DNF @ 70%: The Zookeeper of Belfast | Book Review


DNF @ 70%

Genre: Historical Fiction (WWII)
Author: S. Kirk Walsh
Published: April 2021
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 336 (paperback)

Ach, I’m really sad that I didn’t finish this one. I keep plugging away at it for about 5 months before making the decision that I just wasn’t enjoying this.

I spent so much of this book waiting for things to pick up and get to the heart of it – but nothing really happens until the 70% mark, and then the pacing was distressing and the graphic details that the author goes into – unexpectedly for this genre of WWII fiction – actually made me feel sick.

The chapter lengths were too long – 30+ pages of dense text – and Hettie herself was truthfully an uninteresting character. I felt like I was forever peeping around curtains at the plot but never tackling it full on. At least, until the author blows it up in horrific bombing scenes and other gruesome events.

I see what this book is supposed to be doing, but I felt that its intended audience was confused. Is it a book for Natasha Lester fans? Or is this something more serious that is supposedly to bring you uncomfortably close to the tragedies of war? Because those genres are miles apart in WWII fiction.

I felt like I signed up for a Fiona McIntosh heart-wrencher, but accidentally ended up watching the 2022 All Quiet on the Western Front movie. Ick.

But also, ultimately (and more so than the ick elements), this was boring. Alas.

Title: The Zookeeper of Belfast
Author: S. Kirk Walsh
Purchase: Angus & Robertson
Add it on Goodreads

A stunning World War Two novel for fans of Natasha Lester, Heather Morris, Kate Furnivall, Mandy Robotham, based on a true story.

As the bombs rain down on the city, Belfast’s first ever female zookeeper must fight to save the baby elephant in her charge in this gripping, uplifting tale based on a true story.

1941. With the men away fighting, animal-lover Hettie Quin is made Belfast Zoo’s first ever female zookeeper. She is put in charge of Violet, a three-year-old Indian elephant, and they soon form a special bond. With Violet at her side, Hettie can almost escape the grim reality of her life: the father who has abandoned her family; the sister who recently died; the war that’s raging hundreds of miles away.

But the devastation of war is closer than she thought. When the bombs begin to rain down on the city, Hettie must gather all her courage to protect those she loves the most. Can she save Violet – and get through unscathed herself?

Based on a true story, The Zookeeper of Belfast is a gripping and uplifting tribute to what one woman’s courage and tenacity can achieve in the most dire of circumstances – perfect for fans of Heather Morris, Natasha Lester, Kate Furnivall, Mandy Robotham and Fiona Valpy.

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