The Zookeeper’s War
WINNER OF THE 2008 PRIME MINISTER’S LITERARY AWARD FOR FICTION
“This is a clever, inspired, insightful, tension-filled drama that has an ending you won’t forget in a hurry.” Australian Bookseller & Publisher
It is 1943 and each night in a bomb shelter beneath the Berlin Zoo an Australian woman, Vera, shelters with her German husband, Axel, the zoo’s director.
Together, Vera and Axel struggle to look after the animals through the air raids and food shortages of war. When the zoo’s staff are conscripted into the army, conscripted foreign workers are sent to replace them. At first, Vera finds the idea of forced labour abhorrent, but gradually she realises the new workers are the zoo’s only hope. She finds herself becoming close to one of them: a young Czech, with whom she forms an unexpected bond.
This is a city where a foreign accent — Czech or Australian — is a constant source of suspicion, where busybodies report the names of neighbours’ dinner guests to the Gestapo. As tensions mount in the closing days of the war, nothing, and no one, it seems, can be trusted.
In this powerful novel of a marriage and city collapsing, we confront not only the brutality of war and an occupying army, but transcendent and unexpected heroism, and an ending that is as shocking as it is deeply moving.
- Year of Publication: 2007
- Genre: Literature
- Audience: Adult