The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story


Well, I finally have some time to review the books I have been reading!  Hooray for Thanksgiving Break and the end of another quarter at school!  The first of the catch-up-reviews is The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman.  It follows the Zabinski family; Jan, the director of the Warsaw zoo and his wife Antonina, who has a special gift with the animals.  In the cages of the zoo and the rooms of their home, the Zabinski’s sheltered Jews during the heart of the Holocaust.  Ackerman obtained a great deal of her information from Antonina’s diary, as well as other records of the time.  This is a true story of some remarkable people who risked a lot to save their friends, family, and animals.  

I wanted to like this book, I really did.  The premise is fascinating, and Antonina and Jan are truely a likable pair.  But I almost wished to just read Antonina’s diary itself.  Much of the book was spent with details of the natural world that is crashing in around them due to the war, which is fine, but I didn’t feel Ackerman convincingly tied it all in with the larger story of Warsaw’s Holocaust.  It sometimes read like two separate books squished together.  Overall, I thought the basic plot was fascinating, but the side stories (and tangents) never came together as a cohesive unit.  However, I had never thought of World War Two’s destruction of the natural world or the lives of animals, whether in captivity or free, and so The Zookeeper’s Wife provided an interesting perspective in that way.


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4 Responses to The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story

  1. sahar009 says:

    Good thing I found your review, I was thinking of buying this book! I just might switch to something else instead. Thank you!


  2. charley says:

    I read the description and first chapter of this book and thought it seemed good. I’m sorry to hear it’s a bit disappointing. I might still read it someday, but maybe I won’t put it at the top of my list.

  3. fyreflybooks says:

    I agree – there was lots of interesting information, but it felt a bit scattered for my tastes.

  4. Sharon says:

    Interestingly enough, your review mirrors another I read. Both surprised me, because I enjoyed the book very much. I listened to the audio version of the book and felt very moved by the narrator who was very good at speaking as Antonina at relevant places in the story. I feel that the details about the natural life added to the richness of narrative. Perhaps this is a book that lends itself to audio … sort of like listening to a compelling lecturer.

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