Forty Autumns

Forty Autumns

A Family's Story of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin Wall

Book - 2016 | First edition.
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"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. Forty Autumns makes visceral the pain and longing of one family forced to live apart in a world divided by two. At twenty, Hanna escaped from East to West Germany. But the price of freedom--leaving behind her parents, eight siblings, and family home--was heartbreaking. Uprooted, Hanna eventually moved to America, where she settled down with her husband and had children of her own. Growing up near Washington, D.C., Hanna's daughter, Nina Willner became the first female Army intelligence officer to lead sensitive intelligence operations in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. Though only a few miles separated American Nina and her German relatives--grandmother Oma, Aunt Heidi, and cousin, Cordula, a member of the East German Olympic training team--a bitter political war kept them apart. 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"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, NY : William Morrow, [2016]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780062410313
Branch Call Number: 929.20943 WIL
Characteristics: xxii, 391 pages :,illustrations (some colour)


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Mar 24, 2019

Recommended by Pat

Dec 31, 2017

An engrossing and beautifully written family memoir. Perfect to curl up with over the weekend or to read with a book group. Here is a link to my review:

Manateestarz Jul 31, 2017

A warm, beautifully written story that illustrates the struggle of one family dealing with life under East German Communism. The author draws a wonderful picture of strong and determined Opa and loving and indefatigable Oma and her entire extended family. The book is also filled with wonderful photos throughout.

Jul 26, 2017

Loved this book! Part of the author's family escaped from East Germany shortly after WWII and part was trapped behind the Iron Curtain. The author compares their very different lives. Since I remember most of the major world events in the book, it was especially interesting to view them from another perspective.

SPL_Sonya Mar 14, 2017

Forty Autumns is a well-researched memoir describing the heartache of a family separated by the Berlin Wall. Nina Willner, a first time author, recounts her mother’s escape from East Germany as a young woman and the repressive lives of the family she left behind. The author does an excellent job of combining the historical and political facts of the Cold War era with the personal experiences of her family. This well written book will especially appeal to those who enjoy reading about history and politics.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at EPL

To Top