A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen | Summary, Themes, Synopsis & Characters

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Jennifer A. Nielsen is the bestselling author of the historical fiction novel A Night Divided. It shows Gerta, a 12-year-old girl who is separated from half of her family because of to the Berlin wall in 1965. 

TitleA Night Divided
AuthorJennifer A. Nielsen
GenreHistorical Fiction
Publication DateAugust 25, 2015
Page Count352
PublisherScholastic Press
SettingBerlin, Germany, 1961

A Night Divided Characters

The main characters of the book A Night Divided are:

  1. Gerta Lowe – The story’s protagonist, a little girl living in East Berlin when the Berlin Wall is built who is separated from her father and elder brother when they flee to West Berlin.
  2. Fritz Lowe – Gerta’s older brother, who escapes to West Berlin before the wall is built and leaves Gerta behind in East Berlin.
  3. Katharine Lowe – Gerta’s mother, who is determined to keep the family together despite the challenges posed by the newly constructed wall.
  4. Aldous Lowe – Gerta’s father, who is unable to escape with Fritz and is left behind in East Berlin.
  5. Herr Krause – Gerta’s neighbor, who is secretly involved in the resistance movement against the East German government and helps Gerta and her family with their escape plans.
  6. Anna Warner – Gerta’s best friend, who is first suspicious of Gerta’s escape preparations but eventually becomes a crucial ally.
  7. Herr Hoffman – The chief of the Stasi, the East German secret police, who is hell-bent on preventing anybody from fleeing to the West and will go to any length to achieve his objectives.

A Night Divided Themes

Division and Unity – The narrative takes place in East Berlin during the Cold War, when Germany was divided into two sections. The idea of separation runs throughout the book as the protagonist, Gerta and her family are divided by the Berlin Wall. Gerta establishes relationships with different individuals to assist her achieve her aim of reconnecting with her family, but the narrative also addresses the subject of togetherness.

Courage and Resilience – As Gerta and her family strive to reconcile, they confront several hurdles and barriers. Gerta and her family members display bravery in the face of danger and uncertainty in the novel, which covers the concept of courage. As the characters learn, the idea of resilience is also apparent.

Family and Relationships – The Berlin Wall tears Gerta’s family apart, and the story investigates how isolation impacts familial ties. The narrative also emphasizes the value of friendship and the relationships that may build during a moment of adversity.

Injustice and Oppression – The book portrays the East German government’s repressive dictatorship and the injustices endured by its population. The account throws insight on the East Germans’ propaganda, monitoring and lack of freedom.

Hope and Freedom – Despite the book’s grim conditions, there are moments of hope and optimism as characters strive for a better future. It also underlines the value of freedom and the human yearning to live free of fear and constraints.

Watch full book summary of “A Night Divided”

A Night Divided Summary

Gerta awakened on August 13, 1961, to discover that a barbed wire wall had been constructed through Berlin to split East and West. Aldous, her father & brother Dominic were stuck on the opposite side of Berlin in West Berlin, while Gerta, her devastated mom & elder brother Fritz were trapped in the East with no means for interacting with them. 

4 years later, the wall has grown to 12 feet high and four feet wide, with guards stationed all around. It is difficult to cross & those who attempt it are frequently executed.

12 year Gerta misses her father & brother deeply. She secretly despises the wall that bounds East Berlin and people’s continual fear & lack of freedom. Because the risk is too large, she doesn’t completely express herself to anybody except her brother Fritz.

Even her best friend Anna advises her to keep silent and simply do as she is instructed to stay out of trouble. Gerta is secretly staring at the wall one day when she notices her brother Dominic & father on the other side! It’s her first time seeing him in 4 years! 

Her father seems to be giving her a message, but before she understand it, Gerta gets warned violently by a guard, Officer Muller, for just looking at the wall direction.

Gerta eventually discovers the significance of her father’s message. A tunnel dug from the basement of a building against the wall can be used to escape East Berlin. It’s a risky scheme that might lead to death at the hands of the Stasi or Grenzers, or border guards. 

Gerta, on the other hand, encourages Fritz to accept the tremendous risk, and the two begin digging the tunnel in secret. They are anxious to complete before Fritz is pushed into the army and loses remaining freedom he has for forever. Gerta and Fritz take care of hiding their work by planting a garden in front of the building using soil from the tunnel.

Gerta and Fritz find their father and brother had been tunnelling from the other side one day while excavating! They persuade their mother that it is time to flee, and they deal with Officer Muller of the East German Guard to join him and his family.

Gerta’s most important friend Anna joins them on their risky escape with her family. Grenzers encounter the courageous troop as they near the end of the tunnel. Guards are firing at them as they run for freedom!

Officer Muller saves himself by pushing Gerta out of harm’s path. The Grenzers unfortunately shoot and murder him. His wife and kid, as well as Anna and her family & Gerta and her family, make it to the other end of the tunnel and freedom in West Berlin.

They’re all excited. While the sun usually rises in the east, Gerta believed it rose in the west that day since it signified the end of their long, dark night.

A Night Divided Synopsis

Jennifer A. Nielsen’s “A Night Divided” is a young adult historical fiction book set during the Cold War. The narrative takes place in 1961 in Berlin, Germany, when the Berlin Wall was constructed, partitioning the city and separating families.

The story’s protagonist is Gerta, a little girl who lives on the East side of the wall with her mother and elder brother, Fritz. Gerta observes the construction of the wall while attempting to reach her father and other brother on the West side one night and is separated from her family.

Gerta’s mission to reunite with her family brings her through perilous and challenging conditions including border guards, barbed wire and shooting.

About the Author-Jennifer A. Nielsen

Full NameJennifer Anne Nielsen
Birthdate10 July 1971
BirthplaceUtah, United States
GenreYoung Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Notable Works“The False Prince” series, “The Ascendance Trilogy,” “Mark of the Thief” trilogy, “A Night Divided,” “Resistance”
EducationBachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University

A Night Divided FAQs

What is A Night Divided summary?

A Night Divided is a novel by Jennifer Nielsen about a family separated by the Berlin Wall and their struggle to reunite.

Is A Night Divided Based on a true story?

No, “A Night Divided” is fiction but it is inspired by real-life events surrounding Berlin’s partition.

What is the main idea of A Night Divided?

The main idea of “A Night Divided” is a girl’s struggle to reunite her family after the Berlin Wall separates them.

What age group is A Night Divided intended for?

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen is intended for young adults, ages 12 and up.

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