My grateful thanks to Karen Bultiauw at Accent Press for a copy of An American Decade by Richard Aronowitz in return for an honest review.
An American Decade was published by Accent on 3rd April 2017 and is available for purchase through the publisher links here.
An American Decade is a novel that connects the current political climate with that of the tumultuous 1930s; a decade in which the world was changed forever.
After the death of his wife, Christoph leaves Germany in 1930 and eventually finds success as a singer on Broadway. As the decade unfolds he witnesses the rapid rise of American organisations sympathetic to Hitler. The ominous presence and popularity of these far right groups become a constant reminder of his inaction. As the human horrors of Nazism close in he is forced to act and sets sail across the Atlantic in search of a hidden piece of his history.
Evocative, heartfelt and beautifully written, An American Decade is a must-read novel for those who recognise the enduring impact of history and human frailties.
My Review of An American Decade
Widowed at 30 after only a few months of marriage, German Christoph heads to New York to make a new life, leaving more than just memories behind in Germany.
I can’t say that I enjoyed An American Decade. This is not because it isn’t beautifully written, evocative and intelligent, because it is all those things and more. I didn’t enjoy it because it made me face some terrible truths about our society and our world in a way that made me think not much has changed. I know this will sound mad, but reading An American Decade made me think of eating high quality bitter chocolate when I’m used to Dairy Milk. I appreciated its quality but I found the message hard to swallow.
Even at the moments when he redeems himself, I despised Christoph who is the personification of humanity’s ability for stasis and self-deception. His selective presentations of the truth and his justifications for inaction as being best for others, mirror the way in which the world of the 1930s stood by and watched the rise of Nazi-ism. Christoph is a creation of genius by Richard Aronowitz. At the same time as I wanted to shake Christoph until his teeth rattled, I had a horrible feeling that, had I been him, I may have behaved very similarly in my treatment of Miriam and Anne, withholding full truth and effectively deceiving myself. Christoph’s edited letters to Miriam made me fume. However, I also fully understood why he behaved as he did and that is what made An American Decade so ensnaring. Brutalised in the trenches of WW1, Christoph cannot bear to think history will repeat itself and not all of his impotence is self-inflicted.
The sense of place and time is so cleverly done. We have a picture of America and Germany painted through ideology as well as physical description so that there is an intensity to the settings that echoes through the pages like Christoph’s voice through the concert halls. The descriptions of New York took me back to the brief time I lived there so effectively. Using popular culture, newspaper reports, letters and Christoph’s first hand experiences the reader is given a vivid and searing view of the times. It is not a comfortable picture and the more Christoph achieves the American Dream, the more the contrasts work so effectively.
An American Decade is a disturbing book. I’m not sure I’ve entirely come to grips with it and reading it has left me feeling perturbed and actually quite anxious. It has made me think and question both my own personality and the world around me now, as well as in its past. Unsettling, perfectly crafted and beautifully written An American Decade is a troubling book. I think you should read it and decide for yourself!
About Richard Aronowitz
Richard Aronowitz was born in 1970 and grew up in rural Gloucestershire. His debut novel, Five Amber Beads, was published by Flambard Press in 2006 and his second novel, It’s Just the Beating of My Heart, was published by Flambard Press in 2010. His third novel, An American Decade, is published by Accent Press and Five Amber Beads will be republished by Accent Press in June 2017. He is married with one son and lives in Oxford.