The title of this review might very well have been ‘Two Men in Berlin’, since the writing of both novels was obviously closely connected to their authors’ stay in the city as guests of Creative New Zealand’s Berlin Writers Residency, respectively in 2003–04 and 2007–08. Yet if their choice of Berlin as the stage of action was almost inevitable, they must have decided on good reasons for placing women at the centre of their stories.
By contrast, Jones’s woman in Berlin is an illegal migrant from North Africa who has found her way to the city to search for her son that her lover – an African-American-German – had abducted more than three years before from a hotel where she had worked and met him. Having been helped to find out his address, she makes arrangements with him to see her boy, though only irregularly and for just one hour each time. Moreover, she is made to pay for this ‘favour’, which forces her to borrow money from, and pawn the belongings of, the blind man she works for as a domestic aide and carer.