“There are no winners when it comes to this Wall; boundaries never unify, despite the GDR’s insistence that it benefits their country.”
*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and … in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***
WARNING: It’s unpopular opinion time again!!
I have a weak spot for 20th century historical fiction and I don’t think I’ve read all that many stories focused on the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the Cold War before. It was one of the reasons I instantly caved when I was invited to read The Girl Behind The Wall. I’ve had mixed reactions to her books in the past, but I had high hopes for this newest story as it focuses on a topic I’m highly interested in… Sadly, it wasn’t ment to be. I’ll try to explain below why this story didn’t work for me.
First of all I do have to say that I still love the time period and setting of the story. Like I said, most 20th century historical fiction stories tend to be set during WWII, so it’s refreshing to have a focus on the Cold War period and the appearance of the Berlin Wall instead. The story was a great for refreshing my memories of this era as dates and events were mentioned, and it gave me flashbacks to my own visit of the many sights relating to the Berlin Wall in the city a couple years ago. It’s such a fascinating time in history and I’m still surprised we don’t see this setting more often… And especially with its focus on Berlin, its inhabitants and the division between West and East Berlin.
This was sadly just about the only aspect of The Girl Behind The Wall I did enjoy, as the rest of the story fell rather flat for me and I even debated whether to simply DNF it multiple times. I struggled with the writing style and the tone, and the short chapters and constant jumping between the two sisters really got on my nerves. I think that staying with each sister for more than a couple of pages would have benefitted this story greatly, because as it is you hardly get the time to start feeling invested in either POV. The characters themselves felt rather flat and cliche and I was never able to warm up to them. I think part of the reason was also the constant repetition of their situation and surprisingly shallow feelings and thoughts… It felt like the story was simply going in circles at times, repeating what was already said and done before over and over again.
I also struggled considerably with the pace, which was slow and didn’t help at all. In fact, I started skimreading quite early on in the story, which is never a good sign to be honest. On top of this, I simply didn’t think part of the plot was credible. True, people have moved between East and West during the Cold War, but having Jutta crossing multiple times and nobody noticing her obviously disheveled appearance on either side? I’m sorry, but that just felt too unbelievable for me, and I’m not even talking about Karin’s rather comfortable situation being a West Berliner in the East.
All in all, The Girl Behind The Wall definitely failed to hit the mark for me, which is such a shame as I was really looking forward to finally read a book set during Cold War Berlin. I seem to be in the minority though, so who knows, this story might just work better for you.