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Reviews for The Valley of Unknowing

"Although Bruno Krug, the narrator of Sington’s third novel, is one of the most garlanded authors in the German Democratic Republic, it is 20 years since he published his finest work and he has been reduced to spying for the secret police.
A romance with a pretty music student from the west provides him with renewed inspiration but he finds himself competing for her affections with Wolfgang Richter, a younger, more charismatic writer. When Richter’s new, unpublished book – a masterpiece, but dangerously subversive – comes to his attention, Krug uses his Stasi contacts to cause his rival trouble.
The Valley of Unknowing is simply superb: affecting but never melodramatic, literary but never less than thrilling. Though Krug is self-pitying, he wins our sympathy at the tragic denouement, when we learn how he has also suffered under communism. His story, like the manuscript he grudgingly admires, is “truthfully, tenderly drawn”.
Financial Times

"Dresden is the setting for this extraordinary, sometimes very funny, and extremely evocative book, which is also so powerfully captivating that I managed to read it on a train so badly delayed that I would normally have been fuming and spluttering with rage. The story is so good that I forgot that I was an hour late A very cunning and absorbing plot about the corrosion and misery of mistrust, especially the mistrust engendered by a police state. I think its the most telling thing published about East Germany since that great film The Lives of Others.
Peter Hitchens, Daily Mail

“Philip Sington’s remarkable novel The Valley of Unknowing is set firmly in an all-too-real world, albeit one that is no longer with us – to produce a literary thriller superbly anchored in time and place …
Having lived in East Germany I am astonished by Sington’s pitch-prefect recreation of that society, from the irritating daily shortages to the veil of suspicion that shrouded all dealings with anyone other than close friends, and the hypocrisy of the fraudulent socio-political game almost everyone was forced to play.
… Building towards a relentless climax, this is a brilliant, evocative and accurate novel which turns a love story and a chronicle of human weakness and self-deception into a gripping, hard-nosed authentic thriller.”
The Times

"Philip Sington has managed something quite remarkable... a flawless, gripping and penetrating depiction of life in the former East Germany, wrapped up as a literary thriller... His feeling for not just time and place, but atmosphere and way of life is perfect in a way that no other Western writer, not even John le Carr, has achieved.”
The Oldie

"A compelling story of jealousy and betrayal behind the Iron Curtain. Personal and political limitations shape this subtle novel... which balances serious and menacing questions of moral compromise with ironic comments on Actually Existing Socialism... Atmospheric, poignant, witty, but mournful too, Sington's novel cleverly considers what might have been the back story to real life tragedies.”
Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)

"Sington, who proved his knack for historically based thrillers has woven a tale that is as accessible as it is intricate The characters in Valley are all, if not redeemed, at least humanized. If some fall victim to the forces of history - and the foibles that inevitably complicate relationships - their struggles are often admirable, and always entertaining.”
USA Today

"Any successful literary thriller is a balancing act. The best work of the genre is intelligent without ever being pretentious, is carefully constructed without calling undue attention to its architecture, and, more than anything, skilfully counterpoints its setting and theme in exemplary fashion. Fulfilling all these criteria, Philip Singtons latest novel is set amongst the labyrinthine mind-games and self-deceptions of the former East Germany in its twilight years. It is an engrossing, occasionally brilliant read for suspense fans, history buffs, and spurned literati alike The [main] characters looming downfall is difficult for one to tear oneself away from. Krug is a wonderfully realised creation, a deceitful, womanising coward whom Sington nonetheless imbues with vulnerability and genuine pathos The tragedy of his fall is underscored by Singtons rich evocation of life behind the Iron Curtain. His East Germany feels real in every detail.”
Irish Examiner

"The Valley of Unknowing is the sort of novel that once youve finished reading it you regret having to put it away in the bookshelf. Philip Sington has successfully combined a poignant love story with a seductive thriller...
Singtons recreation of a past world, in this case the oppressive society of East Germany, brings to mind the masterful Alan Furst, whose classic spy novels depict Europe just before World War II. Like Furst, Sington creates well-drawn supporting characters; even the secret police are believable and dont come across as stick figures...
At first, the story moves slowly, but gradually the tension rises and the plot becomes complex and the pace relentless. If one reads carefully, the clues to this thriller are salted throughout the book. Sington doesnt miss a step. The story is a haunting one of a flawed man who stumbles in a changing world The novel surprises up to the last page.”
The Washington Independent Review of Books

"The Valley of Unknowing unspools with strangling strands of terrifying farce. This novel was a true joy to read.”
Dayton Daily News

"A remarkable novel, the first in English to give us a nuanced portrait of life in Communist East Germany, its absurdity, its menace, and its pervasive sense of betrayal.”
Joseph Kanon, author of The Good German

"This fine novel offers a mix of politics and romance... A suspenseful international thriller involving the Byzantine workings of the Workers and Peasants State. Sington deftly manages to capture both that regime ... and the fickle intricacies of publishing, demonstrating his familiarity with each. A well-crafted novel that should attract readers of both literary and high-end genre fiction.”
Booklist

"A complex tale of artistic aspirations, romantic jealousies, and theft . . . Fans of Philip Kerr will appreciate the historical accuracy and intrigue of this Cold Warera literary thriller.”
Publishers Weekly

"Sington, a journalist as well as novelist, effectively details life under communism, but ultimately this is neither political study nor endofCold War thriller, but a quiet meditation on betrayal and human misunderstanding.”
Library Journal

"Philip Sington's novel contemplates serious subjects, but the narrative is often light-hearted and funny. Bruno is self-absorbed, but charming, and the reader soon begins to root for him. Over the course of the story, Sington carefully constructs a complicated world with a robust, nuanced character at the center... The strength of Sington's novel lies in the characterization of Bruno Krug This is where Sington's mastery is on display. By creating a charming narcissist who has gotten himself into a troubling scrape, Sington allows us an intimate and evolving portrait of life behind the Iron Curtain... The People's Champion of Art and Culture [is] a darling of the State and enjoys a degree of freedom and protection that others do not. We realize the terror of totalitarianism as Bruno does, and the impact is far more stunning than if Sington had merely narrated it.”
Bookbrowse (Editor's Choice)


Where to buy The Valley of Unknowing:

  • Rbooks (Random House)

  • Waterstones

  • Amazon

  • WH Smith

  • Foyles


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