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On the eve of the WW II, an American actress comes to Germany to search for her Jewish mother; lacklustre melodrama from the usually lively Cleary (Spearfield's Daughter, A Very Private War, The Sundowners, etc.). Cathleen O'Dea is a beautiful young actress with a Hollywood contract who, to everyone's surprise, leaves California for Berlin to star in an awful period-piece (Lola and Ludwig) being made virtually under the auspices of Joseph Goebbels' Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Her real reason for being there is to find her mother Miriam, a German-born Jew who had been visiting relatives earlier and had simply disappeared. With admirable stoutheartedness, Cathleen grimly begins a flirtation with Goebbels in the hope that he can provide information; she also enlists the aid of her lover, Scan Carmody, an Australian working for World Press, an American wire service. Through Sean's connections they learn that Miriam is in Ravensbrueck and they manage to have her spirited out with the help of the Jewish Underground just as Germany invades Poland. But Goebbels (described as a ""notorious stud ram"") is angered because of Cathleen's refusal to sleep with him, and his realization that she's half-Jewish. He immediately moves to deport her, and she sneaks her mother out in disguise. Scan stays on to cover the war, but the two will be reunited later in London. Nothing especially fresh or interesting here, or in the secondary plot, which concerns an aristocratic General's plan to assassinate Hitler. The book is all nostalgic ""atmosphere""--tragic Berlin evenings, Neville Chamberlain jokes, real-life Nazis (""Wasn't that Hitler? Look, there's Himmler!""). And Cleary's prose--never his strong point--creaks and strains for effect, sometimes with startling results: ""The smoked salmon stuck in her chest as if, remembering something it had done when alive, it had decided to jump upstream.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1985
ISBN: 1860422918
Publisher: Morrow