Review: Forty Autumns by Nina Willner
As a new contributor to Literary Quicksand, you may not know how much I enjoy reading historical fiction (and non-fiction, in this case) yet. So, when I heard about the opportunity to join a book tour for Forty Autumns, I couldn’t turn it down and it didn’t disappoint.
In this illuminating and deeply moving memoir, a former American military intelligence officer goes beyond traditional Cold War espionage tales to tell the true story of her family—of five women separated by the Iron Curtain for more than forty years, and their miraculous reunion after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In Forty Autumns, Nina recounts her family’s story—five ordinary lives buffeted by circumstances beyond their control. She takes us deep into the tumultuous and terrifying world of East Germany under Communist rule, revealing both the cruel reality her relatives endured and her own experiences as an intelligence officer, running secret operations behind the Berlin Wall that put her life at risk.
A personal look at a tenuous era that divided a city and a nation, and continues to haunt us, Forty Autumns is an intimate and beautifully written story of courage, resilience, and love—of five women whose spirits could not be broken, and who fought to preserve what matters most: family.
At 416 pages, this book is an investment.
Following the events in this book, I grew to know and feel for Nina’s family.
Before I read this story, I couldn’t recall the events of the Cold War that I’m sure I learned in middle school history class. I found it to be a great resource for first-hand and second-hand accounts of the war and the heartbreaking things that families had to endure when Germany put up that wall. It was also great that Nina added photographs and quotes throughout the book. Willner also starts each chapter with a moving quote, which I thought was perfect.
The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is the act of rebellion. -Albert Camus
It’ll be one that I place on my “tell everyone about it” bookshelf at home. Hopefully, I can get a few friends to borrow it from me so we can chat about it.
About the author:
Nina Willner is a former U.S. Army intelligence officer who served in Berlin during the Cold War. Following a career in intelligence, Nina worked in Moscow, Minsk, and Prague promoting human rights, children’s causes, and the rule of law for the U.S. government, nonprofit organizations, and a variety of charities. She currently lives in Istanbul, Turkey. Forty Autumns is her first book.
Special thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for an honest review.