Ben Fergusson debut novel paints a frightening picture of post-war Berlin

Ben Fergusson wrote The Spring of Kasper Meier during a four-year period living and working in Berlin.

It’s an astonishing debut novel — sad, frightening even, shocking.

Post-war Berlin, as depicted by Ben Fergusson is a city in ruins. Those who survived the war struggle to meet basic needs. Like many others, Kasper is involved in black market trading and danger is never far from his door.

When a young woman, Eva, asks him to help her find a British pilot, he is reluctant to get involved but Eva has information about Kasper and he cannot risk that she might use it.

Short, well-written chapters

Kasper’s story emerges over a series of relatively short, well-written chapters. He reveals both the connections and the disjointedness in a society broken by war. Danger and fear are tangible on virtually every page — even the children are threatening figures —  and some of the episodes — like the chapter entitled Igor Maslov — are truly chilling.

Kasper is the strongest character in the novel by some distance. But character is secondary to city because essentially The Spring of Kasper Meier is a story about a particular place at a particular moment in time.

The Spring of Kasper Meier (ISBN 9781408705049) by Ben Fergusson is published by Little Brown Group in the UK. An advance copy was made available via Netgalley for the purpose of this review.