The Empire of the Senses by Alexis Landau

The Empire of the Senses

A sweeping, gorgeously written debut: a novel of duty to family and country, the dictates of passion, and blood ties unraveling in the charged political climate of Berlin between the world wars.Lev Perlmutter, an assimilated, cultured German Jew, enlists to fight in World War I, leaving behind his gentile wife, Josephine, and their children, Franz and Vicki. Moving between Lev's and Josephine's points of view, the first part of the novel focuses ...

Details The Empire of the Senses

TitleThe Empire of the Senses
Release DateMar 17th, 2015
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Cultural, Germany, Literature, 20th Century, Jewish, War, World War I, Literary Fiction

Reviews The Empire of the Senses

  • cameron
    Great idea for an interesting plot. The marriage of a German Jew to a Christian German aristocrat before WW1 and his life though the first war and all the way to the 50’s. Great descriptive prose of cities and the experience of the war but his life during WW2 was sketchy andCompressed. in general, this was a dull read andDisappointing.
  • Patty
    The Empire Of The SensesByAlexis LandauWhat it's all about...This book is about a family...that somehow manages to survive WWI and the years after WWI...just before Hitler manages to come into power. Lev and Josephine...married...parents to Franz and Vicki. Lev is Jewish...Josephine is not. Franz is a closeted homosexual involved in Hitler youth groups...Brown Shirts...even though his father is Jewish. Lev and Josephine do not love each other...t...
  • Candace
    I was very excited about this novel but even though I was on a World War II reading binge, I was unable to form enough of a connection with the characters to finish it.It was as though the characters were floating through their lives connected only by the slightest of strings. There are enough developments in the story for some real emotional grip, but it does not happen.It's a quality book and I'm glad others are enjoying it. For me, however, it...
  • David
    My review appears in New York Journal of Books. Read that review first. Additional remarks that appeared in a different and now defunct publication begin with the next paragraph.Jewish books: The Empire of the Senses probes Jewish identity in Weimar GermanyWhere does acculturation end and assimilation begin? How do overlapping ethnic/religious and national identities on the one hand, and majority and minority cultures on the other, shape our indi...
  • Lorraine
    After reading so many books about war, I was hesitant to read this book. To my delight this book was more about the characters and the turns their lives took than about the two world wars. I really enjoyed the twists and turns in the plot. Ultimately, this book could have been set in any time period because, at it's core, it is about the highs and lows of life--love and loss. When I finished the book, I was pleasantly satisfied that I had had an ...
  • Lucy
    Disappointing. I expected to like this much more. I know some readers have enjoyed this book, but I found it an exhausting slog. I felt cheated by the resolution, which was much too neat. I didn't find the characters or their stories emotionally compelling. Instead, I felt deluged by every possible detail the author discovered in her research, which, sadly, does not make for an enjoyable read.
  • Karen
    At the beginning of WWI Lev Perlmutter, an assimilated German Jew married to a non-Jewish woman enlists in the German army. Assigned to be a medic, he ends up in the Pale of Settlement, where he falls in love with Leah, a widow. As the war winds down, he deserts before the Russians occupy the area. Part 2 takes place in 1927. His son Franz, a closeted homosexual joins the SA. His daughter, Vicki falls in love with Geza, a young Jew who Lev knew a...
  • Harve Lemelin
    The author must be commended for developing characters (that are in some cases weak and despicable) and integrating these individuals into the lesser known historical arenas like the eastern front of the First World War and Germany during the post-First World War era. It did take me sometime to read this novel because of the character development and plodding (at times) storyline. But after completing the book, I do believe that this was the aim ...
  • Noam Sienna
    I read this on my phone, so when I started I didn't have a sense of how long it was, and I'm a fast reader; so when it still felt like I was at the beginning of the story after a few hours of reading, I was a little surprised, until I checked and saw that it was 1200 pages. Oh. I found the second part more engaging than the first, although both halves could have used more editing. Several of the references to Jewish practices or ideas were just "...
  • Janet
    I find that overall i did enjoy this book. I did get lost in the timing - i couldn't tell if it was a month or a year that had gone by only to find out that it was just a week. I did find that I was talking back to narrator - agreeing or disagreeing with a move a character made (sure sign that the book was stuck in me :) )It was a interesting read. I almost wished there were pictures to go along with it.
  • Susan
    A beautiful, complicated love story spanning the pre-WWI-post-WWII years, this novel follows the various stories of the members of a "mixed-race" family and those with whom they fall in love, taking the reader through the social strata of Berlin to the Eastern Front of WWI, to post-WWI Germany and the rise of Nazi racism, and the quest of some for a true Jewish homeland and for others the freedom they imagine in the New Worlds of the Americas.
  • Zeljana
    I really liked this book and it is probably one of my favourite reads this year. It covers a long period of time and suffers the same problem as many similar books in that this time is not spread out in a balanced manner. However, it was a new and interesting take on WWI, Weimar Germany and its aftermath.
  • Rachel
    Definitely my favorite literary fiction novel as of yet this year. Granted, I was drawn to it in part because of the subject matter. I've longed for a novel that described the fallen world of European Jewry, particularly the largely assimilated one of German Jewry, before WWII. But much like the Fatherland itself, the current Jewish narrative seems to focus most concretely on the present. The Shoah was the maw from which we were all birthed--and ...
  • Jill Meyer
    Alexis Landau's first novel, "The Empire of the Senses", is set in Berlin, with some side scenes in western Russia, Argentina, and Palestine. But it is a novel basically about Berliners, and about the Jewish/Christian family of Lev Pearlmutter and his wife, Josephine, and their two children, Franz and Vicki. It's a story about a "mixed marriage" and the illicit love for others outside of it.The book begins in 1914 as Lev Pearlmutter leaves his fa...
  • Jessi
    I’m going to share one of my reading secrets with you: I have an obsession with World War II and the Holocaust. Fiction or nonfiction, if a book is set between 1933-1945 I am easily inspired to pick it up. So, I am well versed in the literary world of this time period. I was starting to feel a bit burned out on the subject but suddenly in the last several years authors are starting to tackle lesser explored parts of this history. The Empire of ...
  • Joy Matteson
    Debut author Alexis Landau has created a dramatic historical novel spanning over twenty years of early 20th century Berlin. She centers her tale on the family of Lev Perlmutter, an assimilated Jewish German, married to an aristocratic and haughty Gentile wife, with two young children. In part 1, Lev is drafted into World War I, and finds himself internally conflicted between his familial duty back home and his Jewish mistress he meets during his ...
  • Becky Motew
    3.5 stars for its ambition and its frequently engaging quality. A family saga at heart and because of what we know about what is coming to Germany and to the Jews, everything seems especially poignant. A little detail like the rabbi not liking beets because they look like blood seems ominous. Another might be the Russian Jews rounded up for lice treatment in WWI, which foreshadows the much more deadly rounding up to come.One often wonders how the...
  • Lorin Cary
    Alexis Landau, The Emnpire of the SensesLev Perlmutter is a Berliner married to a woman whose family, steeped in military tradition, hates him because he is a Jew. Lev hopes that his service in WWI will gain him honor in their eyes. He serves on the eastern front where he sees less combat than service, and he falls in love with a Jewish woman whose husband is in the Russian army and thought to be dead. By the late 1920s Lev is back at work at the...
  • Lindley
    I feel like I've read a lot of historical fiction lately that takes place during or around the World Wars, yet Empire of the Senses was unique in that the war wasn't really its focus. The first part of the novel takes place on the Eastern Front, but it focuses more on Lev's feelings about being separated from his family, and the relationship he develops with a local woman.The second part picks up with Lev's family in Germany in the late 20's, and...
  • Michael Selvin
    Thé Flight of a ButterflyIn a light impressionistic style, the story of a melancholy, assimilated German Jew, slowly weaves it way between the two great wars. In a microcosm of Germany, the novel describes a love affair, marriage, and collapse and the impact on the lives of the family members. The protagonist, without much thought or self-knowledge, stumbles through a love affair with a German woman to begin a failing marriage, attempting to mai...
  • Annie
    One of the most difficult things to teach the students in the World War II class I helped with last semester was the perversive, virulent anti-Semitism in Germany in the first half of the twentieth century. They were familiar with some of the tropes in Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda, but they just didn't get it. I wish I could have handed them Alexis Landau's The Empire of the Senses. While the novel is also an interesting study in love and sacrific...
  • Anna Gallegos
    To call this a love story would be trite. The Empire of the Senses is a fantastic character-driven first novel by Alexis Landau. This book is about interactions and how the Pearlmutter family collides with their Jewish roots and each other during and after WWI. It's a refreshing break from the endless number of historical fiction novels written about Jews during WWII. This is about the lead up, and how ethnicity affects interpersonal relationship...
  • Nancy
    For the most part, it kept my interest. Interesting perspective of the time between the two world wars. Sometimes the pace was too slow, and some of the paragraphs/sentences were too repetitive. Some of the scenes and language in the first part of the book were a little too graphic and vulgar for my liking. I think the second part of the book was better.In trying to make sense of the title, I came across this quote that provided me with an unders...
  • Florence Primrose
    Lev Perlmutter, an assimilated, cultured German Jew enlists in World War I and is stationed in a small Russian village where he meets Leah, a Jewess, and falls in love. After returning home nearing thhe end of the war he realizes his marriage to Josephine, a Christian, has no meaning to either of them.Several years later Geza, Leah's son, inadvertently meets Vicki, Lev's daughter, and fall in love.This is a beautifully written novel.
  • Debra Golden
    I was pulled in to the voices of not just one, but four members of a family in Germany from pre-WW1 to the mid 1930's and their loves, longings, and secrets involving those. It's a complex and empathetic tale of a mixed ("true" German wife married to a Jew) and their identities as mostly middle class.
  • Blaine Morrow
    Saga that follows a German Jew as he enlists and serves in World War I, becomes disillusioned, falls in love, returns to his wife and family, watches his children make choices that bring him pain, and grows old in a foreign land. The plot moves so well that, despite 470+ pages, I wished the story were prolonged. The characters are well drawn and believable, and the writing is sensual.