A Guide To Berlin

By Gail Jones Penguin Random House

A group of six international travellers, two Italians, two Japanese, an American and an Australian, meet in empty apartments in Berlin to share stories and memories. Each is enthralled in some way to the work of Vladimir Nabokov, and each is finding their way in deep winter in a haunted city. A moment of devastating violence shatters the group, and changes the direction of everyone’s story.

Brave and brilliant, A Guide to Berlin traces the strength and fragility of our connections through biographies and secrets.

Gail Jones

Gail Jones is the author of two short story collections, a critical monograph, and the novels Black Mirror, Sixty Lights, Dreams of Speaking, Sorry and Five Bells. Her novel A Guide To Berlin was longlisted for the 2016 Stella Prize. Three times shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, her other prizes include the WA Premier’s Award for Fiction, the Nita B. Kibble Award, and the Age Book of the Year Award.

Judges' report

A Guide to Berlin pays homage to a great writer, Vladimir Nabokov, whose own fiction provides the title, and to Berlin: a city that is a focus of political and architectural wreckage as well as liberation and civilisation. The novel is both an examination and an enactment of storytelling. A young Australian woman is invited to join a group of international travellers currently living in Berlin. They have a shared interest in the work of Nabokov, and they meet to discuss his writing and to share their own stories.

The stories are varied and intriguing; bringing the politics and experiences of each traveller into sharp conjunction with the others. Gail Jones’s novel is designed with architectural precision, inhabited by illuminating discussions of literature, art and life.

Further reading


“I’ve always felt that Gail Jones is yet to receive the recognition she deserves. This is her sixth novel and it is, I believe, a masterpiece.” Mark Rubbo, Readings blog

“Hers is an unashamedly cerebral work that will only gain by rereading; but it is also, like its Nabokovian parent, a narrative that pulses with feeling. Its pages finally summon not one ghost but millions of them.” Geordie Williamson, The Australian

“A Guide to Berlin is brimming with rich descriptions, founded on the ‘Nabokovian regard for the weird vibrancy of things, the writer’s capacity for relish and glorification’. The dark, haunted cityscape of Berlin’s winter is beautifully captured, with detailed references to streets, districts and tramlines composing Jones’s personal guide to Berlin.” Cassie Davies, The Telegraph