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Hannah's Dress: Berlin 1904 - 2014

Pascale Hugues, C. Jon Delogu (Translated by), Nick Somers (Translated by)

ISBN: 978-1-509-50985-0 April 2017 Polity 250 Pages



Hannah's Dress tells the dizzying story of Berlin's modern history. Curious to learn more about the city she has lived in for over twenty years, journalist Pascale Hugues investigates the lives of the men, women and children who have occupied her ordinary street during the course of the last century. We see the street being built in 1904 and the arrival of the first families of businessmen, lawyers and bankers. We feel the humiliation of defeat in 1918, the effects of economic crisis, and the rise of Hitler's Nazi party. We tremble alongside the Jewish families, whose experience is so movingly captured in the story of two friends, Hannah and Susanne. When only Hannah is able to escape the horrors of deportation, the dress made for her by Susanne becomes a powerful reminder of all that was lost.

In 1945 the street is all but destroyed; the handful of residents left want to forget the past altogether and start afresh. When the Berlin Wall goes up, the street becomes part of West Berlin and assumes a rather suburban identity, a home for all kinds of petite bourgeoisie, insulated from the radical spirit of 1968. However, this quickly changes in the 1970s with the arrival of its most famous resident, superstar David Bowie. Today, the street is as tranquil and prosperous as in the early days, belying a century of eventful, tumultuous history.

This engrossing account of a single street, awarded the prestigious 2014 European Book Prize, sheds new light on the complex history not only of Berlin but of an entire continent across the twentieth century.

Chapter 1 Quiet Street in Nice Neighbourhood
Chapter 2 Built to Last
Chapter 3 Lilli Ernsthaft: Our Doyenne
Chapter 4 A Needle in a Haystack
Chapter 5 Günther Jauch at the Jeckes’
Chapter 6 The Balcony Across the Street
Chapter 7 Hannah’s Dress
Chapter 8 The Spitting Image of His Father!
Chapter 9 We have to save the furniture!
Chapter 10 The Roof of the World
Chapter 11 And to Think They Lost the War
Chapter 12 The Revenants
Chapter 13 Finally, Glory!
Chapter 14 Frau Soller Moves
Chapter 15 Gossip
Chapter 16 Rebel Rebel
Photo credits
"Hugues brings the tumultuous twentieth century to vivid, messy life through the memories of the men and women who lived in the community. It's a testament to the human costs of catastrophe and the resilience of ordinary people in the face of unthinkable struggle."
Bridey Heing, Times Literary Supplement

"More than a one-place study, this engaging memoir reaches beyond the blinds of a quiet Berlin street to provide a window into 20th century German and world history via the prism of human experience." 
Family Tree Magazine

"This is a terrific book. Hugues writes very well and she has a real eye for the killer vignette. Her gallery of characters is engrossing and, in one or two cases, unforgettable. Hannah's Dress will find an appreciative audience among all those interested in the Holocaust and twentieth-century German history generally."
Brendan Simms, University of Cambridge

"This unusual memoir uses the author's personal experience living in one street in Berlin as a window into the German past. She reaches out to elderly Jewish Holocaust survivors and refugees around the world who once lived on her street, and in her sophisticated narrative she peels back the layers hiding individual experiences so elusive to many professional historians."
Deborah Hertz, University of California at San Diego

"Hannah's Dress is a book that is both tender and bittersweet, shocking and full of surprises. It is a unique, moving and very well-written narrative that has justly been awarded the Simone Veil Prize."

"Pascale Hugues' account of her street and its inhabitants is a little wonder of a book."
Neue Zürcher Zeitung

"Hannah's Dress is an endlessly fascinating unpicking and re-weaving of history, a meticulously researched and hugely affecting academic work with all the epic sweep and emotional heft of the most engrossing of novels."
Irish Examiner

"A little gem"
History Today

New European

"Hugues's book, which won the European Book Prize in 2014, is a beautifully written miscellany of emblematic stories."
Literary Review

"Finely researched and lovingly written."
Financial Times

"This is a gentle, thoughtful and non-sensationalist account [...] and certainly worth reading - irrespective of whether or not you know Berlin." 
Morning Star

"Move over Isherwood: Pascale Hugues has taken your storyteller crown, proving the German truism that the best stories really are lying around on the streets."
The Irish Times