When I first began A Night Divided I wasn’t hugely in the mood.
I had just finished Girl Online On Tour by Zoella, so the idea of shifting into a historical fiction about the Berlin Wall wasn’t super appealing.
Regardless, I cracked open the cover and began.
Here’s the thing, this book was excellent.
A Night Divided was written by one of my favorite authors of all time, Jennifer Nielsen. She authored The False Prince, which is one of my favorite books ever, so I felt I had to read A Night Divided on principle.
I’ll paint the scene.
A Night Divided follows the story of Gerta Lowe, a young girl who lives in East Berlin in the time of the Cold War. The story begins one night with her family, when her father makes the decision to travel into the allied occupied West Berlin with one of her brothers Dominic. He goes, and it is while Gerta’s father and brother are away that the Berlin Wall is erected by the Russians. The narrative picks years later, where a substantial amount of time has passed and Gerta has heard little to no word from her father or brother in West Berlin. Then, one day, on her way to school Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform from West Berlin doing a strange dance she remembers from a childhood sign, signaling for her to do one thing.
The rest of the story follows Gerta and her brother Fritz’s decision to dig a tunnel beneath the Berlin Wall to reach their father. It is peppered with real life implications of the Berlin Wall – such as political structure of the time, the secret police, rationing, social pressure, and most unfortunately, what happens when people disobeyed the communist state.
Nielsen begins every chapter with a relevant quote to tie in the significance of the historical setting, hammering home this one point: this could happen again if we let it.
The main themes of this book are freedom – both literally (as in from a place) as well as freedom of thought.
The fact that it so honestly paints a picture of this period in time for young readers is a massive win as far as I am concerned. The Cold War is one of my favorite historical periods to study, mostly because a lot of the same principles at play then are still at play now. It is for this reason I think Nielsen has done us a favour scripting such an excellent book about such an imperative period of time.
The writing is on form – exactly what I’d expect from Nielsen anyway – Gerta’s voice is honest, and her relationship with Fritz really wonderful in depicting a brother and a sister in that kind of dire situation. There’s a lot of tension and ‘oh my gosh is it going to…’ and I devoured it in about a day and a half.
Get your hands on it, you won’t regret it!