Book Review: The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood

The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood

About The Book

In 1922, Paul Beckermann arrives at the Bauhaus art school and is immediately seduced by both the charismatic teaching and his fellow students. Eccentric and alluring, the more time Paul spends with his new friends the closer they become, and the deeper he falls in love with the mesmerising Charlotte. But Paul is not the only one vying for her affections, and soon an insidious rivalry takes root.

As political tensions escalate in Germany, the Bauhaus finds itself under threat, and the group begins to disintegrate under the pressure of its own betrayals and love affairs. Decades later, in the wake of an unthinkable tragedy, Paul is haunted by a secret. When an old friend from the Bauhaus resurfaces, he must finally break his silence.

From the author of the award-winning Mrs Hemingway, Naomi Wood’s The Hiding Game is a beautifully written, powerful and suspenseful novel about the dangerously fine line between love and obsession, set against the most turbulent era of our recent past.

My Review

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.

Where You Can Buy It

My thanks to the publisher Pan Macmillan for providing me a copy of the book via Netgalley.

The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood was published on the 11th July 2019 in both hardcover and ebook.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood

  1. Rich writing, close group of friends and secrets…. This is my next read. Off to my local bookstore, I hope they have it. Otherwise, kindle tonight. Thanks Beverley!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I sure will! Only my local bookstore didn’t have it and I was compelled to buy a copy of Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott. A copy of Hiding Game is on my Kindle. So the only thing left is to decide which book to read first. I will come back once I finish the Hiding Game.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And so I finished reading Hiding Game this weekend. It was the second book I bought because of your mention of Donna Tart’s first novel. I am a sucker for the isolated setting, especially any version of Academia, young adults obsessed with their subject, with their questionable understanding of ‘love’. Thank you Beverley for your review. As there was a chance I wouldn’t even have read it. As I wrote earlier, I had a copy of Swan Song waiting to be devoured and I paused the Hiding Game when, early on in the story, I was told by the narrator where it was going or rather how Charlotte’s life, one of a group of Bauhaus friends, ends. I am not opposed to this literary device, it was the manner of her death that brought already a sense of dread and I pondered whether I wanted to engage in another story set in the 20s and 30s Germany. (Some stories, some archetypes affect us more than others and I am still learning how and what to engage with, without the cost outweighing the gains.) But after a short pause, I came back to this book and immersed myself fully in the story, which is easily done given the Naomi Woods’ writing. I liked the pace, the scene setting, the real life Bauhaus characters It’s a beautiful, nuanced read. In a way its all the better for being aware where the story is going.

        Liked by 1 person

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