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.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Kindle ARC
No. of Pages: 350
Date of Publication: May 4, 2021
My Rating: 5 Stars
It is 1943 and keeping the Berlin Zoo running in the throes of World War II is no easy task. Not only is Katharina Heinroth in charge of the skeletal crew and trying to keep the animals fed and alive, she has a far more critical task - that of saving children. Two children in particular, ten-year-old Adelaide and newborn Olivia, eventually come under her care.
Then we have present day and Bethan Taylor is a vet and takes a year-long contract at the Berlin Zoo and runs into someone that makes her concerned about her past. In fact, she asks her father for clues about her past, particularly about her deceased grandmother. Bethan opens a pandora's box of lies and deceit and is determined to unearth any secrets she can.
I love reading historical fiction despite the seriousness these stories entail. Having read much of concentration camps and survivors in these fictional settings, to read of a book in a zoo setting was completely different. None of these stories are feel-good stories, but what is good about them is the dedication many have to deal with whatever circumstances they are facing. In this case of this book there were some passages that were difficult to read. When it comes to the women in this story there is definitely a level of sadness, but more than that there is an incredible level of strength. It is the strength that these women showed in this story that make this an utterly riveting read.
This touching story by Anna Stuart taught me about dark times and survival, and about an amazing Zoofamilie that showed the tragedy of reaching out for help that might never come. The mystery of Bethan’s past was compelling and I loved that it was inspired by a true story with a mix of creative license. Lastly, not only did the Berlin Zoo survive despite incredible odds it is still in the same location as it was during the war. This is just one of the intriguing things I learned from the informative Historical Note at the end of this book. This impressive book will be with me for a long time and definitely comes highly recommended.
Many thanks to Bookouture and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.
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