Forty Autumns

  • by Nina Willner
  • Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
  • 10 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 40 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 20, 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, DC, 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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The Cold War from the Other Side

I grew up with the Cold War, hiding under my desk, watching Kruschev pound his shoe on the podium, watching East German athletes as a dominate force in sports. But I didn't know what it was like to be living "on the other side". I have taken my freedom for granted. This is the story of one family and what they went through. But really it is about all those families that persevered through incredible oppression and made it through to the freedom they longed for. Excellent.
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- lindal

Terrific Book!

I was still a child when the Berlin wall fell. In my innocence, I thought it was sad, that a country ceased to be on the map.
Since then, I've been interested in eastern Europe.
This book describes both the personal and political backdrop to what happened in East Germany, what the reality of life was like, the risk it was to leave...
This book is accessible, readable, and compelling. But there's something disconcerting about the author referring to her grandmother, someone she never met, as her "Oma", and her mother by her first name. And there's something disjointed in the telling in places, where family member disappear and reappear and you almost need a scorecard to keep up with who they are.
Cassandra Campbell is a wonderful narrator, though I'm not certain about her German and Russian pronunciations. Overall, both author and narrator did a wonderful job of telling the reality of life under east German rule.
Well worth your time and credit.
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- Daryl

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-04-2016
  • Publisher: HarperAudio