Tying Down The Lion by Joanna Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tying Down The Lion is a historical fiction book set in the late 1960’s in Berlin during the Cold War. It is also the story of life in Berlin for Eleora a young Jewish girl who spent years being hidden from the Nazi’s. Plus there is a third storyline, one of Jacqueline Bishop and her family surviving together, learning secrets and growing up.
Jacqueline and her family are about to set off for a holiday to Berlin in a dilapidated car. It’s 1967 and fourteen year old Jacqueline will document the visit as part of a school project about contrasts. Bridget wants to return to Berlin, her homeland to visit her two sisters. Sisters who have been torn apart by the Berlin Wall which separates East from West.
The Bishop family squash into the car, Mum, Dad, Grandma, Jacqueline and her seven year old brother Victor. Dad is a prison warder with his own night terrors caused by memories from the war. During the story Jacqueline gets to hear shocking secrets of her mother’s past. In 1938 Bridget was known as Eleora, she lived with her parents, her father was a musician, their world was full of parties and dancing, but danger lurked, they were Jews in Berlin. Eleora was secretly sent to live with her Aunt and her two cousins, she was given a new identity, Birgit and she was to become their sister. The oldest cousin Beate was full of Hitler’s National Youth teachings and resented hiding her cousin. Ilse was gentle and kind. When hiding Birgit became too much she was taken to a factory and hidden in severely harsh circumstances for years, to keep her safe and it almost killed her.
Returning to Belin opens up old wounds, they stay in West berlin with Beate, but have organised a day trip to East Berlin for Bridget and Jacqueline to see Isle, the contrasts and hardships for all who live in Berlin in both the war years and the Cold War are very eye-opening.
This book is written in a very intense writing style. I was very interested in the divided Berlin during the Cold War and I wanted to read much more about the war years and Eleora’s life during that time. For me the Bishop family dramas took up too much of the book. Grandma’s endless supply of sweets became rather unbelievable as did the money the hard up family managed to keep spending. There was good use of detail from the 1960’s but at times it felt too much. A number of occasions time seemed to be endless for the family; day one of their trip, the amount of sight-seeing they fitted in during a day trip in West Berlin, the day with Ilse, I think too much was fitted in and I was as exhausted as much as the characters.
An interesting read, just too many strong storylines all fighting for the readers attention.
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