Thi s book was released with some hype in Australia and there is no doubt that Mr Conte is a talented writer trying to paint the horror of war against the deprivations of the people living in Berlin and the particular problems of the zookeepers that struggled to keep their rapidly dwindling animal population alive. And there is no doubt that if you chose to read a book about the horrors of war that it will be confronting and distressing.
However, what usually makes novels that deal with the emotive and frightening topic of war worth your time is the way the authors deal with the triumph of the human spirit, the idea that people will rally whatever the circumstances, do great deeds however small and un-noticed, and at the end of the novel there will be a sense of satisfaction against the sadness.
I am disappointed to say that this is not the case - our heroes struggle with the unending bleakness of life, and then find themselves in Soviet occupied East Berlin, where further atrocities are rained upon them. By the end of the book is was almost nauseated and even now, some time after I have finished it, I still find its memory disturbung.
Perhaps that was the aim of the book - it is certainly effective if that was the case. But I simply found it unpleasant and unsatisfying.
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Lesley West (Beatleman1ac)
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â The Zookeeper's War is a striking first novel, imbued with the melancholy of a collapsing world-Nazi Germany in the last years of the Second World War. Vera, married to the keeper of the Berlin Zoo, struggles each day to survive Allied air raids and betrayal by neighbours. As characters negotiate intricate and destructive moral choices, the narrative drive is sustained to the satisfyingly uncertain ending.' Judges of the inaugural Prime Minster's Literary Awards