Reviewed by: BigAl
Genre: Historical Fiction/YA
Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words
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“Margarita Morris was born in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, in 1968. She attended Harrogate Granby High School and then studied Modern Languages at Jesus College, Oxford. She worked in computing for eleven years before leaving to work with her husband on their internet business. She likes writing novels set in historically interesting places, such as Berlin which she first visited in 1987 before the Wall came down. When she's not writing she enjoys singing in an Oxford chamber choir and working in the garden. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two sons.”
“Sixteen years after the end of World War Two, Berlin is occupied by the Americans, British and French in the West and by the Soviets in the East. Citizens of West and East Berlin cross the border regularly, to go to work or to visit family and friends. But then on the morning of 13th August 1961 Berliners wake up to find that this is no longer possible. The border is closed. 17 year old Sabine, her mother and younger sister are trapped in East Berlin. Dieter, Sabine’s older brother, is in West Berlin. For Sabine and her family, the only option is to escape from East Berlin. But there’s a wall which is guarded by armed soldiers. Escaping from the East to the West is a matter of life and death. And the East German state security police are watching everyone, all the time, watching…”
Although Oranges for Christmas has a seventeen-year-old protagonist and a story that’s a good fit for the YA audience, that label might be limiting in a way it doesn’t deserve. It’s also undeniably historical (taking place in the early 60s), which prompted my major takeaways from the story.
At least some of the history of the Berlin Wall I’d learned and largely remembered. Things like it going up overnight (initially the “wall” was just coils of barbed wire which isolated East Berlin from West Berlin, with an actual wall constructed shortly after). I knew that extended families were shut off from each other (children from parents and grandparents or, as in this story, a grown child trapped on one side and unable to see his mother and siblings on the other). But I’d forgotten the timing. In my mind this happened in the immediate aftermath of World War II, not around 16 years later. That this happened in my lifetime, although young enough for these events to not be something I was aware of at the time, drove home for me how our perception of history is colored by what we “experienced” in some way ourselves with everything else being “ancient.” My grandkids will (and probably already do) consider 9/11 and the war in Iraq the same way.
I also thought the author did an excellent job integrating the actual historical events including many details that those of us who aren’t history buffs wouldn’t be aware of into the story. It made for a compelling read with a bit of painless education thrown in.
Uses UK spelling conventions. Very limited use of adult language.
No significant issues.
Rating: **** Four stars