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The House of One Thousand Eyes by Michelle Barker
Publisher: Annick Press (September 11, 2018)
Print Length: 354 pages
Who can Lena trust to help her find out the truth? Life in East Germany in the early 1980s is not easy for most people, but for Lena, it’s particularly hard. After the death of her parents in a factory explosion and time spent in a psychiatric hospital recovering from the trauma, she is sent to live with her stern aunt, a devoted member of the ruling Communist Party. Visits with her beloved Uncle Erich, a best-selling author, are her only respite. But one night, her uncle disappears without a trace. Gone also are all his belongings, his books, and even his birth records. Lena is desperate to know what happened to him, but it’s as if he never existed. The worst thing, however, is that she cannot discuss her uncle or her attempts to find him with anyone, not even her best friends. There are government spies everywhere. But Lena is unafraid and refuses to give up her search, regardless of the consequences. This searing novel about defiance, courage, and determination takes readers into the chilling world of a society ruled by autocratic despots, where nothing is what it seems.
Michelle Barker’s The House of One Thousand Eyes is a harrowing look at one girl’s journey to find out where she belongs in a divided 1980’s Germany controlled by the Soviet Union .
The House of One Thousand Eyes is a YA historical fiction novel that tells the story of 17-year-old Lena Altmann, a young girl forced to live with her Aunt following the death of her parents in an industrial accident and a stay in a mental institution to get well according to the doctrine of the Communist Party.
Barker had a way of encapsulating exactly how we, the reader, would imagine it was to live in East Germany while the Berlin Wall was erected. The research of the novel and attention to detail was meticulous, and once I found out that Barker’s own mother was an escapee of the German Democratic Republic it made it that much more of a real life situation. Also, the isolation of the main character, Lena, is brilliantly put into words, and I particularly found it interesting of Barker to use italics to express the thought Lena had that wouldn’t aline with the Communist ideal. Furthermore, at the begging of the novel these thoughts were usually followed by some sort of interjection of why they were wrong to think, but by the end of the novel Lena’s Mausi self awareness was out in full force.
I rather enjoyed the characters presented by Barker in this novel. The struggles Lena faced, including that of trying to decide whether or not to go looking for her Uncle Erich, were executed in a way that was incredibly believable, even for a work of fiction. I suppose the only quibble I have with The House of One Thousand Eyes is the romance. That is not to say I didn’t like the character of Max, nor did I miss why the romance was necessary to Lena’s character growth, but with a book such as this, that touches on some pretty serious topics (mental health, sexual assault, and grief to name a few) it almost diminished the important message of resilience and hope that Barker was trying to get at.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
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And those are my thoughts on The House of One Thousand Eyes by Michelle Barker. Have any post World War II historical fiction recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.