Dark Hours

Dark Hours

4.0 2
by Gudrun Pausewang

Entombed following a bombing raid at the close of World War II, three children struggle to survive.

On Gisel's 16th birthday, her world, like the war effort, begins to crumble. Her father is away, serving in the German army, when the advancing Allies force the rest of the family to flee their home. Gisel, her younger brothers, and their pregnant mother


Entombed following a bombing raid at the close of World War II, three children struggle to survive.

On Gisel's 16th birthday, her world, like the war effort, begins to crumble. Her father is away, serving in the German army, when the advancing Allies force the rest of the family to flee their home. Gisel, her younger brothers, and their pregnant mother board a crowded train. But when their mother goes into labor, the children are separated from her at the next station.

Before they know what's happening an air raid siren sounds, and Gisel barely manages to hustle her siblings into a trackside bathroom. When the bombs hit, the children are trapped. As they await rescue, Gisel's only adult communication is with a dying soldier, buried on the other side of the wall, who offers guidance on how to survive.

Told as a grandmothers birthday gift to her 16-year-old granddaughter,
Dark Hours is a suspenseful and dramatic novel about the injustice of war, its impact on ordinary people, and the hope that resonates in the human soul.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist - Hazel Rochman
A survival adventure of brave kids surviving on their own... Caught by the action, readers will want to talk about the issues.
Add this to the usual list of World War II books to freshen and broaden your readers' views on the war.
Add this to the usual list of World War II books to freshen and broaden your readers' views on the war.
VOYA - Amy Fiske
Forced to flee her Silesian home to escape the advancing Russian army, fifteen-year-old Gisela Beck struggles to reach Dresden with her family in the waning days of World War II. Trauma is heaped upon trauma when her pregnant mother goes into labor while en route and must be left behind. While waiting in a train station, memories flood Gisela's mind: the sudden flight from home, the initial exhilaration of an ordinary German girl caught in Hitler's thrall, her eventual disillusionment with National Socialism. Air raid sirens shatter her reverie. Separated from her grandmother in the ensuing chaos, Gisela must summon the strength of an adult and find shelter for herself and her younger brothers. What follows is a story that teeters between despair and hope, loss and triumph. A forward written by Pausewang outlining a brief history of the rise of Hitler will assist American readers not familiar with modern European history. Initially a bit slow, the novel becomes a page-turner once the children become separated from their grandmother. Although history is sometimes a hard sell with teens, this book will appeal to those who enjoy stories about intense experiences. Pausewang paints a realistic picture of a teen in extraordinarily trying circumstances and the shifting effect of tragedy and loss on one's politics and priorities. Letters from an elderly Gisela to her granddaughter on her sixteenth birthday frame the story, adding a poignant personal touch that elevates the book well above ordinary historical fiction.
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8
Pausewang has created another World War II story, from the perspective of a German Christian teen whose life is at risk when caught in the brutality of war. Several days before Gisel's 16th birthday, the family must flee their small village as the Russian army advances and the American forces approach. Waiting in the overcrowded train station, the teen is suddenly left responsible for her three younger brothers, including 18-month-old Rolfi, while her grandmother is at the information desk. When the air raid sirens go off, everyone tries to reach the nearest shelter and Gisel becomes separated from six-year-old Harald. Several harrowing hours ensue before the children are reunited, and when the bombs fall, they become entrapped in the rubble for two very long and frightening days. Gisel is a strong heroine who is able to maintain calm and optimism while hiding her fears and doubts from her young charges until their long rescue. Told by an elderly Gisel to her granddaughter in the form of a letter, Pausewang's book seeks to make a statement that war is a crime and never good for either side. Yet some may bristle when she compares the difficulties of Gisel's family with the suffering of so many in the inhumane conditions of the concentration camps, calling the Holocaust an "injustice" rather than organized genocide. Well written with suspense and powerful sentiments, this story will spark discussion when used in conjunction with other Holocaust literature.
—Rita SoltanCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Annick Press, Limited
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.87(d)
700L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Gudrun Pausewang is a highly acclaimed, award-winning author in her native Germany. She was an eyewitness to events of the period in which the book is set, and was forced to flee her own village at age 17.

John Brownjohn has translated more than 50 novels into English from German and French. He is also a screenwriter whose credits include the Roman Polanski films Pirates and The Ninth Gate.

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Dark Hours 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
The story is told in Gisel's point of view and it's an interesting one. She tells you how her life was when the war was going good for Germany and then how it started turning against them, you can feel her bitterness towards the war. Actually, you can feel it towards everybody in this book as now since the tide has turned, frequent visits to the air raid shelters are all over Germany, and talk against Hitler and the German government is also starting to rise. The idea of leaving all that she loved behind and having to take care of all her siblings (all younger than her) just enhances her bitterness towards the war. However throughout the book I admire Gisel's strength and courage when they were stuck beneath the rubble waiting to be rescued. She does get impatient several times as any other older sibling would do when they're stuck with their younger ones (Gisel especially gets annoyed with Lotte who's a spoiled brat). I think it adds realism to her character and rounds her out very well. I think her courage stemmed off from her brother Erwin who is a few years younger but acts very mature and helps Gisel when needed. I liked him as he provided the extra strength she needed to keep being positive and to survive. The other part is the solder who is also stuck underneath the rubble but is able to communicate to them with a pipe (he was on the other side of the wall). He provides Gisel with advice and also advises her to make as much noise as possible in the hopes of being heard and rescued quickly. What I liked most about the book is Gisel's ability to pull everybody together and to maintain a positive outlook while in times of duress. For someone who has barely just turned sixteen, she ages and matures quickly and you can actually hear her voice growing "older". There is no real plot in this book which may be a deterrent to some readers. The majority of the book takes place underneath the rubble and all you really read are Gisel's thoughts. It may or may not draw readers in, so perhaps I would only recommend this book for World War II buffs. Otherwise, for those who aren't, it certainly is worth a try. It's a little over 200 pages so it should be a breeze for the majority of readers out there. Overall an interesting account of someone who is on "the other side" of war. Albeit, with no real plot it's certainly worth a look see.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dark Hours, written by Gudran Pausewang and translated by John Brownjohn, proves to be an enticing adventure full of historical background of the horrors Germany faced during WWII. If you are looking to learn more about German culture during the 1940's, Dark Hours entails the adventure of one German girl learning to mature as well as survive in her darkest moments-surely to satisfy one's need for historical fiction. The intense and rapid novel offers one viewpoint of a family's wartime lifestyle, and how the horrors of war extended far beyond the lives of soldiers. We find the story of 15 year-old Gisel, who finds herself separated from her mother and grandmother in a Russian air-strike. Forced to leave behind many of her family's possessions in a train station, Gisel takes her three brothers to a safety shelter-where they soon meet an abandoned girl whom they take care of as well. Upon the bombing, Gisel finds herself and the four children locked in the bathroom of the shelter. There, for two days, Gisel works to keep her family alive-taking upon more responsibility than ever expected. Questioned whether food will be properly rationed, whether water will be available, whether they will ever see their mother or grandmother again-worries constantly on Gisel's mind as she is trapped in the bathroom. The tale of Dark Hours teaches of the hardships families faced during WWII, as well as the enticing story of one 15 year-old forced to take responsibility for her family. While the novel may not be as fast-paced as hoped-it surely provides an interesting story for readers of all ages. Growing up during the war-Pausewang provides in-depth details about life before and after German strikes. Nominated for numerous German writing awards as well as the leading teens author in Germany, Gudran Pausewang writes another 4-star novel about life during World War II.