A Night Divided is a story about the Berlin Wall, told through twelve-year-old Gerta’s perspective. The story begins with Gerta waking up in the middle of the night to noise and chaos. Gerta, her mother, and her brother, Fritz, realize that a wall has been built to divide east and west Germany. Gerta’s father and brother had gone west for a few days to look for work, and overnight, the wall divides her family.
For four years, Gerta has no idea what has happened to her father and brother, until one day she sees her father on top of the wall, pantomiming a familiar nursery rhyme. She slowly comes to understand that he wants them to dig a tunnel to freedom. Because her father had openly criticized the government, her family is on a watch list. Their neighbors spy on them and their apartment is bugged. Gerta’s family has to watch everything they say, and don’t know who they can trust.
Gerta is the strong link in the family. She is resilient, courageous and optimistic during a dark time. Gerta’s hope and determination spread to her mother and brother. They realize that there is no future for them in East Germany, and grow desperate to leave. Already in the government’s spotlight, the family risks everything to escape their imprisonment in East Germany to be together again.
I liked the inspiring quotes at the beginning of each chapter. One summarizes the theme of the book:
I have never read another book about the Berlin Wall, and I learned a lot about life in East Germany. Nielsen did a great job depicting what life was like, without anything too violent or crude. I remember being a freshman in high school when the Berlin Wall fell, but I don’t think I really understood the significance of what was happening. This book helped me to understand more of the events of the time period, and was a suspenseful page-turner. A Night Divided would be perfect for ages ten and up.
This book won the 2015 Whitney Award for middle grade fiction.
Meeting the Author
This past September, I had the privilege of meeting Jennifer Nielsen when she spoke at our library. She is such an engaging and animated speaker and had the audience excited about reading and writing. I loved that she graciously took the time to speak individually to each person that came to get a book signed. She is one of our family’s favorite authors. My daughter says The False Prince has one of the best plots twists she’s ever read. Jennifer is truly a gifted storyteller and writer!