If the Valentin family had known the Berlin Wall would eventually fall, they may have been able to endure the communist yoke for a little bit longer. Instead, with their attempted escape, tragedy ensues. It is not until years later that remaining siblings Ella and Tobi agree that Ella will return to Germany and the Stasi archives for answers, especially as to the fate of their younger brother Heiko, and above all else, the truth of what really happened.
Moving between their East Berlin childhood and the present-day quest, this is an engrossing and atmospheric story of a family suffering the cost of political dissent, even as the demise of East Germany is nigh.
Informative and enjoyable read.
Everyone in our group found this book very interesting, well-written and well researched. A good discussion, several had visited Germany either before or after the fall of the wall. A grim time for the residents. All agreed we are lucky to live in such a free country.
A very good read.
Really enjoyed this book and it generated a good conversation about the issues raised. Well-written and thought provoking. Hard to put down.
It must have been a very difficult time living in this divided country, especially for those who had known freedom. But interesting to read that the children just accepted it, of course. To have one's child taken from them as a punishment by the Stasi is unforgivable. We discussed this book at length and wondered how we ourselves would have behaved under the Stasi regime, and did the people who worked for the Stasi regret their behaviour, or do they still believe they did the right thing So many questions. Sarah Hardach writes with great insight. Definitely worth reading.
Slow start in early chapters but then very engaging. Disappointed at the ending and the lack of follow up.
Enjoyed by all but some thought that it could have been developed better in terms of characters and plot. It gave a good depiction of life in East Berlin under the surveillance of the Stasi. It touched on the differing views of East and West but didn't go far enough.
Members found it gave an interesting insight into an historical period in Germany that echoes authoritarian regimes today. Most members however were a little frustrated that there wasn't sufficient character development and greater development of the settings.
A rare consensus.
A bit slow. Provoked lively discussion, but a disappointing ending.
Slow start but became interesting. Interesting use of grammar. Absorbing.
People really enjoyed the book!
A wonderful read - such a good piece of fiction.
An historically interesting and enjoyable book. However, most of our group found the ending unsatisfactory.
Several of the group found the subject matter gave an insight to East Berlin/Germany that they had little knowledge of, and appreciated that. Some found the switching of time narratives confusing and irritating - especially as the chapters were brief. Overall however, the book was enjoyed - bringing up spirited discussion about memory and keeping secrets.
A well-written book.
This book had many interesting facts about East and West Germany, and Stasi 'mentality'. However, we all felt it lacked 'deeper' meaning and was somehow 'unfinished'.
Overall the group thought this book well worth choosing. Although it wasn't gripping it was a good read. Some members thought it should have a sequel.
Everyone loved it! Great insight into living in East Germany before the wall came down.
This book created some lively discussion. We learnt more about the situation and brought our own personal knowledge to it. As one member said, the words at the bottom of the front cover summed it up. Majority gave it a 4.
We found the book extremely interesting and thought-provoking. Also vey easy to read. We had a lively discussion with valuable input by one of our members who is German.
Everyone enjoyed this book. Interesting discussion about the Stasi and the Berlin Wall. Some found the ending a little flat - they did not like the ambiguity.
Everyone enjoyed this book, and many were left wanting to learn more about that part of history. We wondered about the boy having the painting in the end, and thought the new questions might address that.