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Zoo Station by David Downing
Cover Artist: Getty Images
Review by Linda Marie Schumacher
Soho Press Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569474549
Date: 01 May 2007 List Price $23.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Publisher's Page / Show Official Info /

New Year's eve 1938 finds John Russel sitting on a fence in Nazi Germany as trainloads of Jewish children are shipped off to England, and tension between the Poles and the Germans mount. The fence he is perched precariously on is one familiar to journalists of any age. Here, up close it's all to easy to see what Hitler is about, but putting it down on paper won't convince anyone who hasn't seen the willingness of the brown shirts to inflict pain, humiliation and death on the Jews. As a journalist he wants to stay so that he can at least write the truth about what he see "between the lines," but he also has a son in German, and a girlfriend he doesn't want to abandon, voluntarily or otherwise.

When the Russians offer John a deal. To write stories about the Nazis that show their better side, it goes against his grain, but may be the only way he can stay in Germany. But it's not the only offer he's going to get, and the intrigue mounts as he tries to stay alive and still be able to face himself. (E.Lilley)

BUBBLES. ZOO Station by David Downing is all about Bubbles. Place yourself in Berlin early 1939. John Russell is a British journalist living in Berlin. Zoo Station is a train station outside Russell's apartment. Russell frequents the area for meals in the café, meetings with friends, and train rides. He is surviving, but struggling to make ends meet, planning to stay in Berlin to be with his German girlfriend and his German son. For those not educated in twentieth century European history, in 1933 the Third Reich, (Nazi Germany to us Americans) came to power. Later in 1939, the Third Reich invaded Poland which started World War II.

The Nazis are in power and are taking over German culture. People realize their world is changing and that war is coming, but don't want to think it is real. Their lives are full of bubbles. A soccer game...everybody cheers. Things are just like they used to be...for a while. A Bubble. Russell goes on vacation to a lake retreat with his girlfriend. Things are just like they used to be, a Bubble.

Russell is offered a job by Russian intelligence to write newspaper articles about positive aspects of the German world. To do this, Russell must get permission from the Nazi government. In essence, Russell writes about Bubbles in German culture and the opinions of German citizens toward the ongoing events in Germany. Both sides are happy with the arrangement. At first attempting to please both sides so he can stay in Berlin seems the thing to do, but an event at Zoo Station changes Russell's mind. How can Russell use all his contacts he has earned though his work for the Russians to his advantage? That is the point of the story.

The views of Berlin in 1939 are seen through Russell's eyes. As a fan of World War II fiction, this is a wonderful story. David Downing's presentation is different than I have read before. In other World War II fiction books, the two sides (Allied and German) are presented to the reader and the reader forms his opinions. David Downing writes a different story. We read what John Russell thinks, and he has nothing good to say about the Nazis. Zoo Station is a quick read, without a lot of character development, but still a very interesting story. David Downing is writing a continuing series about John Russell in Berlin. I am looking forward to reading more about John Russell in future David Downing books.

In 2007, we have the benefit of seventy years of history. Zoo Station provides us a "Bubble" to the world in Europe in 1939. David Downing, in Zoo Station (and eventually its sequels), whets the appetite for suspense lovers and World War II fiction enthusiasts.

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