Read night falls on the city the lost masterpiece of wartime vienna by Sarah Gainham Kate Mosse Online


A highly acclaimed bestseller when first published in the 1960s and now back in print, Night Falls On The City is an unforgettable portrait of wartime Vienna.Beautiful actress Julia Homburg and her politician husband Franz Wedeker embody all the enlightened brilliance of pre-war Vienna. But Franz is Jewish, and just across the border the tanks of the Nazi Reich are primedA highly acclaimed bestseller when first published in the 1960s and now back in print, Night Falls On The City is an unforgettable portrait of wartime Vienna.Beautiful actress Julia Homburg and her politician husband Franz Wedeker embody all the enlightened brilliance of pre-war Vienna. But Franz is Jewish, and just across the border the tanks of the Nazi Reich are primed for the Anschluss.Soon after the German troops enter Austria, disappearances become routine and Franz must be concealed. In the shadow of oppression, the streets are full of collaborators and spies, allegiances shift and ancient hatreds resurface, and Julia must strike hateful bargains with the new order if she and her husband are to survive....

Title : night falls on the city the lost masterpiece of wartime vienna
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ISBN : 19031612
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 641 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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night falls on the city the lost masterpiece of wartime vienna Reviews

  • Laurie
    2019-04-03 15:08

    This is the first book of the Vienna Trilogy, a work of historical fiction which chronicles the lives and struggles of a group of characters connected with the Austrian National Theater (the Burgtheater) immediately before, during and after WWII. Given the spate of overly sentimentalized new historical fiction set in WWII, I found Night Falls on the City to be refreshingly clear any romanticization or magical realism. This is realistic fiction at its best. There is a large cast of characters, some Jewish some not, some attempting to remain free of any taint of Nazism, others more willing to compromise themselves. Yet through it all there is a rising and diminishing of tension which seems to me to be very much in line with what it must have felt like then. Though generally forgotten; Night Falls on the City is well worth tracking down if well done WWII historical fiction is your things.

  • Tema Merback
    2019-03-26 12:15

    I just finished a mesmerizing novel written in 1967. I love old books, and in my research for my next novel I stumbled upon this forgotten gem. "Night Falls on the City" is a novel of intrigue and relationships between a troupe of actors and the Nazi elite that lay claim to their city and working lives. The struggle to survive the war and occupation after the Auschluss/annexation of Austria is a tale of human weakness and self-preservation. With the downfall of the beautiful city of Vienna come the reprisals against and incarceration of the Jewish inhabitants. Fear unleashes the endemic hatreds and jealousies of the non-Jewish population as they struggle to adapt to the their new masters and turn on their fellow countrymen. The author weaves her tale of actors/actresses, Nazi elite, the wealthy aristocracy and those that serve them in a tightly wound story of loyalty and human frailty. The psychological messages of the book are as powerful as the characterizations. The language is rich, the research exacting, and the descriptions of war devastating. In all of my readings on the period I had never really known the fate of Vienna or what it was like to live there during the years 1938-1945, now I know!

  • Lizzie
    2019-04-19 11:13

    When I first saw this book in Waterstones I naively thought that it was a new release and eagerly rushed over to have a look at it. The blurb on the back of the book immediately grabbed me and it was then that I realised that it was in fact written in 1967 so new release it was not! It has been republished to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938. As a reader, given the joys of History GCSE and hindsight, you know what is going to happen next from the beginning of the novel but this does not lessen the tension in the book and it is still a completely engrossing portrayal of Austria during this period. The book is vividly set in Vienna, and the city itself, with its ‘steely sky, sentimental chestnuts and lilacs’ is almost character in itself, rather than a mere backdrop. I was fortunate to visit Vienna whilst I was reading the book and it really brought the whole thing to life.The story is told through the main character Julia Homburg, a successful actress, and her group of friends and associates, as they struggle with the engulfing grip of a highly-organised dictatorship. Julia is married to Franz Wedeker, a politician who happens to be Jewish, and under changing laws and tightening restrictions, it’s obvious that Franz must be hidden, and plans are made to do so. Julia is plunged into a living nightmare as her life becomes shrouded in deceptions, with betrayal an always unspoken threat. A real sense of anxiety and fear mounts as the book, and indeed the war progresses, intensely layered by Gainham’s characters dialogue and thought processes.This struggle to survive the war and occupation after the Anschluss is a tale of human weakness and self-preservation. Everyone in this strange new world/city is trying to abide by new laws and societal confines, while finding subtle ways to break them for personal benefit, and always keeping a step or two ahead of ‘them’ – whoever opposes you on the other side. Faced with potentially harrowing and heart-breaking decisions, characters don’t always react with admirable grace or moral uprightness. They lie, blackmail and deceive in response to fear and oppression meted out by the regime. In this sense, Sarah Gainham powerfully, and at times beautifully, captures the disintegration of society as the war wages, and perceptively shows how ordinary people, engrossed in their own lives or struggling to survive get sucked into accepting, even colluding with, the brutal regime. One of the most powerful scenes in the book (and one relevant to today’s society one feels) is when the author describes how a seemingly hostile, reticent and horrified crowd turn into a passionate mob, charged with excitement, hero-worshipping, aggressive, even sexual, as Hitler arouses their ‘bellies full of undigested resentment’.The book is not an easy read; it is at times harrowing, frightening and questioning. It gives you such a powerful feeling for, and understanding of, the terror the people of Austria must have felt and their sense of hopelessness and helplessness against such an unrelenting enemy. The closing phases of the book are particularly relentless in their harrowing depiction of the advance of the Russian forces, which the people of Vienna wait for as ‘an end, any end, better a frightful end than a fear that never ends’.There are however moments of real beauty within the novel; not only in descriptions of the beauty and architecture of Vienna itself, but also in the development of relationships, the love, care, tenderness and affection people showed to each other as all ‘we [could] do, [was] survive’. The sense of care and support is palpable throughout the book in different relationships, be that of Julia and Nando, Fina and Franz or Ruth and Kerenyi. These stories of human courage, hope and love are a light amongst the darkness of Vienna and the Nazi regime and I only hope that if I were ever in a similar situation, I would react with a similar kindness, grace and humanity.

  • S.P. Moss
    2019-04-20 11:59

    “There is nothing we can do, except survive”.“Night falls on the City” is a sweeping, insightful story of Vienna under the Nazis, from the 1938 Anschluss to the end of the Second World War. The story is told through the main character Julia Homburg, a successful actress, and her group of friends and associates. The city of Vienna itself, with its “steely sky, sentimental chestnuts and lilacs” is almost like a central character, rather than a mere backdrop.I particularly enjoyed the “grown up” feel to this story. There is no manipulation of the reader or false heroics. The ends of the story are not neatly tied up, as in a lot of fiction, and the reader is left wondering what will happen – or has happened – to the characters. What is not said or stated is as important as what is. The writing is honest and authentic, and does not shy away from documenting the almost sexual thrill of power that Nazism presented to the Austrian people in 1938.The story catalogues the disintegration of society through an order imposed from outside, which destroys the natural, organic order of the city. This imposed order is described almost in terms of a disease – Gainham writes of a “pathological society”. Gradually, the characters become trapped in a web of hopelessness and helplessness, held together with lies and deceit. The weariness of continually living a lie, and losing the discriminatory power to ascertain what is lie and what is truth, is almost palpable.Julie’s husband, Franz, who is a Jewish liberal politician and must therefore be concealed, becomes a symbol of the old city with its natural order: “without being aware of it, Julie was changing the living man into a symbol of what must be rescued and what had value in the senseless tangle of intrigue and struggle that enmeshed her.”The closing phases of the book are relentless in their harrowing depiction of the advance of the Russian forces, while the people of Vienna wait for “an end, any end, better a frightful end than a fear that never ends.”“Night falls on the City” is not an easy read – it is a long book with a multitude of characters, and not something you can pick up and put down lightly. But it is highly recommended as an involving, authentic and thought-provoking study of a dark period in Austria’s history.

  • Denis
    2019-04-04 10:14

    If only for this novel, which was in its time celebrated but has inexplicably fallen into oblivion, Gainham absolutely needs to be rediscovered. Night Falls on the City is the story of Vienna as it fell under Nazi rule and what it endured during WWII, till the end of the regime. It follows a bunch of various characters, especially one woman, Julia, a famous theater actress who is married to a Jew. Epic and intimate at the same time, suspenseful and powerful, written with great sensibility, this is a novel that floats way above most novels that evoke the tragedies of this era. The harrowing times Gainham describes come to life with a rare and vibrantly believable intensity: this book is probably one of the best ever written about the famed city of Vienna. But more than that, Gainham explores with wonderful intelligence the complex psychological impact that fascism and war have on ordinary (and extraordinary) citizens, and she does so without playing the sentimental card, yet with an emotion that feels very true. As Julia’s destiny unfolds, and as Vienna encounters horror and doom, it is impossible not to be swept away by Gainham’s narration.

  • Renate Flynn
    2019-03-25 13:21

    I am very glad I read this WWII saga and have learned much about Vienna during that era: the Anschluss, the SS and Gestapo, the enduring importance of culture and theater as the war evolved, the Russians. Vienna itself is a major character in the novel and its war-time alteration mirrors that of protagonist Julia Homberg's: from opulent, gilt-edged complacency to battle-worn and teetering existence.There is courage and pragmatism, loyalty and tenderness, infidelity and deceit, threat and violence, suspicion and FEAR.And, as the war winds down, there is starvation and stench.Sarah Gainham masterfully engaged all my senses with this, at first, jewel-bedecked, then filthy beaver-coated war story. When I visit Vienna, I will remember the tears and dust and the blasts that once tore this city apart and then I will celebrate her determined revival. But, I shall also mourn what once was - the Vienna I will never see - which no one can ever know again except through photos of that era and in beautifully descriptive stories such as this.

  • Fiona Hurley
    2019-04-20 13:12

    The city is Vienna, and the "night" is World War 2. Both place and time are well-captured.

  • Alisa
    2019-03-24 18:00

    Set in Vienna between 1938 - 1945 the novel centers around a group of prominent Viennese theatre actors, primarily Julia (Julie) Homburg, who is forced to hide her Jewish husband, Franz, when the Nazis march into Vienna. The novel was published in the 1960s, apparently to high acclaim, and then at some point was taken out of print. I couldn't find out when this was or why and I found it puzzling since it deals with an ever-popular theme in literature - WW2/the Nazi years. I've come to the conclusion that it was probably usurped by the vast amount of other novels on this subject which have been published over the years and which generally tend to involve a love story, or lean towards the thriller/spy genre providing the reader with suspense and intrigue, a twist here and there.Night Falls on the City has all the ingredients required for a novel set in Nazi Europe: the persecution of the Jews and other "undesirable" groups of people, the arrests and interrogations by the Gestapo, war, betrayal, fear... The major difference between this novel and the more contemporary ones of its kind is that it lacks the melodrama and suspense which is often present in the latter. Night Falls on the City doesn't dramatize anything at all. It remains matter-of-fact, totally unsentimental throughout. The main characters are mainly from the theatre scene and Gainham uses this little group of people to depict how people fought for their own survival, each in their own different ways - by choosing to get along with the occupiers, either passively (head down, try not to get noticed) or by befriending SS officers or others in high places to protect themselves and their families. Then you have those who abhor the regime and what it stands for. Gainham exposes the strengths and weaknesses of all her characters without ever judging them. In a way, there are no "good" or "bad" characters in this novel. There is something to admire in every character, but also something to dislike.This really is a remarkable novel and it well deserved to be re-published, in my opinion. The writing is first-class, without a doubt, the attention to detail commendable and the story itself is a must for anybody interested in WW2/Vienna/Apparently this is book 0ne of a trilogy and while I'll probably read book two, I'm not desperate to start it straight away. It has to be said, it's a long very difficult book to read. It takes a while to work out who's who as there are so many characters and the writing, while excellent, was occasionally hard work. There's also a lot of long dialogue among the actors at times about the theater or general high-society gossip which did become tedious after a time. It definitely is a book that you need to concentrate on, not one I'd describe as "an easy read".4-4.5 stars.

  • Johanna Markson
    2019-03-31 13:00

    Night Falls on the City, Sarah GainhamA big novel about wartime Vienna focused mostly on a famous stage actress and her life during WWII. This book is considered a classic about wartime. The writer takes a very detailed look at a city and its citizens as it and they fall under the control of the Nazis. What do people do to protect themselves and the ones they love. Epic in scale but also focused on everyday details, this is an intense portrait of Vienna that captures the on-going tension, and constant fear for some and the undying loyalty of many to doing the right thing.

  • Lauraine
    2019-03-30 17:10

    Stunning! This book will linger in the back of my mind for years to come.

  • Kirsty
    2019-04-06 11:16

    On its publication in 1967, Night Falls on the City became a New York Times bestseller. Despite it being heralded ‘a sensation’, Gainham’s books – and there are rather a lot of them – have sadly fallen somewhat out of popularity. It has recently been reprinted by Abacus, and is championed by such popular contemporary authors as Helen Dunmore and Kate Mosse.Night Falls on the City is epic in its scale, and spans the entirety of the Second World War. In her introduction, Mosse describes the novel as ‘one of those rare novels of beauty and scope and ambition that both brings to life a particular moment in history, a particular society, while at the same time rejoicing in the minute details of everyday life, everyday emotions’. She believes that with its reprinting, the novel ‘is now being restored to its rightful place on the bookshelf beside other classics of Second World War literature’.The novel tells the story of an actress named Julia Homburg, a member of the left-wing elite in Vienna, Austria, and begins in 1938. At this point, Vienna is ‘an ancient city on the brink of Occupation’, and clouds of darkness are beginning to settle themselves over the city’s rather liberal façade. With the looming threat of the enforcement of the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws, Julia’s husband, Franz Wedeker, is in danger.We are introduced to Julia at once, and are launched immediately into her story. In the first scene in which she is present, she and a fellow actor, Hans, are discussing what lies ahead for their beloved city, and what this will hold for Franz. Julia – ‘the rangy girl with loose dark hair, aggressive and uncertain, had grown into beauty and power’ – is vivid at once, as is Franz when he finds his way into the story, but some of the secondary characters seem rather lifeless. Gainham’s descriptions of those who people her novel are wonderful despite this, due to the way in which she writes of them in sharply perceptive and original ways. A man standing on one of the city’s streets is ‘cramped with want’, a woman has a ‘fist like a lump of mutton fat’, and another is filled with ‘a lifetime of small envies [which] glinted in her sideways look’. It is clear throughout that Gainham’s entire focus is placed upon Julia and Franz. Even when they are not present in a scene, her care and consideration for them still places them at the forefront of the novel.Deceptions run through the novel from the start, and range from Julia and her housekeeper’s hiding of Franz in a small village outside the city, to the words of blackmail which she is forced to utter when others threaten to expose his new residence.Throughout, Vienna has been presented as a character of the utmost importance. Gainham wonderfully captures her ‘tempered grey stone, the steely sky and shadowed, blue-white snow… the sentimental chestnuts and lilacs, the comically maddening people of the streets… Every evening to be seduced afresh’. From the outset, every slice of scenery, every object, is treated with such care. Night Falls on the City is filled with a multitude of tiny details which join and converge to create a realistic picture of life in Europe in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The historical background to the novel is its overriding strength, and has been presented in rather a masterful way. A few of these can be a little confusing at times, and sentences often have to be read more than once for all of the details to be absorbed.Night Falls on the City is a novel about human bravery, the kindnesses of others, the unrelenting belief in good above all else, and the way in which certain situations make characters change incredibly drastically. It is sad in places and powerful in others, and the pace throughout matches the story wonderfully. Night Falls on the City is certainly a volume which deserves to be reprinted, and one which should gain Sarah Gainham much deserved recognition in the modern world.

  • Francene Carroll
    2019-04-16 13:09

    This is an exceptionally well-researched book about the Nazi annexation of Austria that drives home the real horror and inhumanity of this era. It is a story of great suffering and the compromises that people are forced to make in such terrible circumstances when they are pitted against each other by a regime that relies on fear and paranoia for its survival. It's hard to believe that Hitler was greeted with cheering crowds when he first crossed the border despite the fact that the Nazi's were crushing all opposition, arresting thousands and establishing a police state. It stands as a timely reminder of the futility of attempting to compromise with fascists. The story centers around celebrated actress Julia Homburg who must hide her Jewish, socialist husband Franz when his attempt to leave Vienna fails. The book follows her efforts to keep him safe in their apartment while the city goes to pieces around them. Julia is a well-drawn character but Franz basically just fades into the background as Julia goes on with her life outside without him. From the moment he returns to the apartment after leaping from a train to escape the SS, he is a changed man, frightened and vulnerable, and this weakness is reinforced through his physical deterioration. Julia's love for him changes too and she loses all physical desire for him and takes another lover. This was the weakest part of the story for me because I couldn't understand why Franz was portrayed in this way. Just because he was physically isolated from the world, I couldn't accept that he would so quickly lose his vitality and strength, or that his thoughts and conversations with Julia would not even be worth including, especially considering his political background. The other issue I had with the book was its length. Although I appreciate how detailed it is, it was a struggle to get to the end and I never quite managed to get all of the different characters straight. I'm giving it four stars because despite its flaws I believe it is one of the best novels about WWII ever written, providing an almost visceral experience at times of what it was like to be caught in the madness of war-time Vienna.

  • Emma Anja
    2019-04-23 18:27

    I first read this book three years ago prior to a trip to Vienna and fell in love with the characters and Sarah Gainham's writing style. Having recently discovered the book is the first in a trilogy, I set out to read it again before starting the second of the series, A Place in the Country. I think I might even love this a little more the second time around. I've read other reviews of Gainham's books that complain of her sentences being long-winded and a little difficult to follow at times; while I appreciate the point, for me this added to the overall effect. The novel is set during the chaos of Nazi annexation in WWII Vienna, and consequently the characters struggle with their consciences, with knowing who to trust, with simply surviving politically and socially in a rapidly changing environment. Gainham's writing style only emphasises this further. I found I appreciated Julie and Franz's relationship and the inevitable consequences of their circumstances upon this far more this time around than I did at 18, this book can be enjoyed on so many levels but on this re-read I feel I really got to the heart of Gainham's message about love and wartime, in addition to the often heartbreaking image she depicts of wartime Vienna. Julie's theatrical life was something I personally haven't seen in a lot of novels but enjoyed as a side plot. I honestly cannot recommend this book enough.

  • Sally
    2019-04-21 18:27

    This is an interesting book, it takes a very long time to get moving - I wasn't sure at first if I would be able to get through it. There are long passages of groups of people talking, at length, but then there is brilliance here. The characters are very well drawn, they are real and engaging and I was thoroughly entranced with the whole tale once I got into it. There have been many, many stories set during World War 2 but mostly from the perspective of the Jewish community and the lower classes but there are very few tales told from the perspective of the rest of the population, particularly the upper classes. This story, told from the perspective of a headstrong Austrian actress, describes the Nazi occupation of Vienna - it is fascinating reading about how naive people were to the horrors of the Nazi's, how confusing it was for the general population hearing only bogus, propagandist reporting of the war, how dangerous it was to be 'different' in any way. Yes, there is a lot of talking here - so much so that it is quite safe to skim through at times but there are also many frightening, brilliantly written segments. There is humour, love and much more to this story. It is really quite brilliant, just a little long in places.

  • Karen
    2019-04-22 17:10

    I first read this book back in the early 1970's, not long after it was first released and became a best seller, although I didn't realize that at the time. It just looked interesting on the library shelf, and I've always enjoyed historical fiction, especially that written about the world wars of the 20th century. I found it once again in a Daedalus catalog, a rerelease. and decided to purchase it. It's just as good as I remember. The main character, Julia Homburg, is a well-known stage actress in Vienna, married to a wealthy socialist politician who also happens to be a Jew by birth although not by practice. The book covers a period of seven years, beginning shortly before the bloodless Anschluss in Austria and ending shortly after the Russian troops overrun Vienna. The ways in which the theater people, a lawyer and his family, and other friends of Julia's make accommodation or otherwise deal with the Nazi occupation offer food for thought. What would I have done?

  • Maura
    2019-03-27 14:23

    I read this book once before, many years ago before I had much understanding of pre WWII European politics or the war itself beyond bare bones facts. So reading it again now let me appreciate the book more fully. It is the story of life in occupied Vienna from the viewpoint of Julia Homburg, a prominent actress in the Austrian theater. Because of her standing in her profession, Julie is first spared many of the physical hardships of the war, and enjoys certain privileges denied to ordinary citizens. But she has a huge problem in being married to a well-known politician who is also Jewish. The story is fascinating though dark, with the paranoia and despair growing as the was years drag on. The ending may seem very depressing, but readers should be aware that this is only part 1 of 3 books. Julie's story continues on post-war.

  • Jeffrey
    2019-04-05 16:02

    Glorious...the sort of book writers don't write anymore and editors don't buy...pure and perfect writing that will have you rooting for a flawed and real but, for once, rather glamorous character.The novel takes you through Nazi occupation in Vienna and the world of a famous actress who finds she has to compromise to save her husband - and it is about moral compromise but in a way that makes you care about the character - despite her flaws.And for once, a woman who has self-control - and in period - such a rarity. We see her world fall apart and the slow acceptance of life with the Nazis - and the end really had me in tears.This has pathos, drama, settings are a joy - and yet it fills you with horror and disgust at human behaviour.Oh and joy of joys - lots of tell and not show so we know where we are.Book of the year for me. I. JUST. LOVED. IT.

  • Jan Hemphill
    2019-04-23 16:16

    This is an extraordinary book - gripping as a tension-filled novel, although the reader knows, historically, what will happen next; engrossing as the realistic and perceptively described characters struggle with the engulfing grip of a highly-organised dictatorship; and vividly set in the beautifully described city of Vienna as it slowly disintegrates (like its society)as the war rages. Most significantly for me, it shows how ordinary people, perhaps engrossed in their career or work, perhaps struggling for everyday existence, get sucked into accepting, even colluding with, the brutal regime. For example, when a crowd turns into a passionate mob, charged with excitement, hero-worshipping, aggressive, even sexual, as Hitler arouses them: "bellies full of undigested resentment". And frequently raises the implied question: "How would I react? Would I be so weak, so heroic?".

  • Peter Kavanagh
    2019-04-10 11:21

    Brilliant story of the compromises people make living under totalatarianism. Stands out, especially when stood next to many modern novels set in the period that are little more than nazi porn. Achieves where so many have tried and failed. My only quibble is that the book seeks to downplay somewhat the embrace of Nazism in Austria. Having said that I think it is more balanced than much that has been written on the subject. The passages set in Poland are some of the best depictions of the moral squalor of that occupation while the murder of the Jews hovers menacingly in the background throughout the second half of the novel. This is another contrast with more recent depictions. The Holacaust is treated in its proper context and not elevated in status to such an extent that other victims suffering is made insignificant.

  • John
    2019-03-31 15:15

    This was a powerful book. I found it to be engaging and well-written. Most of all, though, the author conveyed some remarkable insights into the mentality of people under great stress. The author's fond portrayal of prewar Vienna, seen through the eyes of the main protagonist, has given me the urge to visit that city again. This is a re-published gem that is well worth a read.

  • Kathy_N
    2019-04-07 15:01

    Brilliant book. Complex characters in a complex scenario. A tense novel set in Austria from the Anchluss in 1938 to the end of the second world war brilliantly illustrating the destruction of people, property, morals and beliefs.

  • Amanda
    2019-03-26 12:05

    I've given up on this I'm afraid. I can see its a well-written novel about wartime Vienna, but the characters weren't strong enough for me to find an emotional connection with the book. I found it hard going although, in theory it's something I would usually enjoy.

  • Bryan Worn
    2019-03-26 16:17

    Quite a long book but worth it I think because of the insight into how war gets to everyone and the choices people are forced to make. Written just 20 years after the war

  • Emma
    2019-04-11 11:10

    Fantastically intriguing book where history and fiction blend seamlessly. Characters, scenery and the feeling of the time come alive.

  • Heather Tomlinson
    2019-04-17 14:11

    Not a big fan of this book - left it after a quarter the way through. A bit too much sex and violence.

  • Samantha
    2019-03-29 10:58

    A dull and dreary tale about a woman who hides her husband from the Nazis. There is better literature about WW2 available, go read "Alone in Berlin" instead

  • David
    2019-04-15 14:25

    I did not enjoy this book, found it difficult to get into.