Review: The House of One Thousand Eyes by Michelle Barker

The House of One Thousand Eyes
Author: Michelle Barker
Publisher: Annick Press
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Pages: 354
Format: ARC/For Review

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.

Review: This was such an interesting read for me! I really liked that the author did some solid research regarding the cold war and the Berlin Wall. It really showed. And she even talks about some of the works she read that helped her write this book in the afterword. I also really enjoyed that there was a smooth flow of fictional characters while also actually inserting some actual real known people from that time period. 

I thought this book gave a good general idea of how life probably was in East Germany. The oppression, the potential to disappear if you said or found out the wrong thing. I could definitely believe the propaganda. I know that was a huge thing in this time period to try and show how good communism was supposed to be. I could definitely see this strict of a life being close to how it actually was. 

I really enjoyed Lena as a character. She lived with her communist aunt but didn't completely believe in the party herself. She was more like her uncle, questioning things, being interested in things that were not approved because they were from the west. Lena was tip toeing through life in East Germany trying to to do anything to attract attention to herself and get arrested or sent back to the mental institution. Until her uncle is taken in the middle of the night and any trace of him erased. Despite the fact she wanted to still stay under the radar and act like a good citizen, her love for her uncle was more. She wanted to find out where he went, what happened to him. And despite the fact she knew it was going to get her in trouble, she searched anyways. But she never expected to get caught up in not only trying to find her uncle, but finding out the secret he uncovered regarding her parents death or the GDR's plans to invade West Germany. She went from trying to stay off the radar to desperately trying to think of lie after lie to cover up her spying. This poor girl. She just wanted to know what happened to her uncle and why he was erased from existence and she got pulled into so much more than she bargained for. And the poor girl was torn between saving herself from the trouble she was in and escaping and staying with her aunt since she was the only family Lena had left. 

I really felt bad for everything Lena went through mentally. She suffered mental trauma after her parents death. Who wouldn't? But in East Germany her mental breakdown was looked at like something wrong and not normal. Poor girl was put through years of being in an institution just because she was devastated over her parents death. They just expected her to get over it just like she was supposed to pretend her uncle never existed and move on. And then one of the Stasi at her workplace was sexually abusing her. But she was supposed to pretend like it never happened. If she even tried to tell anyone about it beside the coworker that saw it happen, no one would believe her. A lowly janitor trying to defame a highly regarded Stasi agent. Not only did this girl suffer from the death of her parents but she also had to hide and hold in the fear and pain of the sexual abuse. 

I really thought this was a well researched and thought out story. You really felt like you were in communist Germany, subjected to their rules, fearing for your life if you said or did the wrong thing. 

2 comments

  1. I'm reading and enjoying more historical fiction this year, maybe because I've got more historical in fantasy. I'm listening to The Calculating Stars right now (1950s) and it's fiction, with a different plot than what actually happened but so interesting.

    This sounds a bit terrifying and maybe depressing to be her but I'd be furious in a situation with no control in your life. Politics are too often not pretty or fun. Anne - Books of My Heart

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    1. It was definitely a terrifying situation for her. I've been getting a bit more into historical fiction this year as well. I was never super big on it until a few books came out this year that kinda made me take interest in some others then.

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