Anna Stuart comes to the blog with a story of family secrets, changes and the war with
The Berlin Zookeeper
In the present day, Emily is starting her new posting as a vet at the Berlin Zoo, having set herself a career path for this very job when her mother died when she was just eleven. Memories of visiting the zoo with her German-Born mother and meeting their ‘mascot’ Knautschke (crinkles in English) a hippo, she had few items to go on BUT those memories, and now the hippo pin and a list of names found in her mother’s jewelry box. Her father, with whom she has a marvelous relationship isn’t pleased with her discovery, and now all these years later he’s more concerned about her relationship with her live-in boyfriend, her being away for a year, and just what she’s got planned.
Jumping to the past, we meet Katherina, a scientist who worked at the zoo, was devoted to the animals and her husband Oscar, and often far too outspoken for safety. We’re diving in near the end of the war, when Berlin was subject to repeated bombings by Allied forces, and the Soviet army was moving toward the city from the west and north – led by rumors, fear and more uncertainty. But Katherina is determined that their little Zoo Family will survive this war – everything from the animals to the people – and the love they share. While dealing with a director who, despite his obvious care for the animals is strongly attached to the party and it’s leaders, to the struggles (and secrets) they keep, the zoo staff is mostly women, children and a handful of French men who were ‘traded’ by the Vichy Administration to work for the Germans in exchange for some prisoners of war.
Throughout the story we see Emily’s determination to dig out the family secret – now knowing that her beloved grandmother was not her actual grandmother, and that her mother was ‘gifted’ during the war: all balanced with the stories of deprivation, struggle, the history of Ada – the old woman who spends hours each day “speaking” with a statue of Katherina, and just how she may fit into the puzzle that Emily is trying to build. With help from the head of the primate exhibit, Max, and her own feelings for him growing, we also have the “German” perspective of the horrors of the war’s aftermath: the German attitude toward “never again” and, of course, the animals in all their mischievous glory. The story brought much to light, including determination, struggle, hope and plenty of devastation for all involved, present and past. I adore stories that place the past firmly into the present and show the struggles, the challenges and the triumphs against all odds, and in many ways, Emily’s story mirrored the challenges in a very personal way. Her relationship with her father had several challenges, all overcome, and her ending a relationship of 2 years simply because she’d found that she wanted more – and the distance gave her clarity, the story has plenty for readers today to enjoy. A firm favorite for the detail, the emotional connections and the determination that everyone showed to get to the end of the war, or their quest – and to finally see hope for the future firmly on the horizon.
Title: The Berlin Zookeeper
Author: Anna Stuart
Genre: Contemporary Fiction - Adult, Dual Narration, Dual Timeline, European History, Family Saga, Friendship, Grief, Historic Elements, Humor elements, Mystery Elements, Romantic Elements, Second Chance, Setting: Germany, Sociological Relevancy, World War II
Published by: Bookouture
Published on: 29 April, 2021
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 30 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google ♦Audible
Two women. One shocking wartime secret. And a family mystery just waiting to be discovered...
Berlin Zoo, 1943: Ten-year-old Adelaide and her newborn sister are orphaned after a devastating night of bombing. Heartbroken and frightened, Adelaide runs to her mother’s closest friend, Katharina Heinroth, and the kind zookeeper takes the two little girls under her protection. As the bombing intensifies, Adelaide tries to shut out the horrors of war by caring for her tiny sister and playing with the adorable baby monkeys. But when Katharina organises a dangerous operation to enable children and animals to escape the battle-scarred city, something goes wrong. And Adelaide has to promise her adopted mother to keep a shocking secret. A secret that will change Adelaide’s life forever.
Berlin Zoo, 2019: Bethan Taylor notices the elderly lady sitting on the bench next to her seems confused, her thoughts flitting between past and present. Ada talks of her childhood, played out in an underground bunker beneath the animal enclosures during the war. As Ada’s story unfolds, Bethan is surprised to hear a name she recognises…
Katharina Heinroth is at the top of a list of German names Bethan found in a hidden compartment of her late mother’s jewellery box. Bethan’s father couldn’t tell her anything about the crumpled piece of paper and she’s been searching for the meaning ever since.
As the two women are brought together by the pain of the past can they help each other to heal? And after decades of silence, can Ada help Bethan to uncover a long-buried family mystery?
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.