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Although the story of chancer Joe is deftly written and narrated, the Cold War really only appears in the final hour of this talking book. However it is a very detailed and finally observed history of the end of World War II and its aftermath. I kept expecting something to happen, but it never really did.
I've long been a fan of John Lawton and I think this is one of his best books. Wilderness is a really likeable, roguish anti-hero, whose personality is brought out well through the story. I also like the attention which the author pays to developing the other characters, particularly Nell. As with other John Lawton books you learn a lot about the time, place and events within which the story is placed and I found the detail absolutely fascinating. He really does evoke the chaos, the grimness, horror, and the ludicrous, sometimes funny, events that characterised Germany, particularly Berlin, at the end of the war. He also draws out the different reactions of the survivors - those who will survive at any cost (who will do anything at any cost) and those who cannot continue to carry the burden of what they have experienced. I can't agree with others who criticise the ending. It stands up well alongside other endings which leave the reader to use their imagination - it made me think of the classic ending to the Italian Job and Michael Cain saying "Just wait while I think of something" (apologies if I have got the quote wrong) as the coach teeters on the edge of the precipice.