Book Review: Dirk Kurbjuweit’s Fear asks how far would you go to protect your family?

Dirk Kurbjuweit is deputy editor-in-chief at Der Spiegel, receiving numerous awards for his writing over the years. Fear is the first of his works to be translated into English, as well as being adapted for film, television and radio.

Fear is set in Berlin and East Germany, around the time the Berlin Wall went up. Randolph Tiefenthaler, the book’s main protagonist, was born into this time, where fear was all around him, yet his father’s gun collection wasn’t something he was comfortable with.

The protagonist, Randolph, speaks to you and when I began reading I really felt like the story was being read aloud to me. It was oddly comforting. Fear, at times, reads like a true story – it is after all based on some truths from the author’s past.

The characters in the novel build nicely, and you do feel a sense of intrigue with many of them – not only with Randolph, but also with his father, wife and their children. The book delves into Randolph’s relationship with his father from childhood,  through into teenage years and then to a time when he is a father himself. Alongside the development of this father-son relationship, Kurbjuweit also explores Randolph’s other relationships. A bleak marriage is turned around by someone close by, and you can’t help but wonder if this disruption to their life didn’t happen, just where would their marriage stand?

The stalking neighbour, living in the basement flat below Randolph, is integral to the development of the novel’s main storyline. He’s depicted as having “mental issues”, and you’re left wondering how much truth there is to his statements. Randolph’s failure to act on his neighbour’s accusations and statements, leads things to get out of control, and has you asking yourself – how far would you go to protect your family? For this novel at least, the answer is bitter sweet.

Fear took me four days to read, it was a suspenseful read and as the climax came closer I just had to keep reading. I knew a twist was coming, sometimes the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. If this novel shows one things, it is that “Nobody knows everything about another person’s life”.

Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit is available now through Text Publishing.