The Hiding Game

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 18 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

This was great; readable, and a real page turner.  I really found myself intrigued from the first.  A great read, and one which I would recommend.
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A very interesting period of time in Germany between the 2 world wars. The people at the Bauhaus, being artists, were always going to be targeted as the Nazis gained power. However this story is told in such a disjointed way, without actually developing the characters and giving away the ending at the beginning, so it was not as good as it could have been
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Six students at an art school in 1920s Weimar play a little game where they hide something in their hand. They leave three-word clues, and the others try to guess what they are hiding. Of course, there are many other things to hide as well, and the story collects the clues to uncover what everyone is hiding.
Being in this time and place, we know there will be some Nazi connections, religious, sexual and political leanings that require secrecy. Mostly this is the story of young people and their relationships with each other, shifting as they mature and discover themselves and changing due to external factors that affect Germany as well as the rest of Europe. Trying times in both senses.

The story is told mainly from 1960s London as one of the six looks back on his life. A couple of the friends have died by this time and the cause of death is revealed slowly. In a similar fashion, there is a fight in the shower rooms with potential legal consequences and the truth of what happens comes out, again, slowly.  The art school is the famous Bauhaus, which originated in Weimar but had to relocate, and the layout of the buildings, the artistic challenges and events bring this school to life. The backdrop to the events between the two wars slides in details of the economy and upcoming depression, general public attitudes and rising dissatisfaction.

This period of European history continues to fascinate and it is refreshing to read about it from such an unusual angle. Creative people always make good characters even if they are quite unlikable, as in this book. I was looking forward to reading about the the avant garde artists from the Bauhaus, some of the character being actual people from history, although there parts are very fleeting, some just being mentioned.

It is written well, with some beautiful phrases, ('My meanness that April shocked my September self') although the telling of the story dominates the showing and the time jumps are mildly confusing at times, as the age of the characters is not clear. Most of the book 'passed in church like slowness' as the weather and fickleness of the friendships were the central features, while the wait is on for the secrets to reveal themselves.

The last part of the novel corresponds with the Nazis coming into power and the tensions rises, as it would for those living in Germany at that time. Some do not see the threat, some escape it. Here the narrator, looking back, faces his guilt: 'I already know my obsessions well.' The secret he is hiding, as with all of the characters, is that they are selfish, despite what they all tell themselves. This is not a love story.

Wood is a talented writer and her research is sound. However, this story is about young friends and the place in history seems like a passing feature. Disappointing if that is what draws you to this book. An original read nonetheless.
#NetGalley #TheHidingGame
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A brilliant book set at the Bauhaus art school during the 1920s and surrounding years. A great insight into the goings on in the art world during such a tumultuous time.
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I just loved this book. I am an English literature teacher who reads a lot of classic novels and this didn't feel out of place. It is beautifully written and highly evocative of the place and the era. It reminded me of Tartt's The Secret History and the narrative style was comparable with The Great Gatsby. I will recommend it for students studying the latter for wider reading.
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I really enjoyed The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood. I was interested in the history of the Bauhaus movement and this novel gave me a wonderful incite. The most overwhelming thing about this novel is the fact that we know what is to come. The story takes place during the build up to the Second World War and the treatment of the Jewish people and this makes it heartbreaking to read.
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The Hiding Game is set mostly in the period between the two World Wars at the Bauhaus art school. This was a time of great change in Germany, both politically and artistically. Paul Beckermann starts his study at Bauhaus in 1922, and forms one of a group of six friends. He falls in love with the unobtainable Charlotte, a young woman from Czechoslovakia, but she loves Jenö, who in turn is loved by Paul’s best friend Walter. It seems like an impossible love triangle (or even a square?!). These strong feelings lead to betrayal in a time that it was very easy to utterly destroy lives. The six friends drift apart, mainly out of necessity (Bauhaus was not liked at all by the traditionalists in the National Socialist party), but also they just couldn’t be together anymore. 

Paul, as an older man living in England, looks back at this period in his life and how it went tragically wrong. Not all of the six friends was as fortunate as he was. 

It’s a heartbreaking and also a suspenseful novel. Someone with only a limited knowledge of this period will know of the kind of tragedy that could befall people then. Paul’s guilt and sadness are palpable throughout the book, and I really felt for him. This isn’t really a book where the characters find some sort of forgiveness for themselves - there is none to find. Terrible things happened, and the survivors had to find a way to live with themselves afterwards. 

I loved the details about Bauhaus. I did some study on it during my German degree, and it filled in some gaps in my knowledge (there are quite a few gaps to fill when you did that degree 25 years ago!), and I’m always on the lookout for books set in Germany, especially those with a good helping of history (this has it in spades!). And for me, this really didn’t disappoint. I loved it, and I’ll be recommending it to friends (ex-German degree friends as well!). 

Many thanks to NetGalley and Picador for my copy of this wonderful book.
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You don't need to be interested in the art world of the Bauhaus days but, if so, this will be very interesting reading. Told in the first person narrative by one of the main characters the reader becomes involved in the personal lives and unfolding fears the Nazi regime was to bring upon this group of artists. With hindsight it is, of course, easy to question why on earth they didn't take seriously the warning signs - instead choosing to continue their lives as though no threat existed until it was too late.
As a fan of historical novels I found this angle made reasonably compelling reading but the writing style somehow didn't really hook me as I had hoped.

Thank you to NetGalley and Curtis Brown for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Paul Beckermann is a German artist who lives in London. When he hears about the death of one of his old art school friends, it leads him to think about his time at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau and later his life in Berlin.  It's a great story if a little sluggish in the middle. Paul is a bit hard to like as he seem quite self centred and oblivious to how his friends are feeling or what they are thinking.
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LOVED LOVED LOVED this book! The idea of Bauhaus enticed me, but the characters kept me reading. This is one of those books which present a subject to you, then make you consider it a completely different way. The Bauhaus teaching style gave a refreshing perspective; I loved the concept of a full sensory experience of something to be able to capture the essence of it or the practices of fasting and suffering to ignite a visionary creative response. Very clever. The characters are rich and believable, relatable at times. Wood's writing would appeal greatly to those who enjoy books by Christopher Isherwood. It is a book you won't be able to put down.
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The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood is a glorious examination of history and humanity. Against a swirling backdrop of an economically broken Germany seemingly rescued by a fascist regime, we meet Paul, Charlotte, Walter, Jeno, Irmi and Kaspar, six friends studying at The Bauhaus Art School in the 1920s. This tight-knit group are painters, weavers and sculptors who are dedicated to their talents and push themselves to extreme lengths to achieve greatness. Their friendship forms the crux of the book as it ebbs and flows through love, deception and treachery in a Germany teetering on the edge of a seismic shift.

The Hiding Place reminded me of The Secret History in its depiction of a close friendship group and the power struggles that exist within it. The friendship forms the basis of the novel and we watch over a decade or so as they grow first together and then apart with alliances both made and broken.

I have a keen interest in this period of history having studied it at A Level so enjoyed reading about life in Germany at this time; wheelbarrows full of money to buy a loaf of bread, notes worth trillions used as kindling for the fire and the rise of the Nazi party breeding fear and suspicion are all touched upon. Naomi Wood’s depiction of the poverty and desperation mixed with the terror of the momentum of fascism seeps from the pages, tainting the actions of the characters and influencing their decisions. This is a turbulent Germany and it is a turbulent time in the lives of our six friends.

I have to admit to not knowing a great deal about The Bauhaus itself but Naomi Wood describes this close, immersive and spectacular place of art and beauty so vividly that I felt that I was there. It is an almost secretive, cult-like world with strange traditions and its omnipresence means it is almost a seventh character. Real artists are depicted in the novel lending it an authenticity and beautiful descriptions of weaving, metal work and painting further immerse the reader in The Bauhaus world.

Told from the point of view of Paul, we learn about The Bauhaus and the events that took place there via his memories and recollections. They make for painful reading especially as we learn more about Paul in his youth. I struggled to reconcile him with the man telling us his story, watching from the sidelines as he realises that love can be all-consuming and destructive. I love a dual narrative novel especially when written as well as this. The present day is marked with an air of melancholy and regret whilst the past has an air of sadness and loss. It is terrifically powerful and emotive writing.

Days after finishing The Hiding Place I am still thinking about it and desperately missing it. It is richly textured and immersive writing which I found powerful, emotional and devastating. It is a highly recommended read from me.
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Paul Beckermann is the narrator of this tale as he looks back on his life to his early years at the Bauhaus School in Weimar which he registered at as a pupil in 1922. First we should say he is created as one of a group of six fictional students who are placed in the genuine school, with genuine staff and teachers, with the evolving politics of both the area and the then Germany – the post war economic crash and the rise of Nazism and Hitler taking control of Germany with all the subsequent tropes, truths and crises of history. Bauhaus will move to Dessau, then Stieglitz near Berlin before being finally closed. Teachers not astute enough to run will end in the Camps.
The six pupils – from various places, the lads young (and lucky) enough to have avoided military service of the First War. All are interested in working in art, but choosing this highly unconventional place to study. They mix and are trained and influenced by some extremely creative and talented (albeit misogynistic) teachers. The novel will meld the impact of this together with the friendships of the six.  Paul a painter (not necessarily a valued thing in the creative setting of Bauhaus), Walter Koenig, Jeno, Kaspar, Irmi and Charlotte.  Kaspar and Irmi become a couple and break away from Bauhaus earliest. Peter will always be obsessed with Charlotte who will be interested initially in Jeno before living with Peter. She – forced into the female “role” of weaving will still be working and evolving the longest at the Bauhaus in Stieglitz as the School is finally destroyed. Walter is seemingly lacking the creativity of the others, and is sullen and difficult, more of an outsider. Gay, with a largely hidden interest in Peter, he will have an affair with Jeno (upsetting Charlotte) before moving onto a number of local Nazis – increasingly rising to power. 
The novel will therefore meld the art, the politics and the torrid passions, loves and jealousies of the six as relationships grow, fade, evolve and collapse over the years. Bauhaus and its values are  seen as an increasing challenge to the political right which means being there is increasingly dangerous – and with Walter’s links to leading Nazis the personal risk is potentially greater still.
Without acting as a “spoiler” all one can add is a key theme will be whether the six will recognise the dangers of the political situation – you might say why should they when so few did?  They move on into their working lives, with the challenges to remain as artists in a failing economy – an issue for any artist at any time.  Do they try and meet their dreams, or do they compromise? As the country lurches into extreme politics and then war what will the impact be on the six recognising that artists would come to be regarded as suspicious and potentially traitorous by the regime? Will they avoid the risks? Will the good aspects of their old friendships outweigh the personal competitiveness of their relationships and their artistic differences – to offer support that might keep the others safe as life becomes more dangerous?
First it is important to say that a pre-understanding of the politics of Bauhaus art and the political situation in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s makes it much easier to appreciate the depths of this novel and the subtle nuances of the developing situation and the possible implications. Nonetheless Wood’s key skill is to create a group of young, largely self focused people – some not really very pleasant or admirable - and create an interest in continuing to read about them and the developing story. 
A very interesting novel in what it says about art, history and politics. But it raises important questions too as to personal responsibility and the damage one can do by what ones does – or does not do – to, or for, others in your life. Well worth the read.
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A little disappointing, this.  Six students at the legendary Bauhaus modern art school act as guides to the heady times they had as students there, when it moved first from the title city of the Weimar Republic, to somewhere else, and then to Berlin itself, just before Hitler gets power.  It was a chequered past, for it was never really loved by the "citizens" living alongside the students – and these pages prove why, for none of the characters are likeable.  In fact they almost drove me to skimread – almost, mind – so I could find the Germany outside their stuck-up mindsets.  It's evoked rather well, from the times of hyperinflation to the almost flapper world of the capital, but I felt rather cheated that such a unique time in European history was presented through the lens of boring, up themselves, druggy art students.  The core of the book is supposed to be a mental flashback, a confession, from one of them now living in England in the 1960s, but even at that age he seems ignorant of how yawnsome his unrequited love, and everything else, might be.  If he'd been less reluctant to get us all to the more interesting big reveals, which circle back to Weimar, and even more unique (sic) times, I'd have thought more highly of this novel.  But as it is I really think those that lived through it all in real life deserved better.
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An interesting and well written book looking at a dark historical period from a different perspective. However, in the end I didn't feel it quite managed to capture the historical or the group tensions well enough to maintain my interest.
Thank you to netgalley and Pan Macmillan for a copy if this book
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This is an academic love affair set in the tense political climate of 1920s Germany and written in the vein of The Secret History and If We Were Villains. The isolated setting, academic focus, and creative aptitude of the characters soon become sinister inclusions in this dark and foreboding narrative that unveiled as many secrets as mysteries it created. There is an unsettling tension that is maintained throughout and the rocky political time period, that becomes part of the background, only helps to heighten and disturb the events that occur.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Naomi Wood, and the publisher, Picador, for this opportunity.
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Narrated in the 1960s in flashback by Paul Brickman (formerly Beckermann), a German artist living on the south coast of England, this novel charts the rise of the Third Reich from the early 1920s through the eyes of a group of Bauhaus students, and indeed through the fortunes of the Bauhaus itself. 

The death of Walter Konig, one of the group, and an invitation to his funeral, prompts a journey of self-reflection, a confession, which Paul freely recognises will be only one of several possible versions of events. 

Having said that, however, he then goes on to narrate events in what is on the surface a very factual manner - but it is only as the layers build up that we start to see what he has chosen to include and what he has left out, what he has glossed over, what he can only face up to as he strips away the layers of his own self-deception. His narrative hinges on his guilt about the death of one of the group, his erstwhile girlfriend Charlotte, in the Dachau camp. The tale opens with the group arriving as new students at the newly opened Bauhaus in Weimar in 1922 - there are Walter and Jeno, Kaspar and Irma, Paul and the androgynous Charlotte - Bauhaus babies. Charlotte is Czechoslovakian and Jeno is Hungarian. Paul is immediately attracted to Charlotte and they become close but the relationship remains platonic - Paul is inclined to favour a slow build. 

Walter is in love with Jeno, Paul with Charlotte, and in the background, Irma with Paul although this has less bearing on the unfolding of events. While Paul waits for love to blossom between himself and Charlotte, and after Jeno makes advances to Walter in the Turkish baths, Charlotte and Jeno embark upon a relationship. And so the stage is set for a Greek tragedy driven by jealousy and doubt. 

Over the years, the group fragments and reconfigures while in the wider world, the Bauhaus is condemned for harbouring undesirable foreigners, communists and Jews, and is raided, shut down, attacked, but manages to keep resurfacing in different locations, resisting. In contrast to the work coming out of this avant-garde setting is the jobbing work that Paul and Walter do for Ernst Steiner’s studio, churning out sentimental pastoral scenes by the yard on commission for wealthy Americans. Is this indicative of their moral relativism, which will have such an impact on Charlotte’s fate in later years? Relentlessly, in the background, revealed almost incidentally in Paul’s much more intimate narrative, is the rise of the Brown Shirts, the increasing food shortages, the spiralling inflation which renders their earnings valueless, the increasingly open hostility to Communists, Jews, foreigners on the streets. 

Naomi Wood from the start evokes the atmosphere of Brideshead Revisited and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, with her tight-knit group of students in their own little rarefied world where all rules are made to be broken. For my money though, she doesn’t quite pull it off. The narrative remains too intimate to properly reflect wider events, so the novel is never entirely sure whether it wants to be a slow reveal of the events that led to Charlotte’s death, or a reflection of the rise of the Third Reich, and it doesn’t achieve either in an entirely satisfactory manner. Paul is a narrator blinded by his obsessive love for Charlotte, his suspicion of Jeno’s motives, his immature selfishness. His blinkered vision gets in the way of our perception of the historical events happening - or is it a reflection of how easy it was for people to fail to notice what was happening around them? 

This is definitely a novel worth reading, but for those who are expecting another Secret History, my advice would be to take it on its own terms.
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Naomi Wood had brilliant success with Mrs Hemmingway last year, and now moves from the world literature to the art world. The Hiding Game is primarily set in 1930's Germany at the famous Bauhaus Art School, where six friends are just starting out in their learning of the new ideas taught there.  Paul, one of the six is the main narrator, and there are also chapters from England where he chose to live after the war. As Paul and his friends continue their journey at the school and in life, allegiances change, betrayal and love divide culminating in tragedy and blame.

Naomi Wood has chosen a really interesting period to set this book, as political changes were taking place in Germany, the economy was poor and mistrust was an undercurrent. The Bauhaus Art School went against the political feeling of the time, it was seen as communist in its ideals, and was not popular among the habitants of the towns it was based. So unpopular was it, that it closed three times and moved to three different German towns; Weimar, Dessau, and Berlin.  Having said that, it was one of the most influential art schools of the modern era with a prestigious teaching staff like Kandinsky and Klee, and whose ethos was adopted by art schools in Europe and America. Naomi Wood really brings the feeling of the period, the tension, and the cultural climate to life with her detailed knowledge of that time. The descriptive prose, the attention to the natural world is like an artists palette of colour in words, a real feast for the senses.

The six friends were all very different, and quite a strange unit. Paul was the painter which was a hard discipline at Bauhaus as they were trying to get away from painting being a fine art, and the highest of disciplines. Charlotte was also a painter but great with weaving and producing sculptures, as was Irmi, whilst Walter, Jenö and Kaspar also specialised in sculpture from everyday products. They were also from very different social backgrounds, Walter and Kasper coming from money. What they all had in common, especially in their first year was their idolisation of their teacher, Johannes Itten, whose spiritual teachings they took seriously.  This relationship did make me think of Donna Tartt's A Secret History in parts, as they became immersed in Itten's teachings,  and in their own relationships which became obsessive, causing jealousies in the group.

I  found Charlotte the most interesting character. As a female she had to overcome many obstacles to become a serious artist, women were seen as only be able to make decorative art and not taken seriously. This becomes apparent when on the second year the friends all pupils requests for their preferred discipline, and Charlotte finds herself in weaving, rather than painting or metal work. Irma also had the same problems but was more comfortable with them than Charlotte, who even went to the lengths of cutting off her hair and wearing men's clothing to be taken more seriously. Paul is at the heart of this group friends, the one who seems to be at the centre of the group when there are betrayals and arguments, and as they eventually implode he is the one who can't forgive. He wants to prove himself independent to his father, earn his own money for his fees as he doesn't come from a rich family. He never seems totally happy, I saw him as the real tortured artist struggling for money whilst following his talent. He only seemed happy, ironically, when he was earning money helping to produce traditional works of art, when his talent as an artist was appreciated in a job he kept secret from the Bauhaus where he would be criticised for this.

The Hiding Game  is a story of art, love, jealousy, obsession, and treachery set against the backdrop of the Bauhaus School.  I love reading books set in the art world, and I found this to be beautifully written, with attention to detail and diverse characters that fitted the period, and enabled many issues of that period to be discussed. A fascinating and intelligent read, that I completely fell in love with, and a book that I highly recommend.
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Paul Beckermann is the narrator of this story which starts with him arriving to study at the Weimar Bauhaus, a celebrated art college and a hotbed of modern art in the 1920s. He quickly makes friends with the other main characters; Walter, Jeno, Kaspar, Imri and Charlotte and the rest of the novel is about their lives and relationships set against a background of increasing chaos in Germany and the rise of Adolf Hitler.

The Bauhaus is an unconventional art college with equally unconventional staff so strange behaviours and general eccentricity seems to be the norm. Figurative painting is rubbished and there is a lot of emphasis on understanding the essence of things. The students respond by doing equally daft things like dressing up or starving themselves in order to get a better picture of reality. Paul seems to be infatuated with Charlotte but he doesn't seem able to tell her and she often seems lost in a haze. Later, much later, when the Bauhaus has moved to Dessau this haze is replaced by cocaine. Walter does some bad things and turns out to be a bit of a Nazi, several people might possibly be gay, the German mark is constantly devalued and the country is on the slide.

So far so good, and this might seem a ripe area for storytelling if only Paul could get his narrative together. The trouble is that half the time he doesn't quite seem to know what's going on around him and things often degenerate into a kind of blur. He doesn't notice stuff about the other characters and then he's vaguely surprised when Charlotte, who he dotes on, goes off with Jeno. There is an incident in the bath house and it's easy to guess what happened but it takes Paul a long time to read what's going on. Imri clearly fancies him throughout but he misses that too. As a kind of nihilist central character who feels very little or at least is perceived by other people as lacking feeling and opinions he doesn't bring the story to life. After he has moved to England he seems vaguely interested in telling the story of what happened but he can't be bothered to go back to someone's funeral as if that might reopen old wounds. As an older man, he still misses Charlotte - although they did manage a short and passionate relationship after she left Jeno - but he also feels some measure of guilt about his part in what happened to her. There's no real sense of an ending or resolution either.

All this adds up to a lack of passion in the novel. Naomi Wood seems more excited about the artists who taught at the Bauhaus and their methods than she does about the students and, at times, it's really hard to care about what happened at the something or other party and who went off in a sulk with who. The fasting and the bath house incident are dragged out and while they may be significant their relevance is never really drawn out in the plot as a whole. It's hard to care about them either after a while. Paul starts off as a love crossed student with an infatuation but becomes a bit of a bore by the end churning out a few regrets as he lives the life of a relatively successful artist in England. If he'd only done a few things differently, or studied and reflected events more incisively then this might have been a better novel relating to the slow burning rise of fascism in Germany and the capacity of the artistic types to fiddle while the fire was lighting! Sadly, it never manages to do that but, perhaps, if you're a big fan of the Bauhaus movement you could just enjoy it for those elements.

(The Hiding Game is published by Pan Macmillan. Thanks to the publishers and to NetGalley for an advance copy in return for a fair review.)
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Paul Beckermann, an artist now living in England, looks back to the 1920s when he lived and studied at the Bauhaus. This is a story of friendship, love and betrayal against the backdrop of Weimar Germany's descent into Nazism. Paul's knowledge of subsequent events informs the telling of the story, imbuing it with sadness and regret. It also explores human beings' failure to see what is in front of us, how we feign ignorance instead of admitting what we must surely know. It evokes the idealism of the Bauhaus and the darkness of encroaching Fascism vividly.
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Having read and loved Mrs Hemingway I was excited to see this one on NetGalley.

This was a fascinating book, and I learnt a lot about Bauhaus, about art in general and also about the economic and social situation in Germany between the wars.  It's a credit to the author, however, that you don't feel that you're learning - it doesn't feel forced.

None of the protagonists were particularly likeable, but again, that doesn't detract from your enjoyment of the book.

Highly recommended.
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