Book review: Uber Alles, Robert Arthur Neff

Look for this great book in September!

Book Review: Uber Alles, by Robert Arthur Neff

Reviewed by Jason Criss Howk

“Sophie drunkenly observed that her world was all broken —truly, truly shattered.”

Everyone has likely felt like Sophie at times. I know I have. But how Sophie got to this point is quite an adventure. This is a tale of innocents becoming entangled in intrigues. It’s a vivid reminder of the danger faced by those people that are not able to tell when war is swirling around them.


I did not expect to read a heart-racing love story about World War Two and get a Barry Manilow song stuck in my head, but after feeling like I was traveling with the characters as they evaded spies and tight surveillance it was a welcome reward. The language is very precise and captivating so your nerves will need a rest at times.


As I have read the unpublished autobiography of my friend Rob, I see more in this book than most. I see a story that revolves in part around the love of a musical instrument and a genre of music that only a pianist who performed at small clubs and even played for the gameshow “name that tune” can write. I find an understanding of activities by senior military officers and the courtesies provided them in society, as well as the never-ending difficulties found in the relationship between professional military men and political leaders–especially during wartime.


I know why the story highlights the wonder of the arrival of mass-passenger flight and the honors afforded the early aviation giants. And clearly, an understanding of how it feels to be seduced by younger women is needed to write about it in such detail. Although sometimes one can miss the princess before she blooms.


Uber Alles is a history lesson that bridges the time between the Great War and its aftermath and the rise of Nazi leaders along with insights into those men that a rising Germany looked up to. But this history lesson interrupts the realities of war, where the value of life cheapens under an all powerful and oppressive government, to educate us about the other side of life that still existed during the rise of the third reich. The insights into the lives of entertainment figures across Europe, that found an audience in need of relief from the daily stress, is useful in framing the mindset of Europeans of every caste and class during this time. Shortly after my own exit from our generations Great War I can perfectly recall my emotions upon hearing Hoagy Carmichael’s son playing piano in Rob’s cottage parlor.  


Artistically I enjoyed his use of intimate conversations between the characters to give the reader bits of trivia about the era and also discuss, in proper context, controversial topics and events almost lost to history. The tale pulled me in and left me wanting to know ‘what happens next’ every time I put the book away. He even caught me with a double plot twist that I did not see coming, although I made a living studying humans and predicting what will happen next. Rob uses just the right number of characters to tell the story from multiple views without causing confusion to the reader. This is a book you will recommend to your friends.


As a student of WWII history I was impressed with the personal insights the author gives us about key events of the Nazi rise. Every American should understand the Night of Broken Glass, the process of Jewish identification, the Oster Conspiracy, the effects of Stalingrad on the German Army, and the Night of the Long Knives. Often forgotten but well documented here is the tragedy of the City that Hitler gave the Jews—Theresienstadt.



 Rob ably describes capable and confident women that are echoes of his life experiences. Women that can orchestrate an escape plan to evade the Nazi gestapo while also planning a critical dinner party for 30 senior German leaders. Also women that seem so out of place in society but have an indelible impact on young people in the area of arts and humanities.


The author weaves his love for music into many stories. I thoroughly enjoyed learning the origins of blues and some famous compositions and their relation to gypsy music. I also will picture a different person when I next hear the name Django. He also provides examples of great leadership techniques he learned from international business and the military. Rob’s renaissance-man life is apparent on every page.


This is a unique story that shows that daily life is no different for those deemed “imperfect.” In fact, as Rob knows well from his own life experience, life can be even more love-filled and rewarding for people living a more complicated lifestyle.



Ultimately Uber Alles warns of us the most ingenious form of weaponry—the total control of information by the government. Another topic highlighted is the catastrophe that setting up “target blame groups” often results in. Rob deftly describes how power and wealth in the hands of a few is at the heart of socialism and the goal for socialists despite its stated propaganda. A study of how they amass power is worthwhile and always questioning “could it happen here” is required of free people.

#WWII #BookReview #Love #Thriller 

2 thoughts on “Book review: Uber Alles, Robert Arthur Neff

  1. Jason,
    I love your brought up things I will think about for in my second reading…cannot wait until the translation of the Koran is completed, so you can start on your next book. You so have a way with words. You and Rober both have a gift.

    Julie Eners Neff


  2. I knew Bob at Cornell and met his lovely wife at our fiftieth reunion. What a joy to read his book! I’m pretty much wheel chair bound and read constantly but this is the best I’ve read since I fell for Pat Conroy. The music angle was particularly interesting to me because it was in that era that my Dad was playing in NYC with Paul Whiteman’s Orch. and he got to play that thrilling opening run to Rhapsody in Blue on the clarinet with George Gershwin at the piano. He discouraged my desire to try singing as a career, deeming me not tough enough. I sang to my babies, in church and every chance I got! Congratulations to Bob. Wonderful story. Ann Gleason Sequerth,, Cornell’53..


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