A Night Divided had me hooked from the first pages. The main character, Greta, lives with her mother and her brother in East Germany, while her father and other brother have escaped to the other side. Trapped in the city by the Berlin Wall, the three are compelled to stifle any misgivings they may have about the Communist government and the Stasi. Early on in the story, Greta devises a plan to break free, and the tension surrounding whether her plan will achieve success consumes much of the rest of the story.
The hardship of daily life and the trauma of living under a Communist regime are depicted with some inconsistent historical accuracy. The story was engaging, and I legitimately wanted to see if Gerta and her family would achieve success in their task. With that said, the book could have been much better researched. As many German readers have pointed out, there were quite a few historical inaccuracies that made the major plot points implausible. Also, as a Goodreads reviewer noted, "to stay (in East Germany) is bad, to leave is bad." A bit more discussion of those difficult choices would have provided levity to the plot. However, with that caveat noted, for students unfamiliar with life under Communism, this book provides a sound introduction.
From the publisher, “From NYT bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen comes a stunning thriller about a girl who must escape to freedom after the Berlin Wall divides her family between east and west.
With the rise of the Berlin Wall, Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors, and friends are prisoners in their own city. But one day on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Gerta concludes that her father wants her and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?”