A Night Divided
A Night Divided is about a young girl named Gerta living in East Berlin who wakes up to see the Berlin Wall in her city, built overnight. If this weren't bad enough, her father and her brother are on the other side of the Wall after going to look for work. Gerta tries to stop herself from looking at it or speaking of freedom, as it'd be deadly, but she can't help herself. One day, when riskily looking at the Wall, she sees her father performing a peculiar dance on a platform. She then receives a mysterious drawing and puts two and two together. Her father wants her and her oldest brother, Fritz, to create a tunnel underneath the Wall, which could result in their death.
I, personally, thought the book was amazing. One thing I would wish to note about this book is the portrayal of the family and lack of subtle stereotyping. I've read several books with German families in them, and the portrayal always seems to make them very far from what they actually are. The family in this book acted like you would expect a family to. Loving with many ups and downs. It actually felt realistic and didn't feel like it was pigeonholing their culture. Gerta was also a very well written character with expected flaws for someone her age and in her situation. She messes up a lot and isn't overly rebellious. They didn't make her and every other character a robot like most books with Germans around this time period do. The characters who did seem like sheep acted like it out of fear, which is way more historically accurate than assuming they were a-okay with everything. I also believe the word choice in this story was brilliant. The author didn't go overboard, but she didn't dumb it down. Overall, this is a great book, and I strongly recommend it, even if you dislike historical fiction.
- Want to learn more about the Wall interactively? Here's an interactive Berlin Wall with videos.
- If you prefer to read to gain information, here's an article on the day the Berlin Wall was built and the history that followed.
- Here's a video on the Berlin Wall.
- Here is a map of Germany during the Cold War, if you like visuals.
- Here is another article discussing the day Berliners woke up to the Wall.
Between Shades of Gray
In Between Shades of Grey, 15 year old Lina is taken from her home in Lithuania to a Gulag camp in Siberia during World War Two. While these books have very different plots and settings, they have their similarities. One is that in both, the girls are very headstrong and stubborn. This stubbornness gets them both in trouble, Lina with the Soviet guards and Gerta with the Stasi. Not only this, but the two are very heavily affected by Soviet oppression due to war. Lina is suffering oppression from Russia's plans on annexing Lithuania due to bad blood and other tense ties. Gerta is suffering it because of Germany splitting due to the War and the Soviet Union occupying the East side. Lastly, the two are both confined in a dangerous area, with escape being impossible or deadly. Lina being trapped in a Gulag camp with no way out, and Gerta stuck in East Germany where escaping would mean death. While very different, these books are also pretty similar.
Alex lives in East Berlin during the Cold War, his family unable to leave. He stops acting like the Stasi wants him to, and they notice, causing them to watch them. These books are similar for several reasons. One major similarity is that both of them are living in East Germany, unable to leave. Another similar thing between these two books is that the Stasi are watching them. In A Night Divided, they're watching Gerta's family because her father is known for being against them. In this book, it could be said he's being watch because he stops acting like a model citizen. That's also a connection the two books share. Neither Alex or Gerta act like a "perfect East German." This can only get them both in trouble. I think it could be a good partner read because of these connections.
Freya on the Wall
14 year old Freya has been living in East Germany her whole life. The story takes the reader through the complications of the Wall right to the fall of it. These stories are similar because they both follow young girls who are heavily affected by the Wall. While in different situations with it, the division of Germany is one of the main conflicts throughout the books. It is a good partner read if looking for something different but still similar.
Between Shades of Gray
Freya on the Wall
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"Berlin Wall Built." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
"Berlin Wall Exclusive Videos & Features." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
"Berlin Wall Interactive - The Passionate Eye." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 10 Apr. 2013. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
Book Review: 'A Night Divided' Explores Post-WWII Germany. Digital image. N.p., 7 Sept. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
"Divisions of Germany During the Cold War." N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
Freya on the Wall. Digital image. Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
Lewis and Clark - Ms. Leisure: Between Shades of Gray. Digital image. Between Shades of Gray. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
"A NIGHT DIVIDED by Jennifer A. Nielsen | Kirkus Reviews." Kirkus Reviews. N.p., 6 June 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
"A Night Divided." Goodreads. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Sektion 20. Digital image. OverDrive. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.