The Zoo Keeper’s War
About the book
In wartime Berlin, where foreign accents are a source of suspicion and where busybodies report the names of neighbours’ dinner guests to the Gestapo, embattled zookeeper Vera forms an unlikely bond with a forced labourer brought in to replace the staff members drafted into the war effort.
The Zookeeper's War is a powerful novel of a marriage, and of a city collapsing. It confronts not only the brutality of war but the possibility of heroism - and delivers an ending that is both shocking and deeply moving.
About the author
Steven Conte was born in 1966 and raised in Guyra in rural New South Wales. After six years of boarding school he lived and worked in Europe, and his first published short stories drew on his experiences as a traveller.
He has lived in Sydney and Canberra and most recently in Melbourne.
Bank teller, waiter, barman, cleaner, life model, public servant, taxi driver, receptionist, university tutor, editor and book reviewer are some of the jobs with which he has supported his writing.
Judges noted Stephen Conte's The Zookeeper's War as a striking first novel that is imbued with the melancholy of a collapsing world—Nazi Germany in the last years of the Second World War. Vera, married to the keeper of the Berlin Zoo, struggles each day to survive Allied air raids and betrayal by neighbours.
All around are frightened people, some tenacious, some treacherous. While Conte's research is formidable, it is the breadth of his historical imagination that enriches this novel.
As characters negotiate intricate and destructive moral choices, the narrative drive is sustained to the satisfyingly uncertain ending.