The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood

The Hiding Game is a novel about a group of friends and their rivalries in a dangerous time. Paul Beckermann starts at the Bauhaus art school in Germany in 1922 and finds himself amidst a new way of thinking about creating art, with Kandinsky and Klee as the stars they all dream of reaching. He forms a group of friends and seems to be falling into something with Charlotte, a woman from Prague. However, their group has divided loyalties and love and obsession will divide them as the Bauhaus moves location and the political situation becomes dangerous. As Paul looks back at this time, now much older and in England, he must confess the truth of what ultimately happened to their group.

The reader is drawn into the world of the Bauhaus and the combination of fictional friends and real life historical figures, with the narrative moving between their original time together and Paul’s viewpoint and recollection much later on. He is the somewhat unreliable narrator finally telling the truth, but not wanting to reveal it too early. The characters are interesting, the kind of flawed, sometimes unlikeable people that work well in this kind of novel about obsession (both of people and art) and the cracks that form in intense friendship groups (though, despite comparisons, they don’t reach the level of compelling that the group in The Secret History do).

The novel is a blend of the ‘group of friends intensely studying something in a specific way and having a lot of drama’ kind of narrative and a historical book that looks at the consequences of personal actions and decisions in the face of larger political danger. Without much knowledge of the artistic history or real life figures in the book, it was a good read though without a completely immersive spark.