First sentence: “There was no warning the night the wall went up. “
What made me interested in A Night Divided initially: You don’t get a lot of YA books about the Berlin Wall, so when I heard that A Night Divided centers around it, I knew I needed to read it.
Time period: A Night Divided takes place in 1961 when the Berlin Wall is constructed to cut West Berlin (as the Soviet claimed as being “fascists”) off from East Berlin.
What is the book about: It follows twelve-year-old Greta who’s family has been split in half when the Berlin Wall is erected after her father and one of her brothers left to find work in West Berlin for the day. She tries to carry on with her life in East Berlin with her mother and older brother Fritz, but she yearns for her father and for freedom that doesn’t seem at all possible, especially with the tight security around the Wall. Years later, she sees her father doing a familiar dance on the other side of the wall, and figures through hidden messages that her father wants her to tunnel her way of East Berlin.
What else happens a lot: Missing family, threats from the Stasi, avoiding looking at the Wall, hiding in the shadows from the guards, digging a lot.
The plan to get out of Berlin: You get to briefly read about the different ways East Berliners try to make their escape to the West. It doesn’t end well most of the time. You can’t simply ram through the gates and hope the guards will let you through, or jump from buildings. Nope. It always ends in death for those people who are caught. So what do you do to escape alive? For Greta, it’s to dig a tunnel that goes from East Berlin to West Berlin.
Feelings you will experience when you read A Night Divided: Admiration for Greta’s and her family’s bravery. Unease for these characters to make it out alive and safe from their dangerous circumstances. Anger at the Stasi and the East German government.
Family count: A family of five that have been divided by the Wall: The father and Dominic in West Berlin. The mother, Gerta, and Fitz in East Berlin.
You can see how deeply devoted this family is to each other. There isn’t a day that goes by that Greta isn’t thinking about her father and her brother. She knows she’ll see them again even if her mother and Fitz doesn’t think it’s possible. Greta and Fitz rely on each other more to get through life in the East because they’re all they have. It’s so sweet to see how these kids look out for each other. This family is loyal to each other, and nobody else.
Life in East Berlin: The Stasi, which is the police in East Berlin, guards the city with an air-tight fist. People are not allowed to speak against the government, and if they do, they’re put onto an “enemy of the state” list where they’re under the constant watch of the Stasi and harassed. There’s not a lot of food, so you’re always have to make the most of what you’ve got. They’re not allowed to look over at the Wall, in case they get ideas of trying to escape.
I imagine East Berlin to be a gloomy and gray place all the time as if the sun never rises to give the people there hope.
History lesson: A Night Divided gives you a little taste of the history of the Berlin Wall. Just a little. When you read this book, I feel like you need to already know what happened in the history before the construction of the Wall because this book doesn’t really set it up or explore what happened. You just know that East Berlin is poor and tightly controlled by the East German Government and the Soviets, but you don’t really know why everybody’s living like this, what happened to lead up to the construction of the Wall, and so on.
What I think is missing in A Night Divided: Where is the urgency and the desperation? In their circumstances, I expected those two and the emotions to be ramped up to the maximum. I was rooting for Greta and her family, but I didn’t feel invested enough to feel particularly scared or worried for them throughout the book until the last third. I blame it on the lack of details of what actually happened before and after the construction of the Berlin Wall historically.
Do I recommend it? Sure, if you want to read a simple historical fiction about the Berlin Wall. You have to know a bit of the events and the history behind its construction beforehand, or else you won’t really understand fully what’s at stake. A Night Divided is a good starting point that may get kids and teenagers interested in what the hell happened in Germany for the Berlin Wall to be constructed.