8 Feb 2013

REVIEW: Stasiland by Anna Funder

Title: Stasiland
Author: Anna Funder
Publication Date: 2007
Publisher: The Text Publishing Company
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288
Rating: 5/5

Blurb: Anna Funder's penetrating and dispassionate Stasiland really begins with one significant date: the year 1989. The Berlin Wall falls and the history of a country that had become a microcosm of the Cold War is changed irrevocably. With the hated symbol of the enforced division between East and West reduced to rubble, the two Germanys--East and West--are able to reunite; grey, depressed East Germany becomes a memory.

After the initial euphoria, the change was hard for the world to accept, but it was both exhilarating and unsettling for the denizens of the Soviet bloc state, who had lived under the brutal, paranoid regime of the secret police, the dreaded Stasi of the title. For the inhabitants of East Germany, there were some stark statistics: one in 50 East Germans had informed on a fellow citizen, and human beings behaved in fashions unthinkable just the space of a wall away.

The amazing stories that Anna Funder tells in Stasiland bring to life with extraordinary vividness both the dark and the more human sides of life in the former East Germany: a young girl who could have started World War III, the man who laid down the line that became the Wall. These and a hundred other tales (from both the recent past and the present, as Berlin still struggles with the legacy of history) make for a highly unusual book, the final effect of which is as life-affirming and positive as the destruction of the Wall must have been for those who watched.

Review: Usually this isn’t the type of book I’d review at all- a school book and non-fiction? Puh-lease, these are probably my two least favourites thing in the world. Oh but I was wrong.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a history nut, honestly I am, especially history to do with World War Two and the Cold War and especially, especially German history in these periods. This is why this book interested me in the first place, then I heard we’d be reading it for English class and instantly I grew a dislike for this book. I know this might sound silly or judgemental etc, but honestly the books my school sets us to read are always horrific.

Fortunately for me, I decided that I would just have to buckle down and read this book whether I liked it or not. Let me tell you, I’m glad I did. Despite my original hesitation, the moment I opened this book and started reading it I knew that I was going to enjoy it. This honestly surprised me, as I mentioned before I’m really not a fan of non-fiction books and on top of that I don’t like first person either. I think my overwhelming adoration for history took over pretty quickly.

I found myself getting attached to each of the stories that were presented- I wanted to know more about each of them, especially Miriam, Charlie and Julia. In fact in the synopsis is deems Anna’s writing as ‘dispassionate’, which annoyed me when I was copy it over but now that I think it over, I realise that the writing is almost dispassionate but in a way I think it makes it more interesting. Each story itself is amazing, most of them have heartbreaking elements, some make you laugh and others make you realise just how hard it would have been for some of these people.

I know a lot of you would never consider reading this book, especially those of you who are YA book bloggers like Chami and I. But I dare you to give ‘Stasiland’ a go and see if you don’t feel like something has changed, like you’ve found a new understanding for people who live through events like the Berlin Wall, especially if you live in a bit of a sheltered world like here in Australia.