This descriptive narrative of political and personal life in east and west Germany raises two questions: is considerable breadth justified without corresponding depth? when does compression of events become distortion? Using four hypothetical families, two on each side, as representative of farming and middle-management, the author develops a detailed if selective picture of economic, social and educational patterns, of what people eat, how they spend their vacations, how they mark special occasions. The technique of intercutting vignettes is appropriate for conveying impressions, inefficient for imparting information; it also results in considerable verbiage of peripheral value. Throughout runs the thread of post-war German history, sometimes wrapping up a situation (1945-47 impoverishment, the 1948-49 airlift), sometimes stretching so thin that significant factors are omitted entirely (the jump from the 1953 insurrection and resultant emigration to the 1961 construction of the Wall). It does offer more about the present and the recent past in the two Germanys than any other juvenile, provided that a youngster is willing to sit through the meals and the bus trips, provided that you are willing to settle for less than the whole truth.