Summary and book reviews of The Berlin Wall by Frederick Taylor

The Berlin Wall

A World Divided, 1961-1989

By Frederick Taylor

The Berlin Wall
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: May 2007,
    512 pages.
    Paperback: May 2008,
    528 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

On the morning of August 13, 1961, the residents of East Berlin found themselves cut off from family, friends and jobs in the West by a tangle of barbed wire that ruthlessly cut a city of four million in two. Within days the barbed-wire entanglement would undergo an extraordinary metamorphosis: it became an imposing 103-mile-long wall guarded by three hundred watchtowers. A physical manifestation of the struggle between Soviet Communism and American capitalism—totalitarianism and freedom—that would stand for nearly thirty years, the Berlin Wall was the high-risk fault line between East and West on which rested the fate of all humanity. Many brave people risked their lives to overcome this lethal barrier, and some paid the ultimate price.

In this captivating work, sure to be the definitive history on the subject, Frederick Taylor weaves together official history, archival materials and personal accounts to tell the complete story of the Wall's rise and fall, from the postwar political tensions that created a divided Berlin to the internal and external pressures that led to the Wall's demise. In addition, he explores the geopolitical ramifications as well as the impact the wall had on ordinary lives that is still felt today. For the first time the entire world faced the threat of imminent nuclear apocalypse, a fear that would be eased only when the very people the Wall had been built to imprison breached it on the historic night of November 9, 1989.

Gripping and authoritative, The Berlin Wall is the first comprehensive account of a divided city and its people in a time when the world seemed to stand permanently on the edge of destruction.

Chapter One
Marsh Town

In the summer of 1961, sixteen years after the end of the Second World War, the world was faced for the first time with the realistic threat of nuclear annihilation.

The background cause was the development, during the 1950s, of massively destructive nuclear weapons by both East and West. The immediate reason was the construction of a wall, a wall dividing a city built on sand.

Berlin, where this ominous thing happened, had always been an improbable metropolis. A fishing and trading settlement, surviving on sandy, boggy soil, it then became capital of one of the poorest monarchies in Europe: Prussia, a state whose very weakness gradually became its strength, and whose habitual trade of military violence—forced on it by its meagreness of natural resources—made it powerful, and Berlin one of the great urban centres of the world.

So how and when did the city's rise begin?

Twentieth-century Berlin was divided. And at its very beginning it ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
  • award image

Reviews

BookBrowse

Taylor has penned a compelling, thrilling, narrative history of the rise and fall of The Berlin Wall from a hastily constructed barbed-wire fence to the 30 miles of concrete and 300 watchtowers that followed shortly after. He looks not just at the barrier that partitioned a city, and the human stories of those effected by the Wall, but also at the global politics behind its construction in 1961, 16 years after the war had ended and 13 years after Stalin's failed attempt to seal off the city had been foiled by the Berlin airlift.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (1162 words).

Media Reviews
The London Review of Books - Neal Ascherson

Taylor’s book is a vivid, comprehensive account of how the Berlin Wall came about, of the repulsive or inspiring events which took place along it during its 28-year life, and of its eventual fall in 1989. He backs this narrative with a summary of Prussian and Berlin history leading up to the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945, a close study of the devious postwar struggles within the ruling Socialist Unity Party under Walter Ulbricht and then Erich Honecker, and an account of developing East-West relations before, during and after the great ‘Berlin Crisis’ of 1958-61 .... in other ways – language, historical assessment, boldness of opinion – this book falls below the standard set by Dresden. .... there’s also an impression that a publisher has told him to find a more popular style for readers whose attention to the past is fragile.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Taylor's enthralling story, combined with impeccable research and its rich human interest, makes this as dramatically gripping as any of the spy thrillers that used the wall as a backdrop.

The New York Times - William Grimes

Rarely does history wind up its dramas so neatly, with the same actor reciting both prologue and epilogue, and Frederick Taylor quite rightly savors the coincidence in The Berlin Wall, his gripping, impassioned history of the cold war’s most malevolent symbol

Reader Reviews
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

A short guide to some notable historic barriers:

Hadrian's Wall was built in AD 122. It measures 80 Roman miles (73.5 miles/117 km). It was the second of three stone and turf fortifications the Romans built across Britain to prevent military raids by the Picts (who inhabited what is now Scotland) but is best known as it is the best preserved. The lesser known walls are Gask Ridge, built about 40 years before Hadrian's Wall, and the Antoine Wall, built ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Berlin Wall, try these:

  • A Woman In Berlin jacket

    A Woman In Berlin

    by   Anonymous

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    The diary of a young woman, recording her and her neighbors' experiences as, for six weeks in 1945, Berlin fell to the Russian army.

  • Brandenburg Gate jacket

    Brandenburg Gate

    by Henry Porter

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Set in the weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dr. Rudi Rosenharte, formerly a Stasi foreign agent, is sent to Trieste to rendezvous with his old lover and agent, Annalise Schering. The problem: Rudi knows she’s dead.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

Signed Copies! "Exciting & emotionally engaging. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.