Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Financial Times reviews 'The Valley of Unknowing'

This Saturday's Financial Times contains a very nice review of The Valley of Unknowing by David Evans. I'm pretty sure the FT has never reviewed a book of mine before, but it's certainly been worth the wait. It concludes:
"The Valley of Unknowing is simply superb: affecting but never melodramatic, literary but never less than thrilling. Though Krug is self-pitying, he wins our sympathy at the tragic denouement, when we learn how he has also suffered under communism. His story, like the manuscript he grudgingly admires, is “truthfully, tenderly drawn”."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mariella and the Stasi

In between yet another plumbing crisis, a mercy dash to St George’s hospital, and the sudden closure of our one-year-old’s day nursery, I managed to slip away to Broadcasting House to record an interview with Mariella Frostrup, the host of Open Book on Radio 4. Also taking part in a discussion about The Valley of Unknowing and the literary impact of the Stasi files, was Anna Funder, author of the prize-winning non-fiction bestseller Stasiland – although hers was a disembodied voice emanating from a studio in New York. Spookily enough, Australian Anna’s most recent book, a novel, is set in Berlin in 1932, just like The Einstein Girl, and is based on the life of an actually existing woman. It came as something of a relief to discover that the woman in question - and indeed the rest of her story - had nothing to do with the great physicist.
As expected, I thought of many brilliant and memorable things to say in response to the Mariella’s questions - but only after the whole thing was over and I was tramping back down a rainy Regent Street towards the Tube station. Oh well...
The interview, suitably edited, will be broadcast on Radio 4 this Sunday 22nd April at 4pm; and again the following Thursday 26th at 3.30pm. Details of the whole edition can be found here:

A Podcast of the programme will be available for download soon after the first broadcast, here:

Late that evening, after further urgent plumbing consultations and an untimely instance of projectile vomiting from our youngest, I closed a deal for the North American rights to The Valley of Unknowing. The venerable firm of W.W. Norton will publish the book in November, which is quite soon in the normal run of these things. Norton is reputedly a classy operation, and the editor is something of a New York legend. I would have celebrated on the spot, but it was almost midnight by this time, and I was in danger of collapsing at my desk. I finally collapsed on the floor beside my son's bed ten minutes later.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Times reviews 'The Valley of Unknowing'

The official press date for The Valley of Unknowing isn't until the 19th April; so I was quite surprised to find a review in last Saturday's edition of The Times. The reviewer is the distinguished journalist Peter Millar, who, as well as being a successful novelist and historian, reported from all over Eastern Europe for Reuters and for a range of British broadsheets throughout the 1980s. (In East Germany he earned the distinction of being arrested by the secret police and deported). Had I known in advance that such an authority was to pronounce on The Valley, I might not have slept too well. Fortunately, I didn't.

In any case, the review is a generous one by any standards, calling the book 'remarkable', and praising its authenticity (for which my wife Uta, her family and friends can take much of the credit). It concludes like this:
"Having lived in East Germany, I am astonished by Sington's pitch perfect recreation of that society, from the daily shortages to the veil of suspicion that shrouded all dealings with anyone other than close friends, and the hypocrisy of the fraudulent socio-political game almost everyone was forced to play... Build[ing] towards a relentless climax, this is a brilliant, evocative and accurate novel which turns a love story and a chronicle of human weakness and self-deception into a gripping, hard-nosed authentic thriller."