A Night Divided is a Must Read

Adarsh, Staff Writer

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Imagine living in a city where there are always food shortages, where soldiers enter and search your home and your room every week, and where everything that you value in life is limited, restricted, or ‘censored.’ But then there is the other side of the city…the region which easily flourishes. A place where there is an excess of everything, where you have the freedom to express yourself, and where you actually feel that you can live a normal life.

This is the daily life of Gerta, who lives with her family in the impoverished East Germany. As the option of continuing to live in the ‘East’ starts to seem more and more unreasonable, life in the ‘West’ continues to seem more inviting, and moving there is a likely possibility. Eventually, Papa and Dominic (Gerta’s middle brother), cross the boundary to experience the West, and to determine if it would better suit their family’s future.

Two days after they cross, a wall goes up: the Berlin Wall, aimed to prevent any more citizens from crossing the border and moving the West. The Berlin wall is backed with bullets, riot troops, tear gas and minefields. It is a wall of wire with flesh-rending barbs, of concrete blocks, of stone, of broken glass, rifles, and of dogs taught to run down men like beasts of the forest. Hundreds of East Berliners attempt crossing the wall, but many are barbarically killed by the Grenzers, or border police.

Gerta feels trapped under a giant net, a enormous prison. She resents almost everything, and struggles to find a source of happiness anywhere. Although most everyone disapproves, Gerta knows she must find a way of escape. But one day Gerta, suddenly spots her father and brother on the other side of the wall. When Papa performs an old dance from Gerta’s childhood, she notices he does it differently- on purpose. Gerta suspects that he intends to tell her something. Finally, by evening Gerta comes to the conclusion that Papa wants her to dig, but why? Where? How?

There are a number of interesting and unique characters that are beautifully crafted throughout this novel. One of the most influential characters is Mama. Mama, although she understands Gerta’s sense of patriotism, is fully against any mention of escape; she even encourages her to forget all about it, which for Gerta is physically impossible.

There is also Fritz, Gerta’s older brother, who shares Gerta’s urge to find freedom, almost even more… Fritz must report for government duty soon on his eighteenth birthday to become one the Grenzers, (border police), but he hopes to somehow escape. Fritz knows he can never serve in this barbaric service. He is devastated when one of his close friends, Peter dies, attempting to hide in a car heading to West Berlin.

There is also Anna, who is Gerta’s best friend, completely opposite in personality. Unlike Gerta, Anna fears the government and especially the Grenzers. Anna is also Peter’s younger sister, and when Peter dies, Anna’s friendship with Gerta is almost completely gone, as if they were enemies from the start.

There are also many minor character including Officer Müller, Frau Eberhardt, Anna parents, and some others who spy on Gerta’s family, and are suspicious of rebellion against the government. More and more information is revealed about these characters as the book moves on, adding to its rich plot, and its engrossing storyline.

Personally, I loved this book. Jennifer Nielson is better known for her dystopian-style novels, books with completely foreign and unusual lifestyles, corrupt governments, and imaginary, dark and nightmare-like worlds. But A Night Divided is a beautifully crafted novel centered around the Berlin Wall. The author intelligently conveys the complex and powerful message of freedom and persistence by incorporating different themes through the story, such as mystery, adventure, and depression. Gerta finds herself being urged to fight her way to freedom, and to reunite herself with what she loves.

I doubt there was anything ‘bad’ about the book in any way; however, I think the book may have had a slightly more satisfying ending by adding an epilogue, describing how Gerta’s family eventually flourished in the West, and how her struggle was rewarded.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who feels a strong sense of patriotism, freedom and independence, or might just want to have a historically enriching experience- in a mysterious and exciting way.

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