I’m working my way through my TBR pile—it’s diminishing, sure, but it’s still yea high right now, ops—and every once in a while, a true gem pops up. The Girl Behind the Wall, a novel written by Mandy Robotham, might very well be one of those gems. It has some peculiar traits, and it’s difficult for me to label it. Good sign.
The highly-awaited new novel from the author of internationally bestselling WWII fiction.
A city divided.
When the Berlin Wall goes up, Karin is on the wrong side of the city. Overnight, she’s trapped under Soviet rule in unforgiving East Berlin and separated from her twin sister, Jutta.
Two sisters torn apart.
Karin and Jutta lead parallel lives for years, cut off by the Wall. But Karin finds one reason to keep going: Otto, the man who gives her hope, even amidst the brutal East German regime.
One impossible choice…
When Jutta finds a hidden way through the wall, the twins are reunited. But the Stasi have eyes everywhere, and soon Karin is faced with a terrible decision: to flee to the West and be with her sister, or sacrifice it all to follow her heart
Cover: It’s like a punch in the face. Given the context, it’s appropriate.
- Berlin, summer 1961. A wall goes up during the night, splitting the city in half and separating East Berlin from West Berlin. The citizens who were used to crossing a nominal border are now trapped in their respective sections, unable to leave. It happens to Jutta and Karin Voigt, too: the two sisters, twins, are both western Berliners, but Karin ends up in an eastern hospital right before Operation Rose begins.
- This is a slow-paced book. I’m not a fan of slow books in general, but in The Girl Behind the Wall it seems to be fitting. The wall presence, its ponderousness and the finality of it, it all calls for an unhurried writing style – the reader feels like the Berliners do, suspended in time and space.
- Double POV—Karin and Jutta—and well executed. As usual I would have preferred to see a single POV though, as it would have added to the uneasiness pervading the pages. My favorite is Jutta’s; Karin’s is interesting but less poignant. The cast of supporting characters is small and unobtrusive, a nice feat.
- Interesting concept overall. I’m pretty sure similar things happened in the past, when the Berlin Wall was up, and I found it quite accurate, historically speaking. The story itself offers food for thoughts and it has its unexpected moments.
- The slowness I mentioned before is present at the beginning first and foremost, and it seeps through other chapters too. While I’m not sure this is a real flaw*, I’m mentioning it here too because if a reader is unwilling to persevere, then it might be the reason behind a DNF.
- My disbelief got challenged a lot more than usual. Love moves mountains, sure, and yet, Karin’s decision sounds… odd. On the other hand, I acknowledge the fact that love might indeed move mountains.
4 stars on GR.
*see the same point raised in the ‘yay’ section.