Weidermann is a journalist rather than an academic, and so this is a compact and colourful account, with the breathless pace of war reporting rather than the ponderous, long-winded prose one usually associates with German history books by German historians. Many of the proponents wrote extensively and eloquently about their experiences, and Weidermann draws heavily on these first-hand accounts to great effect. By favouring impressionistic reportage over background detail, his narrative is sometimes a bit confusing, but it gives the reader a vivid sense of what it actually felt like to live through this exhilarating and terrifying time...
He is a subtle storyteller, and one of his great skills is the way in which he pins down celebrated people at specific moments and then demonstrates how their reactions shaped their subsequent lives. He brings to life long forgotten and seemingly insignificant and quirky episodes in history, and in so doing shows how unpredictably and randomly it unfolds, and how it is full of unlikely heroes who occupy the stage for a few moments, only to leave it for ever.
Weidermann chooses the present tense to guide us through the weeks from innocent popular rejoicing to blood-soaked endgame. This is supposed to make everything seem more immediate and lively. It may work for some readers, but others may find it relentless. Luckily, personal tastes hardly matter when a story has such great pace, action and character.
As in all the best stories, the characters are unforgettable.