The Berlin Zookeeper by Anna Stuart
Published May 4th 2021 by Bookouture
About the Book: 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?
An unforgettable and heart-wrenching novel of a brave orphan girl and a shocking wartime secret. Inspired by a true WW2 story and perfect for fans of Orphan Train, The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Alice Network.
4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Berlin Zookeeper is an historical fiction story set in Berlin during the last two years of WWII. It was a horrible time for the citizens living there, trying to keep safe from the bombs and from Hitler and his cronies. Everyone was worried about what was to come, were they to be liberated by The Amis, or be overrun with the invading Russians, know to commit terrible atrocities. I found the setting of the Berlin Zoo to be interesting as well as very different from other books I have read about this time. The Keepers and workers at the Zoom were a family and would do whatever they could to keep their animals and themselves safe. I found myself googling the zoo as I read this book. The second timeline in this story is that of Bethan. She is a vet who works in London, but has a desire to learn more about Zoo animals. She takes a one year position at the Berlin Zoo and armed with a list of names that she found shortly after her mother died, she head off. While her father visits her on weekend, he shares information about her mother that has Bethan reeling and sets her off on a quest.
This a well done dual timeline story. I enjoyed both storylines equally, and Anna Stuart uses the mystery to bring them together. The characters are strong and well developed. Katharina Heinroth is based on the actual director of the zoo after the war ended and that was what really attracted me to this story. She was a tough, savvy woman who stood up for what was right. At times she was vulnerable, especially as those she loved died, but she made the decisions she needed to make to save her Zoo Family. The many characters in the wartime setting were all relatively well developed and all felt read to me. My heart broke as I read what it was like for them, what they lived through and how many did not survive. The present day story has the mystery, with Bethan trying to find someone, some friendships, dealing with partners, as well as a wonderful relationship with Bethan and her father. I really liked that this story was full of women. When all the men were gone to fight, the women in Berlin took over and ran things, displaying their strength, determination and the ability. Showing us what it was like to live in wartime Berlin and how it effected the every day citizens is not something I have read a lot about. This book gives us the opportunity to see the fall of Berlin, the plight of its people and what they went through once the Nazis surrendered. I definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy Historical Fiction for a different look at the German people who did not support the war effort. I was gifted a copy of this book upon request. The rating and opinions shared are my own.
About the Author: Anna Stuart lives in Derbyshire with her campervan-mad husband, two hungry teenagers and a slightly loopy dog. She was hooked on books from the moment she first opened one in her cot so is thrilled to now have several of her own to her name. Having studied English literature at Cambridge university, she took an enjoyable temporary trip into the ‘real world’ as a factory planner, before returning to her first love and becoming an author. History has also always fascinated her. Living in an old house with a stone fireplace, she often wonders who sat around it before her and is intrigued by how actively the past is woven into the present, something she likes to explore in her novels. Anna loves the way that writing lets her ‘try on’ so many different lives, but her favourite part of the job is undoubtedly hearing from readers. You can reach her on her website, Facebook or Twitter.