Today dear reader I am reviewing Hassan’s Zoo & A Village In Winter (Published 6 Aug. 2021) By Ruth Brandt. A big thank you to the publishers Fly On The Wall Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated.
This short story is a part of The Fly on the Wall shorts season. Every two months for a year starting from February 26th 2021 they are publishing a short story with a social message to be found in each one. Find out more details here.
When American soldiers invade Iraq searching for weapons of mass destruction, Kesari the Bengal tiger and other wildlife are at the mercy of guns and keeper, Hassan. Entrenched in perpetual fear, Hassan must exercise Godly powers over his creatures in his attempts to save them – and himself.
A Village in Winter
“Mrs Gregory said to leave Frizz and his mum be for a while. Stop pestering. That poor woman with that lad.” In the chill of winter, the villagers play by the river, their play as harsh as the ice.
From the moment you start reading you are surrounded by rubble and dust. The sound of fear and missiles is thick in the air. American soldiers have invaded Iraq searching for weapons of mass destruction. Hassan, who works at the zoo couldn’t leave the house he shares with his mother, father and two younger sisters for the first six days to check on the animals. He often thinks of them and prays that they are ok. On the seventh day things get worse and Hassan announces he is going out. He says they will be needing food and water soon but he has every intention to check on the animals first. Yet danger awaits him at the zoo, will he risk his own life to save the animals?
Hassan is an interesting character to follow. He has a big love for animals and always wanted to be a vet. Unfortunately he never had the money for the fees for his training and slowly got used to the idea that he would never become one. He threw himself into the zoo and could never name a favourite, but Kesari the Bengal tiger has a special place. Animals have always fascinated him, the variety of them and the way they adapt to their environment. He loves how when animals are left alone they can live on and alongside nature.
When Hassan arrives at the zoo he checks on all the animals and is saddened to see the state of their living conditions and poor health. He makes quick work of doing as much as possible to aid them. He feels he has to protect them. He is shocked to discover some men breaking in and stealing a penguin for food. People are getting desperate because of the war and lack of food supplies. When the soldiers turn up and begin to help him with the animals he is surprised. Yet all does not end well. A pointless death makes Hassan see the death of his dream and the death that the soldiers brought to his country.
There is a strong theme of hope and courage throughout this story. Hassan risks his life to check on the animals when there are missiles going off all around him. He holds out hope for the animals, that they will make it and see better days.
In A Village in Winter the story follows Bun who plays with her friends Sarah, Frizz and sometimes Matt the Frost. They spend their days playing in the street during winter where for a couple of days it was warm. The villagers play by the river and are told by Mrs. Gregory to leave Frizz and his mum alone. There is a river nearby and none of them are worried much about it even though Mr. Drake warns them. They ignore him and throw stones and sticks at an old rug in the river, messing about and making jokes about why it was thrown out.
Frizz, Matt and their mum very rarely come out into the sun. They stay on the dark side, in the shadows. When Matt does make an appearance, Mrs. Gregory places a radio on the window sill and asks why don’t the other kids dance with Matt. One day Frizz rushes out looking for his brother as the other kids are skateboarding and they are shocked to find him by the river, dancing with the rug.
It’s nostalgic reading as it reminds you of a simpler time when being a kid was all you had to worry about. The innocence of youth and talking about the other kids who appear different. You can feel the weather changing with the events and feel both calmed and unsettled by it all. It’s intriguing dear reader and makes you think and remember what life was like when you were a child.
I give Hassan’s Zoo & A Village In Winter By Ruth Brandt a Four out of Five paw rating.
Captivating and mesmerising both stories will leave you with a chill down your spine. Raw and tastefully done, these two stories will have a powerful effect on you, you will be left utterly speechless.
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