Clara stands before the Brandenburg Gate, contemplating history, architecture, and cultural progress, not knowing that within her lifetime the city will be divided by a wall—or that she and her family would have to leave, in 1939, amid the rise of fascism. But the novel’s about Clara’s era, and how her Berlin came to be, as Frenkel traces the historical currents that brought her into contact with notables of the age—the subjects of those postcards, and the book’s organizing principle. Among them are Mark Twain, Isabelle Duncan, and Richard Strauss, whose lives, work, and importance to Clara power the narrative. Included are the pictures and postcards from Clara's album, a peek into a history at its most personal.
Fans of vividly evoked history, world and familial, with the texture of everyday life will be immersed into this rich account, while enjoying snapshots in time of a young woman’s encounters with the likes of Strauss—Clara, a pianist, is embarrassed she hadn’t recognized him earlier, from the posters around the city. (The chapter about Twain, as expected, is alive with good humor.) Clara’s Secret blends cultural and personal history to reveal something rare in both: not just life as it was lived, but how it got like that, and what it all meant.
Takeaway: Rich personal and cultural history of a young woman in Berlin’s Belle Epoque.
Comparable Titles: Dominique Kalifa’s The Belle Epoque, David Lindenfeld and Suzanne Marchand’s Germany at the Fin de Siècle.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A