Sunday, November 30, 2008

food for the mind....

“A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way” ... Caroline Gordon.

and I think "The Zookeeper's War" by Steven Conte takes us to that world.

It's 1943, wartime Berlin. Vera (an Australian and the central character), zookeeper and wife of Axel Frey, the director of the Berlin Zoo, are trying to keep the animals alive and maintain a semblence of 'normal' daily life as the conditions become harsher and more heartbreaking.

The story moves in and out of the main characters' lives and that's where we learn what enticed Vera to travel to Berlin when all were gearing up for war.

People's fear and dawning awareness that no-one was really safe no matter who they supported was starting to take it's toll. Constant vigilance was a necessity - informers were everywhere - it didn't take much to get you 'noticed' by the gestapo - even Vera's Australian accent was bringing her more and more under suspicion as an enemy alien. It was a desperate fight for survival - rape, death, destruction, bombs falling all around them, rationing, the heartbreak of the animals dying from starvation, disease, bomb damage... and amidst all this her passionate but dangerous affair with Martin, an Ostarbeiter.

It's moving, it's sad, it's brutal - a poignant picture of ordinary people during an extraordinary time trying to maintain a vestige of hope when all around is in decline.

But most of all, it was 'un-put-downable' - not bad for a first novel!!!

It's one of the recommended books on the State Library's Summer Reading List, and this year the criteria is that they're either set in Victoria or written by Victorian authors.

The Reading Victoria blog is worth having a look at too - it's being posted to by all the authors on the list over the next few weeks...

1 comment:

Sailor Lily said...

the book sounds so good I've just popped across to the library site and reserved it. I can also recommend one everyone seems to be reading- 'People of the book' by Geraldine Brooks. As bibliophiles we know the power of the book as an object that can travel so far and hold so many stories in its very 'skin'. The novel (based loosely in fact) takes that notion and explores it beautifully.
So sorry about your Aunty and I hope things are smoothing out on the home-front. 'Lil.