Thursday, November 3, 2011

Book review: Sektion 20


By Paul Dowswell

November, 1972: Germany is in the middle of the Cold War, pitting people in the country’s East against those in the West. Teenager Alex lives in East Berlin during a time when it was illegal to read books, paint, sing and do anything else creative that isn’t seen as benefiting the governing dictatorship. Sick of the oppression and the way everyone suspects their friends and neighbours of being spies, he decides to speak out against what he believes is a pointless war and the heavy handed Stasi—the state’s security force. But when he goes too far, a Stasi agent is sent to make Alex conform, or kill him. Alex and his family realise their only chance to survive is in West Germany, but getting close to the wall that divides the country in two, let alone over it, proves to be virtually impossible.

It’s hard to avoid clichéd descriptions like ‘coming of age story’, ‘political thriller’, ‘gritty realism’ and ‘page turner’, so I won’t try. Lovers of historical fiction, especially alternate history, will adore Sektion 20. The narrative is immediate and thrilling; the setting realistic, compelling and well-researched. The result: a piece of historical fiction I highly recommend to mature Young Adults who can stomach the unsavoury aspects of the Cold War, and those who enjoy chapters with cliff hanger endings.

(The novel for this review was supplied by Bloomsbury)

Review by Emanuel Cachia

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