Dr. B.: A Novel
Based (roughly) on the story of the author’s grandfather, Dr. B follows Immanuel Birnbaum, a Jew who fled to Sweden in the years preceding World War II but found himself caught up in a web of espionage which would lead to his arrest. This is not, as so many spy books about World War II are, a fast-paced story with endless twists and turns. Instead, the author takes a different approach, telling the story in a slow, poetic tone which makes it a thing of beauty to read.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t make it easy to follow. Beyond what is happening inside the characters’ minds, little happens; it took a hundred pages for the espionage to be introduced. Before then, Immanuel mainly walked through town, spoke to various people, and reflected on all around him. As an image of life in pre-war Sweden through the eyes of a Jewish refugee, it’s fascinating. As a novel about a man involved in potentially dangerous work, it falls rather flat.
There are definitely those who will enjoy this book as a work of literature for its poetry alone. I found it a slog to get through and enjoyed it only sporadically.
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