Non-fiction book of the month: The House by the Lake

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Thomas Harding made his name as a history writer with Hanns and Rudolf - a bestselling story of a German Jew who fled to Britain and became responsible, after the war, for tracking down the former Kommandant of Auschwitz. John Le Carré called it "a gripping thriller, an unspeakable crime, an essential history". The House by the Lake is Harding's long-awaited new book.

In 1993, Thomas Harding's grandmother took him to Berlin to visit an unassuming house that stood by a lake. Here, she told him, she had lived as a young girl - it was the house from which she'd been driven by Nazis fifty years earlier. In 2013, Harding returned to Berlin, haunted by the memory of the house, but found it derelict, scheduled to be demolished. As he walked through the empty house and its grounds, he noticed how the layers of its history surfaced and overlapped: a scar in the ground where the Berlin Wall had once run through, photographs slipped between floorboards. He became determined to write the house's story, and the story of the five families who had, one after the other, made it their home.

The House By the Lake is subtitled A Story of Germany, and it's in this melding of the personal and the historical that Harding's book truly shines. Few countries in Europe have had a more tumultuous history than Germany; from a collection of province-states to a unified nation, from a bastion of National Socialism to a Cold War battleground, it has had to adapt again and again. In tracing the effect of history on the lives of a few, Harding brings old stories to life.

The House by the Lake was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award 2015, longlisted for the Orwell Prize 2016 and a Radio 4 Book of the Week.

What the critics said:

"Personal and panoramic, heart-wrenching yet uplifting, this is history at its most alive." – A D Miller, author of Snowdrops

"Harding's great achievement [is] that he has painted a large canvas of history, but done so with glinting individual stories." – The Guardian 

About the author

Thomas Harding is an author and journalist who has written for the Financial Times, Sunday Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, among other publications. He co-founded a television station in Oxford, England, and for many years was an award-winning documentary maker. He also ran a local newspaper in West Virginia, winning the West Virginia Association of Justice’s Journalist of the Year Award, before moving back to England in 2011, where he lives with his family. His #1 internationally bestselling book Hanns and Rudolf was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award in 2013 and won the JQ-Wingate Prize in 2015. It has been translated into more than eighteen languages and has been optioned to be made into a film. Published in 2014, Kadian Journal is Thomas' heartbreaking memoir of the loss of his 14-year-old son, Kadian.

You can find Thomas on Facebook and Twitter @thomasharding 

Thomas also explains in The Guardian what influence Brexit has had on the house by the lake and his own deeply ambivalent relationship with Germany

Q&A with Thomas

As author of our non-fiction book of the month for July, Thomas will be answering questions about The House by the Lake and his other books. Head over to the discussion thread to ask yours by 23 August. We'll post his answers to 15 of the best questions at the start of September.

Book giveaway: 

We've got 50 copies of The House by the Lake to give away to Mumsnetters to read and share their thoughts about it on the discussion thread. Fill in the form below to apply for your copy.

You don't have to win a copy to take part in the discussion or ask Thomas a question - everyone is welcome to come and discuss the book.  If you’re not lucky enough to bag one, you can always buy a Kindle editionpaperback copy or audiobook.

This giveaway closes 11 July so apply now!

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