Author: Simon Schwartz
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Publication Date: March 1, 2015
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Simon Schwartz was born in 1982 in East Germany, at a time when the repressive Socialist Unity Party of Germany controlled the area. Shortly before Simon's birth, his parents decided to leave their home in search of greater freedoms on the other side of the Berlin Wall. But East German authorities did not allow the Schwartzes to leave for almost three years. In the meantime, Simon's parents struggled with the costs of their decision: the loss of work, the attention of the East German secret police, and the fragmentation of their family.
I have a habit when it comes to reading graphic novels: All of them are true stories and somehow related to war. I'm very fond of these kinds of stories, and telling them with illustrations seems to work for me. Ergo, I am drawn to the graphic memoir. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's get to my review.
The Other Side of the Wall by Simon Schwartz falls flat in comparison to the other graphic memoirs and novels that I've read. The story in this graphic novel/memoir is important and intriguing. It is also a historically significant story based on true events, but other than that, it didn't work for me. In this graphic novel, Schwartz tells the story of his parents crossing the border between East Germany and West Germany.
Simon Schwartz was a young child when he and his parents were finally able to cross, so much of his parents' story had to be told to him as he was growing up. Because of this, I felt an extreme disconnect to the story and the people in the novel. It didn't feel real or genuine, except for the parts in the novel where Schwartz shares his own memories. I also had a hard time connecting with this graphic memoir because no one in it has a name. Readers never learn the names of Simon's parents or grandparents. There are other people included in the book who don't have names, and it really bothered me.
There is some good in the book. Obviously Schwartz presents events relating to the Berlin Wall to young readers in a way that they might like, especially if they are fans of comic books or other graphic novels. He also includes a glossary and brief history at the end of the book to help readers understand what they are reading.
Would I recommend this book? Probably not. I realize that a lot was probably lost somewhere in translation, but I wouldn't feel great about recommending this to any of my friends. I just felt like it was too rushed and lacked a lot of explanation.
About Simon Schwartz
Simon Schwartz was born in Erfurt in 1982 and grew up in the Kruezburg neighborhood of Berlin. In 2004, he relocated to Hamburg to study illustration at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. Five years later, he had completed his debut graphic novel.