I just spent a few days in Berlin, which is probably what triggered my entry for the 100 word challenge. I’ll try and make next week’s lighter.

This week’s challenge is to add 100 words to:

….The flame flickered before….

The Last Candle

She opened the door of a kitchen cupboard, bare apart from one solitary candle. Only one by which to remember all those they’d taken. Her father, her mother and her two brothers. Her whole family. What would she do when this one burned out? She struck a match and lit it, fastidiously blowing out the match and throwing it in the bin. Then she sat and watched, seeing the images of those she loved inside the flame. She knew it was only a matter of time.

The single remaining candle turned out to be enough. The flame flickered before they broke down the door.

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On 5th November, I was lucky enough to win a copy of Berlin, a new volume in the City-Lit series of Oxygen Books via Me And My Big Mouth, otherwise known as Scott Pack.

I’d like to blame the post (mail) for my tardiness, but actually the book arrived quite quickly and it’s taken me until now to finish it. My excuse? Well, this is no novel. At no point did I feel compelled to continue reading to find out what happens next. It’s also not a book of short stories, in which the satisfaction of the conclusion of one story provides the impetus to start the next. And yet, I found plenty to interest me.

The book is a series of extracts that describe or take place in Berlin, a city with a varied and fascinating history. The extracts, chosen by editors Heather Reyes and Katy Derbyshire, are all excellently written and provide vivid insights into this city that I’ve never seen, but have certainly heard about.

My first memory was when, as a young child, I received a postcard from my brother. It showed a photo of the border and a sign that began with “WARNING” in large letters. At the time, I didn’t know about Jerusalem, where I now live and its similar border stopping Jews from visiting the Western Wall just as East Germans – East Berliners in particular – were forbidden to visit their family and friends in the West.

For me, the most interesting parts of the book tell of the times before, during and after the Second World War, as well as life in the German Democratic Republic. I read these sections with fascination and also learned some interesting facts. Heinrich Heine predicted the burning of books, of which his own books fell victim. In the GDR, there was one Stasi agent or informer for every sixty-three people.

There are typos, but not many, and none that I couldn’t fathom.

In short, this is one of (in the words of The Bookseller), “An inviting new series of travel guides which collects some of the best writing on European cities to give a real flavour of the place,” and it’s definitely worth a read.