I’m officially on winter break! When this post goes live, I’ll probably still be sleeping as I’m writing this at 1:45 AM haha. I had plans to write this earlier in the evening, but then fell asleep watching a Christmas movie on the couch after a long day at work and visiting with my bestie before going home, making dinner, etc. But, my book review is done and that’s all that matters!
I was sent The Boys Next Door – a novel by Dan Greenberger. The novel is a fictional take on The Beatles early days in Hamburg, Germany. The novel is told from the perspective of Alan Levy and is told in a diary/letter style as he studies abroad in Hamburg. He writes of his days in the Germany city and interspersed throughout the novel are letters to his parents and best friend back in New York.
Upon arriving in Germany, he learns that the school has no record of his housing application. He just so happens to meet a young woman named Astrid who knows of a room he can rent. It’s a very small room above a cinema and is definitely not the nicest place, but with no other choice he takes it. The other problem? His neighbors are a group of young guys who are loud, obnoxious, and keep him up all night playing music. They’re a group of 5 English guys in a band called The Beatles.
If you’re a Beatles fan, you might be wondering why there’s 5 of them there. In 1960, the Beatles consisted of John, Paul, George, and then two former members – Stuart and Pete. Ringo had not joined the band yet, but does make an appearance!
The band are all young and playing cover songs at night clubs every night. At first Alan absolutely hates them. He’s not into their music at all, he thinks they’re rude and wants nothing more than for them to move out. But, Alan’s crush on Astrid, who happens to be friends with the band and a photographer for them, keeps him in the band’s orbit and over time he becomes a fan of theirs as well as a friend.
For the first half of the novel, I really did not care for Alan. I thought he was so full of himself and his crush on Astrid really reminded me of a teenage girl. He would write to his friend about his “girlfriend” Astrid and how amazing things were going, when in reality they had just shared a friendly drink together or she had touched his arm which made him believe she was totally in love with him. However, as the novel progressed and Alan matured a little and become a little less self absorbed I began to like his character.
I thought the novel was really interesting and I was able to finish it fairly quickly because the chapters were short and the storyline really did hook me. It was cool to see the early days of The Beatles before they become famous and even though the story is fiction, it is based on the true events of the boys from Liverpool living in Hamburg, playing in clubs and Astrid, a photographer who helped create their early style and image.
The only thing I was slightly confused about in the novel is whether someone named Alan Levy really did exist who interacted with The Beatles in 1960 Hamburg. There is a photo at the end of the novel and Alan Levy is listed in the captions with the band, but I don’t know if that’s fake for the story or not. If anyone knows, let me know!
Another side note – the author, Dan Greenberger, is a writer producer for CBS Television and one of the shows he has worked on is How I Met Your Mother. There is a line in the novel where Alan says something about how his mom always told him nothing good happens after 2am and if you are a HIMYM fan, you might remember there is a whole episode about that!
Anyway, I enjoyed the novel and recommend it if you like The Beatles and/or like pop culture historical fiction. I think this novel is especially good to read right now with The Beatles: Get Back Documentary that is out!
*This book was sent to me complimentary, but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.*