I am quite pleased to be a part of the Blog Tour for Spies by Ellie Midwood. Spies is the second book in the Metropolis series. Therefore, my review of Metropolis is included in this blog post.
Unemployed actors, profiteers, cabaret girls, and impoverished aristocracy – out of this wild set of characters populating Weimar Berlin, Margarete Gräfin von Steinhoff belongs to the latter category. Having lost everything due to hyper-inflation, she considers jumping into the freezing waters of the Spree rather than facing the humiliating existence shared by millions of her fellow Germans. However, a chance meeting makes her change her mind at the last moment and offers her a chance to rely on the help of the metropolis itself, where anything can be sold and bought for money and where connections are everything. The bustling nightlife of cosmopolitan Berlin, with its casinos and dance halls, brings good income for the ones who don’t burden themselves too heavily with morals.
After a New Year’s Eve party, Margot finally meets her ever-absent and mysterious neighbor, Paul Schneider, who makes a living by producing a certain type of film for his rich clientele. Under his guidance, Margot discovers a new passion of hers – photography and soon, her talents are noticed by the prominent newspaper, Berliner Tageblatt itself. But being an official photographer of the most celebrated events of the La Scala and most famous Berlin theaters no longer satisfies Margot’s ambitions. As soon as the chance presents itself for her to get involved with the cinematography on the set of "Metropolis" - the film with the highest budget ever produced by the UFA – Margot jumps at it, without thinking twice. At the same time, Paul becomes involved with a rival project, "The Holy Mountain," which stars an as yet unknown actress and an emerging director in, Leni Riefenstahl. As the two women meet, professional rivalry soon turns into a true friendship, fueled by their passion for cinematography. However, due to the economic woes facing Germany, both projects soon run out of money and now, both film crews must go to extreme lengths to save their respective productions.
Set against the backdrop of a decadent, vibrant, and fascinatingly liberal Weimar Berlin, "Metropolis" is a novel of survival, self-discovery, and self-sacrifice, in the name of art, love, and friendship.
Margarete Gräfin von Steinhoff, and for readers like me following this story and hopefully the rest of the books in the series, she is referred to as Margot, has found herself in the career of entertainment. It has definitely taken many paths, singing being one of them. But her true love is photography. Margo starts off with someone that she works with, Ernst Weginer, but her heart lies with someone named Paul Schneider. But even before Margot met Paul, she meets Ernst under very difficult circumstances and the two become involved. Meanwhile, Paul is a film producer, and he is an expert photographer and eventually takes Margot under his wing.
Before that happens, however, Margot gets the opportunity to become involved with a film that was named Metropolis. This high budget film will allow Margot to for the craft her skills when it comes to cinematography. As things turn out Margot and Paul soon become rivals because he begins working with a different director on a different project. A character that Margot runs into is named Leni Riefenstahl. Clearly rivals at first, eventually, at least by the second story in the series, the two women work rather closely together, and thus a friendship begins to be born.
Amidst all of this, there is something going on in history that is yet been unrivaled until that time. It is Berlin in 1924, and the Nazis are starting to gain ground. While the Nazi party is growing at an ever-increasing rate, it starts to affect Margot and others involved in the film industry.
There are two things that I have learned by reading this book and the second in the series. The first thing is the beginning of the development of the Nazi party. Secondly, reading about a different part of the world that was grossly affected by things before even before the second world war. I love it when I read historical fiction and I read about a different part of the world. 1920s Berlin is not only the backdrop of this and the second story in this incredibly smartly written book by Ellie Midwood, who has managed to now become one of my my go to authors for historical fiction going forward.
**Featured Blog Tour Post**
Weimar Berlin, 1927
Having recovered from the hyperinflation, the decadent metropolis is prospering against all odds. Unbothered by the turbulent events of the previous years, Berlin plunges into an orgy of life, entirely oblivious to the dangerous signs of an upcoming catastrophe.
Much like the rest of Berlin’s artistic elite, Margot von Steinhoff is too preoccupied with her work on the set of the infamous Fritz Lang, to pay attention to the dark shadow of the nationalistic threat hanging over the city. When Ernst Weniger, her former lover and now an official NKVD officer, asks for her help in aiding the German communists, she refuses at first, choosing to stay apolitical, just like Lang. However, when the new Gauleiter of Berlin, Joseph Goebbels, arrives in the city and begins his relentless campaign of harassment and misinformation, Margot realizes that staying neutral is no longer an option. Playing on the wrong side can cost her not only her career but her freedom, yet Margot has never been more certain of her choice.
“I don’t read political newspapers, Margot. I only want to make my films… I don’t want to have anything to do with all those politics.”
“I don’t want to have anything to do with them either. But the sad fact is that sometimes politics wants to have everything to do with us, regardless of our desires. At some point, all of us will have to take sides. The good news, Fritz, is that I’ll always be on yours.”
Dark, gritty, yet full of hope, “Spies” is the novel of the doomed Weimar Republic and the last generation of free-thinking artists who lived and created their masterpieces in a city, on the verge of collapse.
Available on Amazon
As I was reading this book, full of deep and very difficult content, I was already thinking about what I would rate it, and I was thinking four stars. But the deeper I got into Margot’s story - with the pinpoint historical accuracy of this particular story- I realized that it was most definitely was a five star book. Before I get in the content of the story I just wanted to mention that Margot is an incredibly strong character. She is beautiful, vivacious, incredibly talented and intelligent.
For readers of this book, I highly recommend reading the first book in the series, Metropolis. By then you would be familiar with Margarete Gräfin von Steinhoff, who always goes by Margot. Margot achieved certain goals by working on a film called Metropolis, which may not have been the blockbuster success that they hoped, but it got her doing what she really enjoyEd, working with photography while growing in her talent of cinematography. However, as time went on, doing that production, Berlin was changing. The Nazis were becoming prominent and were invading even the film industry. By now she is no longer with her lover Ernst Weniger, as he has taking a different direction then she would’ve chosen to go to, and in fact is now an officer.
Up until now Margot would have chosen to remain neutral, but her very freedom is at risk. So Margot must now balance her love of film with trying to work along with German communists. Meanwhile, previous rival, Paul Schneider, has become an intricate and intimate part of her life. Although this book is hardly romance, their story is incredibly touching. Their connection is visceral and so important to the development of what goes on down the line.
The question as to whether the republic where they live and work in Berlin would survive is only rivaled by the love of creating beautiful films. In this book, Margot is now working with director Fritz Lang on the set of a new film called Spies. Margot‘s relationship with Paul continues to thrive despite fighting the political propaganda going on at that time. Whether or not the movie ends up being completed is for the reader to see.
Now that I have read Metropolis, as well as Spies, this makes the third book that I have read from this incredibly talented author. Whether to call this a character driven book or a plot driven book is difficult for me to say. Because both carry off remarkably well. not only is Ellie Midwood a highly talented author, she is a consummate researcher and it shows. Her talent to pull together historical facts while creating a fictional story is absolutely incredible.
I am more than eager to read the third book in the series. And I truly want to thank HF Virtual Book Tours for offering me the chance to join in on the current blog tour. Otherwise I would’ve missed it this wonderful opportunity to read this amazing book.
Many thanks to HFVBT for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.
Please use the following excerpt:
Munching on a pretzel they had bought from the street vendor, Margot and Fritz observed the façade of the UFA Zoo Palace. Despite the latest conflicts with Hugenberg, the UFA had decorated it with great taste for the upcoming premiere. Along the entire length of the building, the title Spione – Spies – stretched out, with searchlights pouring their light from the inside of the letters and a tremendous eye above the entrance itself. At night, it looked particularly impressive. Margot had already taken a few photos of it for the Tageblatt.
“Do you like it?” Margot tore another piece of pretzel that Lang was holding and put it in her mouth.
They’d spent the entire day in the cutting room, surviving on coffee and cigarettes only. This was their first meal since they left Babelsberg.
“To be truthful with you, I didn’t expect such extravagance,” he admitted, chewing on a piece of pretzel as well. “Hardly it’s Hugenberg’s initiative out of the goodness of his heart. Most likely, Nebenzahl’s lawyer had paid him a visit and implied that in the view of recent events, my company Fritz-Lang-Film GmbH would sue him for damages if he doesn’t do it.”
“Whatever the circumstances, you still got the sign. That’s all that matters.”
Lang sighed heavily. “I don’t like working like this. It was so much better without him in charge. Remember Metropolis?”
“I remember poor Erich Pommer. However, did he deal with your temper tantrums?”
“Those were not temper tantrums! I’m a perfectionist, that’s all. No one likes a perfectionist. We’re too difficult to work with because we know precisely what we want.” He paused, his expression turning melancholy. “I miss it, Margot.”
“The early years. Metropolis was the last… I can’t explain it. The last of…” He appeared to be in a desperate search for the right words. “The change is coming, Margot. I feel it everywhere around me. Everywhere, in the air even. I just know that it won’t be the same again. It shall never be the same.”
“What won’t be the same?”
“Nothing will. When we first began working with Pommer, we were broke, like two vagabonds and yet we were free. Free to create whatever we wished. Free to dream, to put our dreams on film. They were horrible garbage; I still stand by that. But Grosz’s paintings are horrible garbage too and yet, they are so Berlin, so thoroughly, vulgarly, utterly, Weimar! Those were my early films, too. Something I shall never recapture again… We were cynical dreamers, Margot. We believed in nothing and everything. The entire era is coming to an end, charging into an abyss, like a train going full speed and there’s no stopping it. How terrible it is that I’m only now understanding it. Only now, only tonight, as I’m standing here with you. Oh, Margot how frightful it is! I feel I shall fall over with grief and I can’t explain why. You must think me mad.”
He smiled sadly at her, searching her face, with his desperate eyes.
“No. I don’t think you mad at all. I think they robbed you of something, Fritz. Robbed us all and we shall never be the same.”
They suddenly lost all appetite. Now, hand in hand, they stood in the middle of the sidewalk, like two lost children who only had each other, amid that crowd, in the entire hostile world. Their eyes were still directed upward when a uniformed SA man walked past them, retraced his steps and looked closely at Fritz’s face.
“Are you Fritz Lang?” the uniformed man demanded.
Margot felt Lang’s hand stiffening in hers. She gave it a reassuring pressure. I don’t have a beer stein on me tonight but I swear to you on my life, if the sod only says one word against you, I’ll break my new camera on his Nazi skull.
“Yes.” Fritz squared his shoulders and regarded the man with cold arrogance, almost daring him to say something. “I am.”
The youth broke into a grin and fumbled with something in his pocket. “I love your films! Will you sign an autograph for me, please?”
He was already holding a black notebook and a pencil before the director.
Reluctantly, as though expecting some malice, Lang took it from him.
“Who do I make it out to?”
“Fritz Brunner.” The SA man beamed again. “My name is Fritz, too!”
“How splendid.” Lang offered him his best artistic smile. “Here you go.”
“Thank you, Herr Lang! I can’t wait to see your newest one!” He motioned toward the UFA palace and its blinding advertisement.
“I hope you’ll enjoy it.”
“I will! Thank you again!”
As soon as the fellow walked away, the pleasant smile slid off Lang’s face, like a theatrical mask, from which someone had cut off the string.
“Too bad Thea has already written the next book,” he remarked in an odd voice. When Margot gave him a curious look, he was still staring into space in the direction in which the man had disappeared. “I ought to make a film about them.”
“About the Nazis?” Margot arched her brow. “While Hugenberg is still in charge of the UFA? They’ll never let you produce it.”
“I’ll find a way,” he replied calmly and this time, Margot marveled at how suddenly strong and resolute his voice sounded.
Blog Tour Schedule
Review at Reading is My Remedy
Monday, June 8
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, June 9
Review at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, June 10
Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Friday, June 12
Interview at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals
Monday, June 15
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks
Tuesday, June 16
Review at Nurse Bookie
Excerpt at I'm All About Books
Friday, June 19
Review at YA, It's Lit
Review & Excerpt at Robin Loves Reading
Monday, June 22
Review at Donna's Book Blog
GiveawayDuring the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of Spies by Ellie Midwood! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Paperback giveaway is open to the US only. – Only one entry per household. –
All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. –
The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.
About the Author
After obtaining her BA in Linguistics, Ellie decided to make writing her full-time career and began working on her first full-length historical novel, "The Girl from Berlin." Ellie is continuously enriching her library with new research material and feeds her passion for WWII and Holocaust history by collecting rare memorabilia and documents. In her free time, Ellie is a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, neat freak, adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew, and a doggie mama. Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait. For more information on Ellie and her novels, please visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.