Tying Down The Lion by Joanna Campbell


Tying Down The Lion tells the story of Roy Bishop and his half- German wife Bridget as they travel to Berlin in the summer of 1967 in an old Morris Traveller. Accompanied by their children, fourteen year old Jacqueline and seven year old Victor, along with Roy’s mother Nell they set off from their semi in Audette Gardens, foregoing their usual holiday to Clacton, so Bridget can meet the sisters she hasn’t seen since the war.

Berlin at this time is divided by the Cold War and Bridget has one sister living in the East and the other in the West.

Jacqueline is working on a school project with the theme of ‘contrasts’ and, inspired by an article about Berlin and their forthcoming trip, she chooses Berlin as the subject. With pen and paper in hand she takes notes during the journey but discovers more about her mother’s early life in Berlin than she was expecting.

Grandma Nell has a dislike for anything foreign and criticises her daughter-in-law at every opportunity – whilst busy knitting and eating sweets of all descriptions. She’s also a little uneasy about the travel arrangements as she believes the Morris Traveller is “held together by no more than a couple of sticking-plasters and an overstretched rubber band”.

Teenager Jacqueline is desperate to be allowed to grow up and finds Victor a ‘pest’ a lot of the time, while Bridget and Roy have their own demons to deal with.

The story is told in first person by Jacqueline with wit and humour, mixed with doses of tenderness. She records the interactions between family members that includes the unavoidable bickering which accompanies five people thrown together in a small space for long periods of time. References to Opportunity Knocks, crimplene frocks, Biba and The Beatles keep you immersed in the 60’s for the duration of the novel.

Tying Down The Lion is a book about division but also about reconciliation. It shows the necessity of family love and understanding. There is warmth and humour mixed with the reality of the prejudices and bigotry which inevitably came in the aftermath of World War 2. It is an amusing and entertaining story but equally moving.

Joanna has taken an entirely unique approach to tell the story of the Cold War and the suffering of Germans during WW2, including those who were not Jewish. It highlights the fact that everyone endures misery during war whichever side they are on. There is a lovely sentence towards the end which links to the title and encapsulates the whole essence of the story. A delight to read.

Tying Down The Lion is published by Brick Lane Publishing 

DSC04248Joanna was born in 1960 and grew up in Hayes, Middlesex. Many of her short stories have been published in magazines and she has had fiction shortlisted in many competitions: the Bridport and Fish prizes­­ and the Flannery O’Connor Award to name just a few. A collection of Joanna’s prize-winning short stories, When Planets Slip Their Tracks, is due to be published later this year.

Joanna answers questions in A Conversation with Greenacre Writers.

You can follow Joanna on twitter: @PygmyProse