The Song Before It Is Sung by Justin Cartwright - review by Richard Godwin

Richard Godwin

Friends and Lovers

The Song Before It Is Sung


Orion 276pp £16.99

Justin Cartwright has peculiar timing. As the cameraphone footage of Saddam Hussein's execution diffuses over the Internet, he releases a novel that turns on a filmed hanging. Here, it is Nazi resistor Count Axel von Gottberg who has the noose placed around his neck and the camera trained on him, executed for his part in a 1944 plot to blow up Hitler. The film, when privately premiered six decades later, is of such grim power that it leaves its sole viewer, historian Conrad Senior, incapacitated for six months. I wonder what they would have made of it on YouTube.

Cartwright's fictional Gottberg is based on the real Adam von Trott, a German aristocrat and Oxford Rhodes Scholar who resisted the Nazi regime, lobbied Chamberlain and Roosevelt not to appease Hitler and ultimately hanged for his part in the Kreisau Circle's attempt on Hitler's life. While he was at Oxford,

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