Berlin Syndrome by Melanie Joosten

This is Melanie Joosten’s first novel – and what a ripper of a tale it is. I reckon Ms Joosten must be a die-hard fan of Hitchcock, because this is one writer who seems to relish the power of suspense. The novel begins quite slowly, describing those first moments of girl-meets-boy in a foreign city far from home. The attraction between Clare and Andi is mutual, the laughs and desire genuine – it all seems like a pretty good holiday romp from Clare’s perspective. However, all good things must come to an end.

The pace of the novel picks up as the horror of the story sets in. The story is set in Andi’s crumbling apartment block in the middle of Berlin. The apartment becomes the centre of Clare’s life when Andi refuses to allow her to leave. She is a prisoner. Joosten aptly demonstrates the power of obsession in her protagonist, allowing the reader to be swept up in the never-ending futility of Clare’s position. By taking on both of her characters’ positions, however, she does tend to lose sight of the real picture she is painting. Time is swept aside and details become smudged, as the violence within the relationship grows. This makes for eerie reading.

Berlin Syndrome is an astonishing debut novel from an author who understands the twists and turns of emotion and fear. Perhaps this book should be made compulsory reading for all those young women out there about to embark on an overseas adventure.