“Despite what the newspapers say, it wasn’t at all the case that I’d been turned into a heroin addict against my will…” (4.5 stars)
Source- review copy
Due for republication by Zest Books on January 2013.
I reviewed the Kindle edition. The paperback edition is 368 pages.
Wow. Just… wow. I’d prepared myself for brutal honesty and some grim situations in reading this memoir, but the actual impact it had on me was stunning. I truly can’t comprehend that one person can experience so much, so young and yet come out at the other side, still surviving.
I’m so glad I read this book. It’s shocking and gripping in its intensity, yet at times I felt moved to tears by the sudden slivers of poignancy that came through, heartbroken at this tragic young girl who had lost so much. This book serves as an important warning as to the dangers of drug abuse and the impact it can have on those lured into its deadly grip.
Zoo Station is the harrowing true story of Berlin teenager Christiane, and her descent into heroin and prostitution in the late 1970’s. That decade in particular saw drugs becoming readily more accessible to young people in the city, with heroin a massive problem. This book chronicles a young girls growing dependency on the lethal drug and the desperate measures she fell to in order to obtain it.
Though I had heard details about Christiane F, and also of the renowned 1980’s movie that was made about her life (though I’ve never seen it), a lot of the details still remained fairly murky to me, so I was keen to know more about what had happened. When the book started I was struck by the vivid descriptions of a young Christiane’s childhood growing up in the quiet countryside and wondered how she could go from that to what her life would later become. The contrast is really startling, but it genuinely goes to prove that Christiane’s story could happen to anyone.
Christiane’s desperate longing for acceptance and affection will strike a chord with many readers of this book, and her misguided belief that in order to fit in with her peers she regrettably has to resort to such extreme measures is sadly an all too familiar story. Whilst reading this it repeatedly dawned on me that Christiane is just a child in essence when she becomes an addict, thirteen or fourteen and living this unbelievably harsh life that most people cannot comprehend. Though of course the book is told in hindsight, her voice seems jaded and she acts so much older than her years at times; almost blasé when it comes to discussing drugs, yet when it comes to the issue of sex, by contrast she appears quite naïve (at first at least). The terminology adopted as her story progresses and her matter of fact manner throughout is a stark reminder of her rapid decline into full blown addiction and the fact that nothing mattered to her but her next fix. I found myself genuinely upset by what she endures in order to try and get it.
Christiane’s story is an unimaginably troubling, graphic no-holds-barred look at drug-taking and prostitution and in no way glorifies any aspects of it. The fact that she voluntarily went down the route of drug-taking in the first place is not held back and nor are the repercussions that follow. I personally believe her story should be introduced into every school syllabus out there as a warning to all youngsters of the damage that drugs can wreak and it goes without saying of course that I think this is a must-read memoir. Thirty years after its first publication, sadly that message still remains as prevalent as ever within today’s society.