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I received this book for free from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. If you've read my other reviews, you'll know that if it's bad, I'll say so, regardless of how I received the book.The House of One Thousand Eyes by Michelle Barker
Published by Annick Press on September 11, 2018
Genres: Young Adult
Source: Net Galley
Buy on Book Depository
Occasionally a novel comes along that is so vividly written that it’s hard to believe it’s fiction. I have read two this year. First, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, now The House of a Thousand Eyes by Michelle Barker.
Lena lives in East Germany in the early ‘80s. She has it particularly hard. Her parents died in a workplace accident when she was a child. After a time in a psych hospital, she was released to her Communist Party member aunt and given a job cleaning the Stasi headquarters at night. Her one escape was Sundays with her best-selling author uncle across town. Lena and Erich would eat ice-cream and sip Vita Cola, and discuss Lena’s fantastical stories. Stories too fantastic for the Communist Party. It was also where Lena discovered hints of the West and pop culture from Erich’s magazines. Magazines that would result in an arrest if anyone found them. Everyone was a potential spy.
Then one night her uncle disappears. His apartment has a new occupant, who claimed to have lived there for five years. His books were no longer in any stores or libraries. His birth records no longer exist, and her aunt tells her she doesn’t have an uncle.
Michelle Barker added a note at the end of the novel describing what parts are fact and where she took liberties with the facts. I was too young (OK, naive) to really notice a divided Germany but Lena’s experiences feel very real. From her aunt hushing her questions to Herr Dreck, the top Stasi official who molested her each night at work and forced chocolate on her as “payment.”
Making the story feel real was the depth of each character. Auntie had a secret. And others whispered support to Lena, going against Party instructions and risking their lives. We feel Lena’s shock when she realizes she has unknowingly been the Stasi mole, leaking information on her rebellious uncle.
Books are generally published on Tuesdays, but I wonder if September 11 was intentional for The House of a Thousand Eyes. It’s such a significant day in American history, and while this story isn’t directly related to the attacks that day (and the author is Canadian), it is a relevant to current events in the United States and something we can learn from.
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