at https://www.yabookscentral.com/the-mo...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I would give this book 5 stars for the important story it tells. It's easy to draw similarities between 1930's Berlin and today's world: people experiencing freedoms like never before, but extremists groups targeting those on the margins as the cause for all their problems, rampant inflation, political divisions, etc. It's a cautionary tale of what can happen when the bullies get power to enforce what they think is right (which in this case it starts with cracking skulls at gay clubs and ends wi I would give this book 5 stars for the important story it tells. It's easy to draw similarities between 1930's Berlin and today's world: people experiencing freedoms like never before, but extremists groups targeting those on the margins as the cause for all their problems, rampant inflation, political divisions, etc. It's a cautionary tale of what can happen when the bullies get power to enforce what they think is right (which in this case it starts with cracking skulls at gay clubs and ends with concentration camps and the murder of 11+ million people they didn't like). I listened to the audiobook version of this story, and perhaps that was a mistake. At first, I didn't realize that this was a novel-in-verse and instead I just thought that the narrator went to the "William Shatner School of Acting" and the author was a fan of incomplete sentences. Then I thought maybe it was a translation from German and that's why there was no rhyming and little rhythm... but no... Especially after recently reading "The Poet X," this book really pales, the "novel-in-verse" thing feels gimmicky and puts s t u t t e r s into what otherwise was a moving story. About halfway through, I upped the speed on the narration 1.15 times the normal rate because I couldn't stand all the p a u s e s.

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