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Gripping stories for unforgettable moments – great experiences for autumn readers at a glance.

Focus on: A journey into the past century

Sensual reading and moral portraits

Whether they are set in Berlin or Hamburg, in Essen or the mountains of Bavaria: great novel series take us right back into the past century. The multi-volume works are told mostly from the female point of view, about the fates of people caught up in world wars and their consequences. Stories brimming with life, full of dreams and debris, families and finance.

Her turn-of-the century trilogy was addictive. Those whose mouths are watering for more grandiose entertainment from bestseller author Carmen Korn can look forward to her “tale of three cities”. Taking us to Hamburg, Cologne and Sanremo, “And the World Was Young” is set at the beginning of 1950s, when great aspirations spite the lingering wounds.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Und die Welt war jung

Carmen Korn: Und die Welt war jung
(English: And the World Was Young)
ROWOHLT Kindler, 640 pages, 22.00 €, appears 29 September

Her husband missing, life with her mother-in-law a horror, Katharina also dreams of a better life after the war. Set against the backdrop of the decline of the coal industry and the miners' strikes, Eva Völlers “Ruhrpott Saga” exudes a wealth of local colour. Her second volume, “A Sense of Hope” portrays the massive changes taking place in the 1950s.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Ein Gefühl von Hoffnung

Eva Völler: Ein Gefühl vom Hoffnung
(English: A Sense of Hope)
Lübbe, 448 pages, 14.90 €

Between Germany's economic miracle and the hippie era, the first volume of Stephanie Schuster's trilogy praises the strong women meeting at a corner grocery shop on the shores of Bavaria's Starnberger Lake. “The Wonder Women” do not shy away from risk. Whether as a shopkeeper, doctor's wife, nurse trainer, or refugee: they are aching to make a new start.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Die Wunder Frauen

Stephanie Schuster: Die Wunderfrauen – Alles, was das Herz begehrt
(English: The Wonder Women – Whatever the Heart Desires)
FISCHER Taschenbuch, 480 pages, 15.00 €

“The Sisters from the Ku’Damm” are also struggling to make their own way in life. Brigitte Riebe's successful 1950s trilogy takes the daughters of Berlin's Thalheim department store dynasty into the 1960s. In the big series finale entitled “Days of Hope”, Florentine, the youngest, makes her tempestuous way through the era of the Berlin Wall and rebellion.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Tag der Hoffnung

Brigitte Riebe: Die Schwestern vom Ku’damm – Tage der Hoffnung
(English: The Sisters from the Ku'damm” – Days of Hope)
ROWOHLT Wunderlich, 464 pages, 20.00 €

Off with the corset, ready-to-wear fashion for everyone. Marlene Averbeck, in “Lichtenstein’s – Department Store of Dreams pays homage to the key role of Berlin as a fashion metropolis. Her department store trilogy starts out directly before the outbreak of World War I and carries on through the outbreak of World War II. A promising start for a series of novels and a magical microcosmos featuring Berliner Chic.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Modehaus der Träume

Marlene Averbeck: Das Lichtenstein – Modehaus der Träume
(English: Lichtenstein’s – Department Store of Dreams)
dtv, 480 pages, 15.90 €

The lives of her aunt, a judge, as well as her mother, a fashion designer, inspired Katharina Fuchs to write her postwar novel “New Life”. The previous title “Two Handfuls of Life”, in which she delves into the biographies of her grandmothers, already brought forth the wish to praise strong women, who brave all resistance on their long march through social and government institutions.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Neuleben

Katharina Fuchs: Neuleben
(English: New Life)
Droemer, 448 pages, 19.00 €

The daughters of three factory owners in Altena, dreams and tragedies in the era of the Deutschmark: Peter Prange's bestseller “Our Wonderful Years” enthralled millions in its film version. His new novel “Winter of Hope” covers the time leading up to it. Desperation and cold after the war set the scene. But Christmas is coming.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Winter der Hoffnung

Peter Prange: Winter der Hoffnung
(English: Winter of Hope)
FISCHER Scherz, 336 pages, 20.00 €

Corinna Bomann sends her Berlin heroine Sophia in 1930s Paris to New York. “The Colours of Beauty”, a three-part saga about the young chemist, offers more than love, heartbreak, and wrinkle cream. In the second volume “Sophia's Dreams”, Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden are engaged in a “powder war”. This is a sensuous read, but also a warts-and-all moral portrait of women in times of change.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Sophias Träume

Corina Bomann: Die Farben der Schönheit – Sophias Träume
(English: The Colours of Beauty – Sophia's Dreams)
Ullstein, 576 pages, 14.00 €

Text: Petra Mies

Reader recommendation

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Menschliche Dinge

Karine Tuil: Menschliche Dinge
(English: Human Matters)
Translated into German by Maja Ueberle-Pfaff.
Claassen, 384 pages, 22.00 €

Moral portrait of our era

A prominent Parisian family is coming apart at the seams. Ruthlessly, Karine Tuil describes the downfall of the Farels. In her celebrated novel, she dissects the social abysses and destructive relationships. Whether sex, marriage or career: “Human Matters” tears down all the façades.

The Farel family, father, mother and son, have risen to the very top. A trio, almost too beautiful, too successful and brilliant to be true. But the French author Karine Tuil immediately pulls the rug out from under their upper-crust lifestyle.

Take the mother, Claire, a successful essayist, who has her much older husband to thank for how far she has risen in her career. Which is why she, the worthy spouse, tolerates the lies and other means of oiling their “sustainable marriage”. Until she meets an attractive teacher, and falls for the most explosive catalyst of all: sex.

Betrayal is something that her husband Jean, a renowned political journalist, is well acquainted with. What woman can resist a TV star? But everything has to be kept under wraps, including his second wife, with whom he has been leading a double life for ages. Otherwise, everything else in this narcissistic existence serves his only true love – his career.

But one thing unites the Parisian couple despite all these differences: the love of their son Alexandre, a handsome student at an elite university. But then the police appear at the door: a young woman has accused him of rape. And with this, Tuil lights the fuse to unleash the inferno.

Tuil, who has won prizes, including the “Prix Goncourt des lycéens” for her moral portraits, puts the hypocrisy of high society on trial. Against the background of the #MeToo debate, the author lashes out against male aggression and lust for power, as well as the mindless pursuit of success and self-presentation in the media. A stirring, as well as engaging novel.

Text: Petra Mies

Talk with: Antonia Riepp

"We wish we were like the Italians!"

Simona, a landscape gardener from the Allgäu, travels to the Italian region of Marche following an inheritance from her grandmother. Antonia Riepp's German-Italian family saga "Belmonte" follows a young woman's search for identity and home.

Antonia Riepp

Ms. Riepp, through the women in your novel “Belmonte”, you capture the joy that German travellers experience when they descend the Brenner Pass into Italy – what is it that makes Bella Italia so fascinating?   

Antonia Riepp: Germans' wanderlust for Italy probably started with Goethe’s “Italian Journey”. And with the advent of mass tourism in the 1950s, it turned into a major phenomenon that has continued to this day. Since then, strangely enough, hardly any country has been able to approach the magic of Italy for German travellers. It’s almost impossible to avoid clichés when looking for the reasons for this, e.g.: the sun, beach, sea, good food, but also the easy-going attitude that we serious Germans attribute to the Italians, even if it largely stems from our need for constant crisis management. If we’re honest, we Germans aren’t particularly in love with ourselves or our own kind – and that’s typically German. How we would love to be like the Italians or the French! As we approach the Brenner Pass, we hope to gain some of that lightness if we just dive deep enough into this other culture. But will it work? Probably not...


Your young protagonist, Simona, is a German from the Allgäu with Italian ancestors, who does not quite feel at home anywhere. Does the globalised world make it easier for her to live in and among several cultures?

Definitely. Especially considering that, although there are still cultural differences between Italy and Germany today, there are fortunately no big cultural hurdles, such as those experienced by Simona's grandmother, Franca. She came to Germany at a time when Italian guest workers were viewed with suspicion.


Simona fears that Europe is losing its utopias. Do you share her scepticism?

When I wrote "Belmonte", the coronavirus was still far away and Europe, I thought, was at the height of decadence and discord with numerous nationalistic ideas. The crisis, as bad as it was and is on the one hand, has brought us back together again. That gives me hope. Nevertheless, we Europeans should slowly abandon the idea of being the centre of the world and develop utopias without destructive growth and exploitation of the planet.

Antonia Riepp: Belmonte

Antonia Riepp: Belmonte
Piper, 496 pages, 15.- €

You describe women's lives as full of mystery. Why is it sometimes so difficult to ask for the truth in families?

Humans are masters of repression. Although it’s not necessary, no one likes to admit their shame, their mistakes and their defeats. Especially in cases of rape, sexual abuse or similar, victims tend to keep quiet about what happened due to shame – especially when it comes to their next of kin. I think it is due to the fear of not being considered the same person by one's daughters, sons and others after revealing some vulnerability. Unfortunately, the damage caused by silence is so often repressed.


Your novel celebrates the desire to retreat into the country and the comfort of home. Do you think the private sphere can be a retreat from the brutal world?

If one can afford to retreat, yes. But honestly, that kind of retreat requires a dose of ignorance and living with blinders. I can't blame anyone who feels the need to bury themselves in the ideal world of their own home for a little while or even longer. I know it all too well. The trend towards this is undoubtedly there, and not just because of the coronavirus. The more complicated the world becomes, the greater the desire for simplicity and contemplation in our private lives. But a novel can help, too...


Interview: Petra Mies

Antonia Riepp is the pseudonym of a bestselling author and screenwriter from the Allgäu. She has been publishing suspense novels for more than 20 years. "Belmonte" is her first family novel.

Reading tips

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Wir holen alles nach

Martina Borger: Wir holen alles nach

(English: We'll Make it All Up)
Diogenes, 304 pages, 22.00 €

Martina Borger: Wir holen alles nach

(English: We'll Make it All Up)
Diogenes, 304 pages, 22.00 €

Uncanny suspicion
Ellen is content. As a pensioner, she volunteers as a German teacher for immigrants, delivers newspapers and tutors. She is especially fond of her student Elvis. The sensitive eight-year-old even spends two weeks of his holidays with her. His divorced mother Sina works like crazy at an agency and her new partner Torsten is also lacking in what Ellen does offer the young boy: time. But something has thrown Elvis off kilter. An awful suspicion arises. Martina Borger's true-to-life, disturbing novel shows how vulnerable trust in love can be.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Die Mitte ist ein guter Anfang

Franka Bloom: Die Mitte ist ein guter Anfang

(English: The Middle is a Good Place to Start)
ROWOHLT Taschenbuch, 448 pages, 11.00 €

Franka Bloom: Die Mitte ist ein guter Anfang

(English: The Middle is a Good Place to Start)
ROWOHLT Taschenbuch, 448 pages, 11.00 €

Life on Trial
Gold with an aquamarine in a silver setting: What a ring!  Eva receives a proposal of marriage on the day she turns 49. She and Arne have been together for over two decades. Even if her daughter Frida is currently going through a rough patch of puberty, they get along just fine. But the restaurant owner holds her independence sacred: “Can I tell you the truth? I find marriage much too dangerous.” Right in the midst of Eva's menopause, Arne's proposal puts her whole life on trial. Franka Bloom's turbulent novel about existential mid-life questions is captivating: full of self-irony, warmth and humour.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Das Buch Ana

Sue Monk Kidd: Das Buch Ana

Translated into German by Judith Schwaab.

(English: The Book of Longings)
btb, 576 pages, 22.00 €

Sue Monk Kidd: Das Buch Ana

Translated into German by Judith Schwaab.

(English: The Book of Longings)
btb, 576 pages, 22.00 €

The woman at Jesus’ Side
She is smart, rebellious and strong: Ana. “I was the wife of Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth.” Her story starts in the year 16 A.D. In Galilee. The daughter of a Jewish scholar secretly writes down the stories of forgotten women. To find a voice – that is Ana's burning wish. As the fourteen-year-old is to marry a widower, she resists. And she cannot get a young man out of her head: Jesus. Sue Monk Kidd's captivating novel about Jesus' fictive partner portrays a fascinating woman whose struggle for liberation is completely up to date. Ana's voice resonates.

Portait of: Dora Heldt

Recipe for success: humour plus humanity

Dora Heldt has sold millions of copies as a witty chronicler of everyday life. In her novels and serialised books, the best-selling author offers droll but warm-hearted commentary on everything to do with being human.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Dora Heldt

© Gunter Glücklich

Despite all her success, she remains constant. She wants to write authentically and stay within the bounds of her own range of experiences. That is why her heroines are usually about her age, and even her famous Papa Heinz is a bit like her own father.

But that does not mean that the 58-year-old takes herself too seriously. Bärbel Schmidt is simply most familiar with what similar women are up to – that is, women of her generation who are interested in other people, along with life and all its absurdities. With a nod and a wink, she comments on everything, sometimes shaking her head, but never haughty or arrogant. “I am one of you”, the woman with the sonorous voice signals at her readings – and her down-to-earth, genuine nature comes across well.

As Bärbel Schmidt, she is generally unknown. But her pseudonym Dora Heldt is familiar to millions – as are her bestsellers, the movies made from her books, and her columns. The fourth volume of her off-beat, comic, but always empathetic observations of everyday life is consequently titled “Alles eine Frage der Perspektive” (All a Matter of Perspective). At the end of one of her columns, she confesses about the hustle, bustle, and noise of our age: “I wish I had a mute button that I could press once and a while to shut off the whole world!”

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Alles eine Frage der Perspektive

Dora Heldt: Alles eine Frage der Perspektive
Von handybedingter Nackenstarre, mutierten Märchenprinzen und anderen erstaunlichen Dingen. (English: All a Matter of Perspective. On mobile phone-induced neck cramps, mutated fairy-tale princes, and other astonishing things.) dtv, 224 pages, 10.95 €

Discipline and hard work
But things only really calm down for the prolific author between Christmas and New Year. Because the dyed-in-the-wool North German and resident of Hamburg, who starts to get homesick as soon as she gets too far from the North Sea coast, has put a lot of work into establishing the Dora Heldt brand. Refined humour, for which she shares the disciplined approach of her idol, Loriot, does not leave room for sloppiness.

Born on the North Sea island of Sylt, where she still spends time today, she was forced to move around a lot as a child, as her father was serving in the German Army. She was always an avid reader. Few other authors are as familiar with the book market and all its facets as she is. After an apprenticeship as a bookseller at age nineteen, she worked for a long time as a publishing house representative, and then began writing after her divorce. She was 44 years old. Because she did not want any unfair advantage as a woman from the industry, and especially not from her own publisher, she submitted the manuscript under the name of her grandmother  – thus, Dora Heldt was born.

Everything that is important to her and which she encounters, from family to friendships to absurd conversations in the sauna, is duly noted and forms part of the Dora Heldt phenomenon in her books. For four years, they have included not just novels but also mysteries. But even these are more on the light side, like her recent village comedy-mystery “Mathilda oder Irgendwer stirbt immer” (Mathilda or Someone Always Dies). That has to do with the key ingredient in the world of Dora Heldt: humorous humanity.

Text: Petra Mies

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Unterhaltung Mathilda

Dora Heldt: Mathilda oder Irgendwer stirbt immer (English: Mathilda or Someone Always Dies)
dtv, 464 pages, 16.90 €