The Wall Between Us by Dan Smith

History Comes Alive

The Wall Between Us by Dan Smith is a powerful historical children’s novel that totally gripped me. I just could not put it down and read it in just two sittings, pausing only to sleep.

The novel is about the erecting of the Berlin Wall in 1961. This literally divided families as the wall split Berlin in two. The Berlin Wall was actually 155Km long with just three checkpoints, the most famous being Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. West Germany was divided from Soviet controlled East Germany, which was a very different place to live.

All the action is seen through the eyes of two twelve year old cousins who lived either side of the street that the wall cut in two. They were like sisters and best friends, nothing had ever divided them before, they even shared Otto the cat.

The action is written in the form of letters, notes, diary entries and reports. History literally comes alive for the reader. We can ‘feel’ the fear and the disappointment. It is easy to empathise with both girls.

This was a time of mistrust, distrust and betrayal. Anyone could be an informant. It was best to trust no one and to keep one’s opinions private. It was also a time where bribery and coercion were used. A young girl’s openness and innocence is manipulated as she becomes a pawn in a dangerous game.

Lives were altered forever as guilt threatened to sink characters. Innocence was forever marred.

Dan Smith has produced a marvellous tale. The Wall Between Us is a social commentary on the times. 1961 was a momentous time in history. Likewise, 1989 when the wall came down is also momentous. Everyone remembers what they were doing as the news broke of the wall coming down. As a child born in the 1960’s, I had only ever known of a time with the Berlin Wall. To watch the events unfold in 1989 on my television really was history unfolding before my eyes. The significance was not really realized by me at the time.

The Wall Between Us is a powerful tale for anyone aged twelve years and over. History really does spring to life as the reader empathises with Anja and Monika. The Wall Between Us should be part of the English national curriculum. It is such a powerful read about a dark time. We should all be aware of the past, so that we do not repeat it.

The Wall Between Us would also make a fabulous television series – any producers out there, please take note.


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