It's been a few years since I read this, but I can still comfortably say this is my favorite fiction book. Every time I picked this up I was transported into the world created by W.G. Sebald. It felt almost like I was the character in the book. Very few fiction books grab me like this one did, where while I'm reading it the only thing I want to be doing is reading this book. When I wasn't reading it I was thinking about it. When I was sleeping I was dreaming about it. Reading this book, in fact, is like being the main character in Sebald's dream, and the dream is Austerlitz. I don't know how else to express it. Another favorite author of mine is Alan Furst. His books are more like watching a great spy movie, full of drama, where you have a personal investment in what happens to the character. So reading Furst is like watching a densely detailed movie. And reading Austerlitz is like you're in the movie yourself, totally immersed. You don't read this book so much as you experience it, or enter into it's world.
I really dislike criticizing someone's work when so much effort has obviously gone into it. I'm not a professional historian nor writer. So my criticisms are personal in that this is not the book that I had hoped to read based on the title.My problem with this book isn't with the material or information presented. It does what it says on the tin: it's all about Germany in 1945. And that's reason enough for me to read it. It's just that it reads like a first draft of a dissertation, or more like the way we were taught to write in high school back in the '70s. The author tells you what he's about to present in the chapter, then presents each point with a few supporting sentences. This goes on for a chapter's length, then everything is summed up again, basically a repeat of what was said at the beginning of the chapter. This rather tedious style gets old quickly. I was quite relieved to come upon the concluding chapter.There simply isn't much narrative flow in this history. Regardless, I still recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of postwar Germany. There's simply too much interesting information presented to pass up. It's just too bad this wasn't written by a better stylist because the subject matter is dense with drama, but you'll find little sense of that here.