I think very well of Naomi Wood on the basis of this book. She’s a serious, intelligent writer deeply engaged with her material, and in my opinion The Hiding Game is miles better than Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, to which it’s been compared. I was interested in the setting, the Bauhaus during its brief 12-year-life before it was snuffed out by the Nazis (2019, incidentally, is the 100-year anniversary of the Bauhaus). I was interested in the Germany of the time, which is very well-created. My problem was that I didn’t really care about any of the characters or their entanglements.
The book is seen through the eyes of Paul Beckermann, a Bauhaus student who escaped Germany and has made his life in England. His story centres round his love for Charlotte, one of the close-knit group of 6 students, who died in the Buchenwald concentration camp. Now as an old man Paul relives his relationship with Charlotte and comes to realise his own part in her fate. Part of his blindness was his love for her and fear of losing her, and part came from the privileging of the world of art and its pursuit of truth and beauty over the political reality of the times.
To do justice to the book, I should quote from the glowing review in the Irish Times:
It takes tremendous skill to set a novel in a moment of history that is already so comprehensively represented in both fact and fiction and manage to reveal something new. It requires even greater ability to deliver a personal narrative that is not overshadowed by what we now appreciate as perhaps the most significant period in global history.
Read it for yourself. I did find the personal narrative “overshadowed”, but you might not, and Naomi Wood is definitely a writer worth your time.