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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Over the Wall
by Renate Ahrens
Age Range: 9-11
When a strange man appears on their doorstep eleven-year-old Karo cannot understand why her Mum is so enamoured with him. She believes her father is dead, so it comes as a terrible shock when she discovers that this stranger is actually her father. She wants nothing to do with ‘Baldy’, her private nickname for him, but her mother doesn’t understand. As her mother and newly found father begin to spend more and more time together Karo becomes desperately unhappy: she squabbles with her best friend, starts to play truant from school and even goes to live with her grandfather, but nothing she can do makes any difference to the changing circumstances at home.
This is a powerful thought-provoking book by German writer Renate Ahren. Set in Hamburg after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Ahren cleverly weaves the complex family reunion with the impact of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. The reunification of Karo’s family reflects the reunification of her country.
Ahren is sympathetic to Karo’s plight, describing her thoughts and feelings as she struggles to understand a situation that has its roots in recent history with the division of Germany after the Second World War. Eloquently translated by Siobhan Parkinson, the narrative shows Karo as independently minded and at times exasperating as she struggles to deal with a situation that she wants to disappear. Gradually Karo comes to understand why her father was never around, and that life on the other side of the wall had not been easy for him. As her defences begin to crumble, it is her own wall that finally comes down as she begins the slow process of reconciliation with her father.