Book review: A Night Divided, by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Nielsen, Jennifer A. A night divided. Scholastic Press, 2015. 317 pgs. $16.99. ISBN:978-0-545-68242-8. Gr. 6+. P8 Q9

Nielsen Night DividedI finished this book late last night, burning the midnight hours, as I had to finish it. The book is a well written historic novel dealing with the Berlin Wall put up by the West German government. It has been 25 years since the wall was toppled, bringing an end to the Cold War. With the toppling of the wall, those families that were separated by it were finally able to reconnect. I remember seeing people in the news who had tunneled under the wall to gain freedom from the oppression in communist East Germany. A night divided tells of one such family, which was split by this wall as it was finished one night. Four years after the wall was constructed, Gerta, now 12 years-old, lives with her mother and brother Fritz in a small apartment on the East German side, just a few blocks from the wall. The feeling of the story is one of desperation, with little food, money, and the secret police who watch the family’s every move. Dominic, Gerta’s brother, and her father live in West Berlin, cut off from the rest of the family. Guards patrol the top of wall with guns, watching for those who attempt to escape from the city below. Gerta and Franz speak in low tones at night, as they listen to a banned Beatles record, of the lack of freedom that the government allows and how they would like to get to escape the other side. Fritz is arrested by the secret police and he returns home a changed young man. He finds out that he, his sister and father have a file which will prevent Fritz and Greta ever being able to gaining a higher paying job or advancing in the required army service. One chance encounter seeing her brother and father on a platform on the West side of the wall leads to Greta and her brother tunneling to freedom.

September 2015 review by Carol Bernardi.

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