July 3, 2012

Prisoners of war

The Midnight Zoo
by Sonya Hartnett

When the Germans break up their Romany encampment during World War II, Andrej, his younger brother Tomas, and their baby sister, flee through the ruined countryside. They find themselves in a bombed-out town where they stumble upon an abandoned zoo. Like Andrej and Tomas, the animals dream of freedom, but the keys have been lost.

In sharing their respective stories, the animals - a wolf, eagle, monkey, bear, lioness, seal, kangaroo, llama, chamois and boar - forge a bond with the boys that eventually set them free.

An almost unbearable sadness permeates the book, dealing as it does, with the cruelty of war, imprisonment, and oppression. Beautiful moments are fleeting and hope is a dream. The lives of the boys and animals are very bleak; sadly, freedom only comes through death. 

A story that you may want to forget, but it will not be easy.

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