An Honest Man by Ben Fergusson
English | 2019 | Mystery & Thriller | ePUB | 3.2 MB
In West Berlin in 1989, eighteen-year-old Ralf has just left school and is living a final golden summer with his three best friends. They spend their days swimming, smoking and daydreaming about the future, oblivious to the storm gathering on the other side of the Berlin Wall.
But an unsettling discovery about his family and a meeting with the mysterious Oz shatters everything Ralf thought he knew about love and loyalty. And as old Cold War tensions begin to tear his life apart, he finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, forced to make impossible choices about his country, his family and his heart.
A compelling story of love and betrayal in the divided Berlin of the 1980s’ Sunday Times Best Books of 2019
‘A beautifully written, evocative literary thriller set in Berlin shortly before the fall of the Wall’ Financial Times Best Books of 2019
‘A powerful and moving love story by a writer at the top of his game’ John Boyne
As he swam past, Stefan’s bone-white arm lifted out of the water, revealing his face, goggled, shaved, his air-blowing lips a soft pink ring. I was sitting with Petra and my girlfriend Maike by the low tiled wall that ran the pool’s 50-metre length, draped with colourful towels drying in the sun. I could hear the tinny sound of The Motels coming from a cassette I’d made Maike. Through the Walkman’s plastic window, I could see ‘New Songs for M’ written in Tippex next to a lumpen blob, an ugly attempt at a flower that I’d obliterated because it’d looked childish.
Maike stared down at a school copy of The Count of Monte Cristo striated with another student’s pencilled underlinings. She took so much pleasure in reading that her only prerequisite for a book was that it be long; if it was less than five hundred pages she wasn’t interested. So she consumed Stephen King and Rosamunde Pilcher as voraciously as she did Victor Hugo, Thomas Mann and Günter Grass. She squinted against the sun, her height visible in the folded leg that she clung to like a rock, her chin resting on her knee. Her damp hair, long, brown and unfashionably straight, hung around her shoulders, the tips adorned with water droplets like glass beads.
Petra lay on her front with her bikini top undone. Her ashy bob was tied into a ponytail and was dry, because she never swam at the pool – she just tanned. She wore large white-framed sunglasses and flicked through Brigitte, snorting derisively at the fashion spreads. It was always hard to tell if this glibness of hers was genuine. It certainly didn’t square with her academic successes; although Maike was always the cleverest, it was Petra who worked the hardest. She’d got the second-best Abitur grades – German A levels – in her school, and the Head of Biology at the University of Hohenheim had called her personally when he received her application.
‘Listen to this,’ Petra said, slapping my leg, as she began to read out my horoscope. Stefan passed again. The lifeguard blew his whistle at the rippling shadow of two boys who’d bombed into the water, and I saw a man emerging from the pool, water pouring from his brown back and red trunks.
The man rubbed his face and turned, and the water falling from his body shattered and steamed on the terracotta tiles. The trees behind him retained the bright green of early summer and his face, as he slicked back his black hair, was fixed in an expression of doubtful, open-mouthed concentration.
He was hairier than me, an attractive flurry across his chest and on his stomach, in his armpits as he lifted his arms to squeeze the water from his hair. A gold chain, very fine, shimmered like fish scales near his throat, and on his wrist he wore a digital watch, gold too, the link-strap brilliant with sunshine. His fingers parted and I looked down at the novel between my legs, white as tripe, and the amber hairs peeping out from the ancient elastic of my black trunks.