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Úkryt v zoo

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Skutečný příběh ředitele varšavské zoologické zahrady Jana Żabińského a jeho ženy Antoniny, kteří po vybombardování zoo během invaze Němců do Polska v roce 1939 využili zájem nacistů o zvířata a zachránili tak přes tři stovky Židů. Autorka zdůrazňuje hrdinství manželského páru, protože v té době byl obyvatel Varšavy odsouzen k smrti i za to, že podal žíznivému Židovi sklen Skutečný příběh ředitele varšavské zoologické zahrady Jana Żabińského a jeho ženy Antoniny, kteří po vybombardování zoo během invaze Němců do Polska v roce 1939 využili zájem nacistů o zvířata a zachránili tak přes tři stovky Židů. Autorka zdůrazňuje hrdinství manželského páru, protože v té době byl obyvatel Varšavy odsouzen k smrti i za to, že podal žíznivému Židovi sklenici vody. Příběh je důsledně propracovaný, systematicky zdokumentovaný. Autorka vyzpovídala i dosud žijícího syna manželů Żabińských Ryszarda, lidi z varšavské zoo a ženy, jež byly současnicemi Żabińských a účastnily se akcí polského podzemního hnutí odporu. Zkušenost nadané romanopiskyně a básnířky mění historický popis událostí v umělecké dílo. Kniha získala v roce 2008 cenu Orion Award, a příběh byl dokonce zfilmován, u nás se v kinech objevil v březnu roku 2017 pod názvem Úkryt v zoo. Antoninu Żabińskou v něm hraje populární americká herečka Jessica Chastainová.


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Skutečný příběh ředitele varšavské zoologické zahrady Jana Żabińského a jeho ženy Antoniny, kteří po vybombardování zoo během invaze Němců do Polska v roce 1939 využili zájem nacistů o zvířata a zachránili tak přes tři stovky Židů. Autorka zdůrazňuje hrdinství manželského páru, protože v té době byl obyvatel Varšavy odsouzen k smrti i za to, že podal žíznivému Židovi sklen Skutečný příběh ředitele varšavské zoologické zahrady Jana Żabińského a jeho ženy Antoniny, kteří po vybombardování zoo během invaze Němců do Polska v roce 1939 využili zájem nacistů o zvířata a zachránili tak přes tři stovky Židů. Autorka zdůrazňuje hrdinství manželského páru, protože v té době byl obyvatel Varšavy odsouzen k smrti i za to, že podal žíznivému Židovi sklenici vody. Příběh je důsledně propracovaný, systematicky zdokumentovaný. Autorka vyzpovídala i dosud žijícího syna manželů Żabińských Ryszarda, lidi z varšavské zoo a ženy, jež byly současnicemi Żabińských a účastnily se akcí polského podzemního hnutí odporu. Zkušenost nadané romanopiskyně a básnířky mění historický popis událostí v umělecké dílo. Kniha získala v roce 2008 cenu Orion Award, a příběh byl dokonce zfilmován, u nás se v kinech objevil v březnu roku 2017 pod názvem Úkryt v zoo. Antoninu Żabińskou v něm hraje populární americká herečka Jessica Chastainová.

30 review for Úkryt v zoo

  1. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    What a disappointment! I anxiously awaited the paperback version of this book, only to find the writing so scattered and choppy I could barely finish it. The author obviously did extensive and exhaustive research, but she kept going off on so many random tangents that finding a cohesive story is impossible.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    one puzzle of daily life at the villa was this: How do you retain a spirit of affection and humor in a crazed, homicidal, unpredictable society? On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany, emboldened by the recently-signed Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with Stalin’s Soviet Union, invaded Poland. Warsaw was pummeled, then occupied. With the Nazis’ bizarre fixation on racial purity (which extended to animals) and hatred for Jews, it became an existential crisis merely to be Jewish in the city. Amid the carnag one puzzle of daily life at the villa was this: How do you retain a spirit of affection and humor in a crazed, homicidal, unpredictable society? On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany, emboldened by the recently-signed Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with Stalin’s Soviet Union, invaded Poland. Warsaw was pummeled, then occupied. With the Nazis’ bizarre fixation on racial purity (which extended to animals) and hatred for Jews, it became an existential crisis merely to be Jewish in the city. Amid the carnage and daily horror, heroes emerged. One of them was Antonina Żabiński. Antonina and Jan Żabiński - from PBS She and her husband, Jan, were in charge of the Warsaw Zoo. It was a labor of love. Both were smitten with animals and sought not only to offer an educational experience to the people, primarily the children of Warsaw, but to take the best possible care of their charges. Jan once said of Antonina “Her confidence could disarm even the most hostile,” he told an anonymous reporter, adding that her strength stemmed from her love of animals. “It wasn’t just that she identified with them,” he explained, “but from time to time she seemed to shed her own human traits and become a panther or a hyena. Then, able to adopt their fighting instinct, she arose as a fearless defender of her kind.” It was frequently the case that this or that animal required special care, patching up from an injury, recuperation from an illness. Antonina and Jan would take them into their zoo-residence, a villa, creating a very Doctor-Doolittle-like atmosphere. Diane Ackerman But sustaining a full zoo in the middle of a blitzkrieg, and then a brutal occupation was impossible. Many of the animals were taken by a Nazi officer who happened to be in charge of a zoo in Germany. What was possible, though, was for Antonina and Jan to use the zoo as a refuge for those targeted by the Nazis, for Jews. The complexity of the operation was significant. It takes a village to save lives. Antonina and Jan were not in this alone. Not only did people need documentation, they needed to learn how to pass as Christian, how to behave in church, for example. Some made adjustments to their appearance to appear more “Aryan,” some by bleaching their hair. And some men went to the extreme length of having a medical procedure to reverse their circumcisions. Don’t ask. The zoo functioned as a way-station where Jews fleeing the ghetto could stay until more permanent shelter could be identified by other people and organizations in the widespread Polish resistance. Through this ordeal over three hundred people were saved with the help of Antonina and others at the Warsaw Zoo and widespread popular support in the city. Many of the people who sheltered there hid out in the now empty animal enclosures. The zoo became a Noah’s Ark for endangered humans. Maintaining secrecy, however, was always a challenge. A single sneeze, cough or whimper at the wrong moment might be heard by Nazi inspectors, and could spell doom for hundreds. Jessica Chastain plays Antonina in the film - from moviefactsinc.com Diane Ackerman is a poet and naturalist and she brings both sensibilities to this work, offering frequent observations about the natural environment in which the horrors depicted were being experienced. She relied on Antonina’s private journals for much of the story, on her published work and on Jan’s books. She interviewed the survivors she could find and conducted considerable research to make sure she got the details right. Although this is a non-fiction account, it would be easy to forget that fact, and experience reading it as if one were reading a novel. The structure of the book is mostly chronologically linear, with each of the thirty six chapters telling a small part of the overall whole. What is amazing here is how, in such a dark time, there can also have been so many experiences of joy, however fleeting. There is a considerable cast of memorable characters, both human and non, both good and evil. One of the features of the Warsaw zoo during the Nazi occupation was that the “Guests” sheltering there were referred to by animal names. This was so that those operating the zoo could speak of them without giving away what was going on. As a counterpoint, the animals that remained, or found their way to the Zabinskis care, were given human names. One spring day, Jan brought home [from a pig farm that had been set up at the zoo] a newborn piglet whose mother was just butchered, thinking that [their son] Rys might like it as a pet…they named him Morys, and at two and a half weeks, Morys looked like “piglet from Winnie-the-Pooh…very clean, pink and smooth…Morys lived in the so-called attic of the villa, really a long narrow closet that shared a terrace with the upstairs bedrooms, and each morning Antonina found him waiting outside Rys’s bedroom door. When she opened it, Morys “ran into his room, oinking, and started jostling Rys’s hand or foot until Rys woke, stretched out a hand, and scratched Morys’s back. Then the pig arched, catlike, until he looked like the letter C, and grunted with great contentment,’ uttering a quiet noise between a snort and a creaking door. There are plenty other four-footed characters here, including a particularly cunning, carnivorous rabbit who learned to kiss people. Johan Heldenbergh as Jan Żabiński - from Focus Features The Zabinskis’ tale also gives us a look at details of how Warsaw coped with the occupation, finding ways into and out of the ghetto once it was shut in, the subterfuges they engaged in to get fake identification papers, how they got information on what was happening in the ghetto, finding sources for food for the animals remaining at the zoo. The details Ackerman presents of survival in such a place and time give it a visceral reality. There is a fascinating description of Żegota, a resistance organization that was all about rescuing people, not killing the enemy. It reminded me of the White Helmets in Syria. Ackerman gives us a look at another of Warsaw’s many heroes. In 1940 when Jews were ordered into the Ghetto, [a progressive orphanage, started by a well known author and pediatrician Henryk Goldszmit (pen name Janusz Korczak)] moved to an abandoned businessmen’s club in the “district of the damned,” as he described it in a diary written on blue rice paper that he filled with details of daily life in the orphanage, imaginative forays, philosophical contemplations, and soul-searching. It’s the reliquary of an impossible predicament, revealing how a spiritual and moral man struggled to shield innocent children from the atrocities of the adult world during one of history’s darkest times.” Reportedly shy and awkward with adults, he created an ideal democracy with the orphans, who called him “Pan Doctor.” There, with wit, imagination, and self-deprecating humor, he devoted himself to a “children’s republic” complete with its own parliament, newspaper and court system. Instead of punching one another, children learned to yell “I’ll sue you!” One might see Poland in a different light having read this. There was much more heroism and self-sacrifice than one might have realized previously. The effort to save those targeted by the Nazis involved far more than a few heroic individuals. It required the knowing cooperation of tens of thousands of individuals who knew that they would be killed if discovered. It seems a shame, really, to note quibbles in such a book, overpowering as the story and message are, but there are a couple. While there is no doubt of Antonina’s heroism, she is presented without the warts that we know all people possess. And not all of the chapters are all that informative. Otherwise, OMG, what a story! You will be reminded of other heroes of this and other wars. Oskar Schindler will certainly come to mind, Corrie Ten Boom, Paul Rusesabagina of the Hotel Rwanda, and others. The Zookeeper’s Wife is a tale that is both radiant and uplifting, about a time and a place that epitomized the depths of human depravity. The cruelties of the past remain with us in diverse forms. One needs look no further than Syria and the psychotic horrors of ISIS for examples. It is worth knowing that the human spirit survived the Third Reich. It will survive the darkness that rests over much of the world today. But it will take courage, and heroism of large and small kinds to keep those flames burning. Antonina Zabinski’s actions are a testament to the potential for the good and decent in us all. Hopefully her example will offer an inspiration to others facing dire circumstances. On September 21, 1965, Antonina and Jan Zaminski were recognized at Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. Published – January 1, 2007 Review posted – March 31, 2017 Film released – March 31, 2017 =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages There is a TV series, Colony, that uses a science-fiction presentation to look at occupation in a near future world. The inspiration is unmistakable. One of the issues it addresses is that of save-versus-battle, late in season two. Worth checking out. Michling, an outstanding 2016 novel about twins in Aushwitz, includes a section where the characters arrive in Warsaw and learn how the zoo had been used. A link to today’s Warsaw Zoo

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Finally!!! Whew! I've owned this book for more than 5 years!!! It was passed to me from our friend Steve! I had planned to read it -- like other books --a dozen times. Quilty-as Charged: It took the Hollywood 'soon-to-be-released' movie - to procrastinate-no-longer! I knew much about this story -- but, as I said, had not actually read it myself. Author Diane Ackerman has a long list of many other books she has written- but this is my first time reading her. It reads like fiction --( wish it wer Finally!!! Whew! I've owned this book for more than 5 years!!! It was passed to me from our friend Steve! I had planned to read it -- like other books --a dozen times. Quilty-as Charged: It took the Hollywood 'soon-to-be-released' movie - to procrastinate-no-longer! I knew much about this story -- but, as I said, had not actually read it myself. Author Diane Ackerman has a long list of many other books she has written- but this is my first time reading her. It reads like fiction --( wish it were) -- scary/terrifying/heartbreaking moments....sometimes funny... .....other times this story is unbelievably moving (precious tenderness the way Diane writes about animals). Diane Ackerman writes with as much care for the animals as she does the human characters. Even about the crickets - It was quite charming. Zookeepers Jan and his wife Antonina had been dedicated to a special zoo even before the War... not wanting the animals to be just a viewing in cages. They put emphasis on wide open spaces - creating more natural surroundings. So, right away, we have a sense that these are very special people! Through Diane's writing and the voice of the wife Antonina... we really feel the emotions. Descriptions are vivid - and the 'tension' kept me in knots a couple of times. "There was no way so young a child could comprehend the network of social contacts, payoffs. barter, reciprocal altruism, petty bribes, black market, hush money, and sheer idealism of wartime Warsaw. A house "under a crazy star" helped everyone forget the crazier world four minutes, sometimes hours, at a time, by serving up the moment as flowing chain of sensations, gusts of play, focused chores, chiming voices. The rapt brain-state of living from moment to moment arises naturally in times of danger and uncertainty, but it's also a rhythm of remedy which Antonina cultivated for herself and her family. One of the most remarkable things about Antonina was her determination to include play, animals, wonder, curiosity, marble, and a wide blaze of innocence in a household where all dodged the ambient dangers, horrors, and uncertainties. That takes a special stripe of bravery rarely valued in wartime". This story is a beautiful tribute to Poland - and the strength of the Polish people during the Holocaust-- Over 100 Jews were saved - escaped - and made it safe to Israel. Hundreds more were hidden. Jan and Antonina even gave birth to a child in the middle of this war. I tried to imagine - and honestly it was a challenge. With everything else Antonina was doing .... her birth was an amazing miracle. Much quiet heroism- so much courage - Fascinating story. It's the type of non-fiction which reads like fiction!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    In a sentence: Someone else should have written the Zabinski's story. This mess, full of purple prose adds very little to the narrative of Polish heroism in World War II. Nor does it add much about the Jewish Holocaust and I simply do not know how Ackerman got the rights to the story, when so many other, better writers could have done justice to it. Based on the great reviews from some rather credible sources, I couldn't wait to read this book. Wow, was I disappointed. First, there were factual e In a sentence: Someone else should have written the Zabinski's story. This mess, full of purple prose adds very little to the narrative of Polish heroism in World War II. Nor does it add much about the Jewish Holocaust and I simply do not know how Ackerman got the rights to the story, when so many other, better writers could have done justice to it. Based on the great reviews from some rather credible sources, I couldn't wait to read this book. Wow, was I disappointed. First, there were factual errors throughout, which, given the archives that are available and translators/linguists to whom she could have turned, were inexcusable. Several had to do with the Cichociemni – clandestine special forces of which my dad was one. The correct number of these was 344 transported to Poland from the U.K. -- a number she got wrong - 365. Also, 18 were lost in the Uprising – not 11. Even a simple google search will give you the numbers. She also got the phonetic pronunciation wrong – it is cheeho-chiemnee, not cheeko – ch in Polish is pronounced as a simple H. Any Pole who speaks the language could have told her this. There are other factual WW II things that are in error as well that others have mentioned in their reviews, so I won't belabor the issue, besides I think that this book is less about the context of WW II and more about Ackerman's self-indulgent poetic license. OK, so Polish experience of WW II is my issue, and perhaps I am nit picking, but I am not making boatloads of money off this book – and when I write my own books, my editors and I make darn sure that the facts are correct. The story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, set during the German occupation of Poland, is a truly amazing one, in which these two courageous Warsawian zookeepers demonstrated courage, brilliance, resilience, and humanity in the face of the grossest barbarism this planet has seen. It is a story that is inspirational to say the least. Having said that, Ackerman did not tell it well, despite her laudable attempt to bring these unsung heroes the praise and attention they well deserved. Also praiseworthy was her unbundling of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising from the Warsaw Uprising – something that even some historians have conflated although they were separate happenings. Having said that, the story was disjointed and she went on ad nauseum on tangents with descriptions about beetles, buffalo and cows and forgot the real reason for telling this story. I was expecting more insight on the Zabinskis and their Guests and their feelings during this horrible experience, not a tutorial on bugs. As a critical reader and writer myself, I could try to be generous and say that her interminable asides and lists were an attempt at imparting the complexity of an issue, or the obsessiveness of amassing a collection. But the attempts failed. Perhaps this was because the author tried to conflate poetry and prose (she is a poet) and did so unsuccessfully. Also, a propos of poetry, her overblown and flowery prose started to grate on me. To wit: "In a darkness that deep, fireflies dance across eyes that see into themselves." To continue: "Meanwhile, the brain piped fugues of worry and staged mind-theaters full of tragedies and triumphs, because unfortunately, the fear of death does wonders to focus the mind, inspire creativity, and heighten the senses.” HUH? Sorry – but I don’t find this poetic – just schmaltzy. Her writing style, full of overblown metaphors is just distracting and even exasperating at times. All in all this is an admirable and truly remarkable story and because she had access to primary sources, to Antonina's extraordinary diary, Ackerman could have done incredible justice to these characters. Instead, Antonina’s journal gets rather lost in long "whimsical" rambling passages of struggling to save the zoo during the ravages of WWII. Filtered through Ackerman, I found them (the characters) flat and at times Antonina just plain silly. Her mysticism actually drove me up the wall. As did her going on and on about Polish “culture” and superstition. Jan and Antonina were educated people – like my parents. They would have found the superstitions of the uneducated to be quaint at best and laughable. I doubt that they would have embraced them, as Ackerman suggests. Perhaps they might have found them charming. But Ackerman is a mystical sort, and I think she conflates her own view of life onto these characters. Also, the author’s priorities were just weird. She would write in great detail about playing the piano and the derivation of the piece, but she skimmed over the actual logistics of how these folks actually managed to harbor their guests and how they got to the zoo itself, or the details of how they lived once they got there. THIS was important, not the details of bugs. She never made clear how this underground activity was carried out. This story deserved someone with more understanding, perhaps with better acquaintance with the subject at large. The story is not very well told, nor are the details of the circumstances given the importance they deserve. She really falls down in terms of conveying the actual suffering, terror, and horror of the German occupation and the Risings. There are many books that convey this suffering well: Rising ‘44, When God Looked the Other Way, The Civilian Population and the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, The Ice Road, Forgotten Holocaust, among others. She lists Rising ‘44 in her bib – but she couldn’t have read it too carefully. I was surprised to read other reviews in which readers talk about how appalled they were at the suffering and conditions, because as far as I was concerned, she did not render those well at all. If they want a real picture of WW II and what that was like for the people in Europe, there are far better stories that portray this time far more accurately.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I can't decide whether I enjoyed this book or not. I think the idea of it is more interesting than the execution. It follows the true story of Antonina Zabinski and her family, caretakers of the Warsaw zoo during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Diane Ackerman, being a literary writer and not an historical one, was able to provide an interesting spin on the subject matter, and I loved all of the imagery and description of Antonina's relationship with the animals and general life at the zoo. Howeve I can't decide whether I enjoyed this book or not. I think the idea of it is more interesting than the execution. It follows the true story of Antonina Zabinski and her family, caretakers of the Warsaw zoo during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Diane Ackerman, being a literary writer and not an historical one, was able to provide an interesting spin on the subject matter, and I loved all of the imagery and description of Antonina's relationship with the animals and general life at the zoo. However, this is still is a true story, and as such I felt the book didn't maintain enough focus on the story line and was lacking in many crucial historical details. Ackerman goes off on too many completely unrelated tangents, which would be interesting if the book were longer, but it seems like she overlooked important pieces of the puzzle in favor of long descriptions of marginal players in the story. She would take half a page to describe how the wind rustled the trees, and then just gloss over things like how the Germans never noticed that there were a ton of extra people living in the house, despite the fact that soldiers would pop in all the time. All of a sudden I was at the endnotes and hadn't even realized that the book ended. It's almost as if as she was nearing the end, someone walked into the room and said, "Come on Diane, finish up so we can go to dinner." There is almost no closure, just a few short and antiseptic paragraphs about what they did after the war along with a sort of epilogue of other people that were mentioned here and there in the book. Ackerman describes meeting with the son in Warsaw and touring the old house, but he seems disinterested in reminiscing about their time at the zoo, but doesn't speculate as to why. Here are some examples of hugely important issues that weren't really addressed: - Why did Jan retire so suddenly, after all his time as a zookeeper? - With the zoo villa playing such a large part of story, there is no mention of whether they had to move out after Jan retired - Why is it that after growing up in a zoo and having a constant array of pets by his side during the whole story, Rys (the son) has no pets now? - When and how did Jan & Antonina die? I wouldn't necessarily say that this book wasn't worth reading, it just seemed like Ackerman focused on so many painstakingly small details throughout the book, and then suddenly ran out of paper or something.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I really, really, really wanted to like this book. It's the true story of a Polish couple who hid Jews at their zoo in Poland during WWII. Their story itself is very heroic, but the writing style detracts from what is supposed to be the point of the book. The author is frequently sidetracked with long passages of history, details about the lives of people not relevant to the story, and lengthy descriptions of nature (I skipped a good two pages or so that just listed different types of beetles). I really, really, really wanted to like this book. It's the true story of a Polish couple who hid Jews at their zoo in Poland during WWII. Their story itself is very heroic, but the writing style detracts from what is supposed to be the point of the book. The author is frequently sidetracked with long passages of history, details about the lives of people not relevant to the story, and lengthy descriptions of nature (I skipped a good two pages or so that just listed different types of beetles). The timeline of the story bounces around too much, and by the end of the book, I still didn't feel a connection with the people involved. They were real, living people, but I have felt much more connected to fictitious characters. The story of Jan and Antonina is a powerful one, but it was wasted on this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Miranda Reads

    I don't understand all the fuss. If any creature is in danger, you save it, human or animal. Words to live by. Zookeepers Jan and Antonia Zabinski run (or used to run) the Warsaw Zoo. Shortly after Germany invaded Poland, the zoo is destroyed and most of the animals are put down. Yet, somehow the zoo remains open and ready for business - though that business may involve a slightly different purpose from the usual critter rescue. The Zabinski newest form of 'critters' are Jews and other sympathiz I don't understand all the fuss. If any creature is in danger, you save it, human or animal. Words to live by. Zookeepers Jan and Antonia Zabinski run (or used to run) the Warsaw Zoo. Shortly after Germany invaded Poland, the zoo is destroyed and most of the animals are put down. Yet, somehow the zoo remains open and ready for business - though that business may involve a slightly different purpose from the usual critter rescue. The Zabinski newest form of 'critters' are Jews and other sympathizers. They use their zoo as a hide-away, a halfway house and a weapons stash. Despite the incredibly high stakes, Antonina manages her villa - chock full of her family, "guests," and of course, many, many delightful animals. Diane Ackerman interspersed with the cruelties of war with the joyful happenings of the zoo - much to my relief. There's so many terrible moments from the war that without the lightness a young badger's first stumbles and and an exuberant rabbit's tendency to steal food, I would have had a difficult time finishing such a truly exhaustive novel. Audiobook Comments Just superb. Fabulous tone and inflection - wonderfully done. Blog | Instagram | Twitter

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    "The Zookeeper's Wife" is somewhat difficult for me to review. It's certainly not a bad book, but I found its passages dealing with the horrors of Germany's occupation of Poland during World War II interspersed with sections recounting cute animal shenanigans a bit hard to take, even though Diane Ackerman's telling a true story. This may be less Ackerman's fault and more the fault of her source material. She depends largely, it seems, on Antonina Zabinski's diary to recount the goings on at the W "The Zookeeper's Wife" is somewhat difficult for me to review. It's certainly not a bad book, but I found its passages dealing with the horrors of Germany's occupation of Poland during World War II interspersed with sections recounting cute animal shenanigans a bit hard to take, even though Diane Ackerman's telling a true story. This may be less Ackerman's fault and more the fault of her source material. She depends largely, it seems, on Antonina Zabinski's diary to recount the goings on at the Warsaw zoo during the war, and I get the sense that Zabinski focused more on the zoo's animals and her family's pets, as well as her son's doings, than she did on the larger issues of the war in her writings. It doesn't help that Ackerman's own prose too often verges on the purple, with metaphors that feel forced and many times inappropriate for telling what's largely a stark war story. The story of Antonina Zabinski and her husband Jan, and the assistance they provided to Jews hiding from the Nazis during the war, is certainly worth telling, but it may have made a better long magazine article than a full-length book. I also wish the tale had been told by a writer a bit more restrained than Ackerman is. Addendum: I finally got a chance to look at the photos printed in "The Zookeeper's Wife," and was a bit surprised to see that Antonina didn't look quite the way I pictured her based on Ackerman's descriptions. To be blunt -- and I'm sure I'll go to hell for saying this -- I thought she'd be a bit hotter. Before you yell at me for this, let it be known that Rose, my friend and fellow GoodReader, thought the exact same thing, and put me up to adding this to my review. So if you're going to yell at me, yell at her too.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Britany

    How could a book that had so much potential for an incredible story let the reader down so much? Reading the description of this story leads you to believe that this is an incredible untold story about Jan & Antonina Zabinski. They are animal lovers at heart and live for taking care of the Warsaw Zoo. Poland is invaded during WWII, and suddenly the zoo disappears in front of their eyes. They quietly revolt against Hitler and the Germans, by hiding over 300 Jews in the run down animal cages, a How could a book that had so much potential for an incredible story let the reader down so much? Reading the description of this story leads you to believe that this is an incredible untold story about Jan & Antonina Zabinski. They are animal lovers at heart and live for taking care of the Warsaw Zoo. Poland is invaded during WWII, and suddenly the zoo disappears in front of their eyes. They quietly revolt against Hitler and the Germans, by hiding over 300 Jews in the run down animal cages, and tunnels they created on their property. The story is told in an order that doesn't make sense, and in little tiny snippets of thoughts that feel random and disjointed. There is no flow or sense of storytelling with this book. It is so distracting to read and constantly go back and forth between the main story of Jan and Antonina, and snippets, comments, and quotes from other random people throughout this time period.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    This nonfiction book tells the story of Antonina and Jan, who use his position as the zookeeper to allow the zoo to be used as a safe house for up to 300 Jews during the course of the Second World War. The sign of a good nonfiction for me is when it reads like fiction. Unfortunately, this one fails that test. It's an interesting story but is so dry I really struggled with it. The author is a poet and it shows. She spends an inordinate amount of words to describe settings and moments that do noth This nonfiction book tells the story of Antonina and Jan, who use his position as the zookeeper to allow the zoo to be used as a safe house for up to 300 Jews during the course of the Second World War. The sign of a good nonfiction for me is when it reads like fiction. Unfortunately, this one fails that test. It's an interesting story but is so dry I really struggled with it. The author is a poet and it shows. She spends an inordinate amount of words to describe settings and moments that do nothing to further the storyline. Supposedly the book drew on Antonina’s diary and a lot of the book reads like a transposed diary. I preferred it when the author quoted directly from the diary rather than attempt to translate into third person narrative. Phrases like “one can picture her…” or “according to Antonina” irritated me. The book is a mess of too much information about unimportant issues and not enough about what was actually happening. At one point, the author talks about how the days were constantly cloudy from all the shelling but doesn't tell where or why there is shelling, given that Poland had already surrendered. The author consistently goes off on tangents and then does a poor job of bringing the reader back to the point at hand. So, if it isn't apparent by now, while I found this couple totally interesting, the writing bothered me. I blame the editor, who needed to do a better job of making sure the book flowed from point to point, not stopped and started willy nilly. It's like the writer didn't know what she wanted the book to be. Research is lacking that would have made it more informative. Or if she wanted it to be more about the story of this couple, cut all the extraneous information and stick to the story line. I was constantly left wondering about issues, for example about how non-Jewish Poles lived under the Nazi regime, but was given facts on what became of a beetle collection after the war. It’s really a lack of fluidity that was at issue. Overall, I'll give this a three. There was lots of interesting information and the main characters were amazing. A different writer or editor could have made for a much better book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Marsh

    I made it through, somehow. It's bad. It's so bad. I went into this expecting to love it, considering the premise is just SO good. This isn't a novel - it's a work of non-fiction, a history book, masquerading as a novel. It's not well-written and it drags on with endless pages of absolutely useless descriptions of things that have no place in the story. We never learn HOW they did these things. They just HAPPENED. It's written like a 300+ page high school research paper, and I really, REALLY str I made it through, somehow. It's bad. It's so bad. I went into this expecting to love it, considering the premise is just SO good. This isn't a novel - it's a work of non-fiction, a history book, masquerading as a novel. It's not well-written and it drags on with endless pages of absolutely useless descriptions of things that have no place in the story. We never learn HOW they did these things. They just HAPPENED. It's written like a 300+ page high school research paper, and I really, REALLY struggled to get through it, even with the skimming I was able to do for the entire second half. I made it through, and I'm sure the movie will be so much better, since they're definitely not afraid to get creative and imagine feasible conversations and situations that add to the story. This was so underwhelming and awful, and I'm really disappointed.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    When I was in sixth grade I fashioned a yellow star out of felt, wrote "Jude" on it and sewed it onto a black peacoat. I have always been interested in the Holocaust and am quite well read on the subject. I have NEVER thought about the animals that were involved or the people who took care of the animals, such as zookeepers. It never even crossed my mind and I thank this book for bringing this important part of the war to my attention. I didn't care that the book was particularly well written an When I was in sixth grade I fashioned a yellow star out of felt, wrote "Jude" on it and sewed it onto a black peacoat. I have always been interested in the Holocaust and am quite well read on the subject. I have NEVER thought about the animals that were involved or the people who took care of the animals, such as zookeepers. It never even crossed my mind and I thank this book for bringing this important part of the war to my attention. I didn't care that the book was particularly well written and somewhat disjointed. I only cared about this exceptional Polish family that risked their lives for their furry family and Jews alike. The story made me think of the animals in Hurricane Katrina or the recent fires in California, and how much animals contribute to our lives. I plan on reading up on the animals' stories of war and expanding my view of everyone who was involved during the Holocaust.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Five Amazing Incredible Stars…. One of the most incredible books I have read in quite some time. This is the story of how a bombed out Zoo in Warsaw, became the central hotspot for underground communications, in 1939. While the Zoo still operated at half mast and under the German's supervision - while they roamed daily and at all hours through the zoo, arms, fogged documents, and over 300 refugees passed through the villa and the tunnels to safety. The Zookeeper and his wife Antonina, saved thous Five Amazing Incredible Stars…. One of the most incredible books I have read in quite some time. This is the story of how a bombed out Zoo in Warsaw, became the central hotspot for underground communications, in 1939. While the Zoo still operated at half mast and under the German's supervision - while they roamed daily and at all hours through the zoo, arms, fogged documents, and over 300 refugees passed through the villa and the tunnels to safety. The Zookeeper and his wife Antonina, saved thousands of lives. And treated animals and humans with respect and as friends and valued lives, during a time of incredible upheaval. It was a true story, and the book is populated with the writings and thoughts of many interviewed since, which makes the story of survival and resilience all the more incredible. First a comment meant for the folks involved with the November Animals Challenge. I am absolutely considering this to fall into this category. Although it was neither narrated by an animal, or had a specific animal as its main character or central theme - animals played a huge role as the backdrop of this very important historical work. Antonina, the polish Zookeper's Wife, had a way with animals, that also allowed her to use her psychology to connect with even those human species that seemed without a human soul. The treatment of animals as either prized or special by the Nazi's, or to be easily killed and thrown away exactly paralleled the experience of the refugees of the time. Many of the refugees saved, worked with animals, and lived in their cages. It was because of the ongoings of the zoo, that over 300 refugees went undetected, and food and activity was provided as a cover for an entire underground operation that saved thousands of lives. In fact, it was an insect collection donated to the Warsaw Zoo that allowed the Zoo director access to the Polish Ghetto, where he brought in food, documents, news, and other necessities, not to mention, emancipated many people simply by walking them out on his authority, right under the German's noses. At one point, a German official talked about breeding a certain kind of rare perfect horse, not unlike the experiments going on at the same time at Auschwitz, or the similar genetic traits or characteristics wanted by the Aryan race. The Zoo director says of his wife, "It wasn't just that she identified with them, (animals)" he explained, "but from time to time she seemed to shed her own human traits and become a panther or a hyena. Then, to be able to adopt their fighting instinct, she arose as a fearless defender of her kind." Also quoted, "Jan and Antonina capitalized on the Nazi's obsession with prehistoric animals and a forest primeval to rescue scores of endangered neighbors and friends." The book was incredible. It spoke of protecting animals and people, and how to value both kinds of lives and every species is unique and worth saving. And this couple did it for years, under the worst kind of danger and pressure. This couple saved over 300 refugees, probably more. The Villa and the Zoo became a resting place for couriers, social workers, doctors, ambulance workers, they managed over 100,000 forged documents, and fed and cared for many, finding them shelter and passage. Many survived because of this couple and their family, and many of their voices and stories are in this book. And the relationships with zoos and with animals, wasn't just a backdrop, or the setting, it was the metaphor and the reason all of these events took place. What an amazing book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    This book was sent to me by Focus Features, but all thoughts/opinions are my own! I haven't read nonfiction in QUITE A WHILE so I wasn't sure how I was going to fare - ended up loving it! I loved it more so for the narrative and story and not as much for the writing, which could be a little choppy and add in details that didn't need to be there. However, the story of Antonia and Jan and their work as part of The Underground was fascinating and thrilling. They are some of the many people who helpe This book was sent to me by Focus Features, but all thoughts/opinions are my own! I haven't read nonfiction in QUITE A WHILE so I wasn't sure how I was going to fare - ended up loving it! I loved it more so for the narrative and story and not as much for the writing, which could be a little choppy and add in details that didn't need to be there. However, the story of Antonia and Jan and their work as part of The Underground was fascinating and thrilling. They are some of the many people who helped Jewish people escape during the war, and kept their house as a safe house for basically the entirety of the war. They were such a phenomenal couple. This book also had me RAGING at many different points, finding out more things that the Nazis did as well as being reminded of their atrocities. It is a disgusting blight on human history and I do not see how any *good* person could have helped things like that to happen. Overall a beautiful story and book about wonderful people, I can't wait to see the movie!

  15. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is another book exploring the lives of people living in the countries occupied by Germany during WWII. Unlike most, this was written by a naturalist, not an historian. This gives the book an interesting take on the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. The narrative centers around Antonia Zabinski and her husband Jan. Prior to the outbreak of war, they were the caretakers of the Warsaw Zoo - a large zoo befitting the capital of Poland. The book paints a brief picture of what their life was like prior t This is another book exploring the lives of people living in the countries occupied by Germany during WWII. Unlike most, this was written by a naturalist, not an historian. This gives the book an interesting take on the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. The narrative centers around Antonia Zabinski and her husband Jan. Prior to the outbreak of war, they were the caretakers of the Warsaw Zoo - a large zoo befitting the capital of Poland. The book paints a brief picture of what their life was like prior to the 1939 German invasion. As appropriate to a zookeeper family, the Zabinski household was a menagerie - an orphaned badger, lynxes and other animals were frequent guests to the villa. Life was certainly unusual but generally quiet. With the invasion, the book picks up steam. From the chaos of the invasion to the horror of the 1942 liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto and through the end of the war, The Zookeeper's Wife describes the efforts of the Zabinski's to aid the Polish resistance and smuggle whomever they could out of the Ghetto. This is where the focus of the book falls onto Antonia. Jan was active in the resistance and was often away from the household - while he is integral to the story, he remains a figure outside the central focus of the book. Antonia kept a diary of the comings and goings of the household. As a way station from the ghetto to freedom, the villa had enough excitement to fill a book. It is filled well. This book offers a unique perspective of WWII. While not perfect, I highly recommend this book. We do not get enough stories of the heroic people in the world who are just doing "what they can,"

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jen Meegan

    Let me preface by saying a) I love Diane Ackerman's previous works and b) I have a deep interest in holocaust history. Therefore, I was surprised her latest book did not engage me as much as I'd hoped. Ackerman usually tackles very broad, amorphous subjects like love, the five senses, etc. And her somewhat circular and poetic writing style is, I think, well suited to those topics. But for The Zookeepers Wife, I craved a level of linear details and specifics that I just could not find. I quickly Let me preface by saying a) I love Diane Ackerman's previous works and b) I have a deep interest in holocaust history. Therefore, I was surprised her latest book did not engage me as much as I'd hoped. Ackerman usually tackles very broad, amorphous subjects like love, the five senses, etc. And her somewhat circular and poetic writing style is, I think, well suited to those topics. But for The Zookeepers Wife, I craved a level of linear details and specifics that I just could not find. I quickly became frustrated with how Ackerman would zoom in on some particulars but not on others (so much focus on the animals, so little on the everyday details of the refugees hidden around the zoo property, very little closure in terms of what happened to the zookeeper and his wife post-war). There were also some inconsistencies...for example a beloved family pet that seemed to disappear permanently early in the war yet strangely shows up post-war in a photo and accompanying caption. I'm beginning to suspect my lack of enjoyment was due to my own expectations rather than any fault of the author's. Ackerman's style hasn't changed dramatically in this book...she's still an excellent writer. But I was looking for something I could sink my teeth into and this just didn't fit the bill.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    A different sort of Holocaust story, set at Warsaw Zoo in the years surrounding World War II. Even after Nazis dismantled their zoo and killed many of the larger animals, Jan and Antonina Żabiński stayed at their home and used the zoo’s premises for storing explosives and ammunition for Jan’s work in the Polish resistance as well as sheltering “Guests,” Jews passing through. This is a gripping narrative of survival against the odds, with the added pleasure of the kind of animal antics you’d find A different sort of Holocaust story, set at Warsaw Zoo in the years surrounding World War II. Even after Nazis dismantled their zoo and killed many of the larger animals, Jan and Antonina Żabiński stayed at their home and used the zoo’s premises for storing explosives and ammunition for Jan’s work in the Polish resistance as well as sheltering “Guests,” Jews passing through. This is a gripping narrative of survival against the odds, with the added pleasure of the kind of animal antics you’d find in a Gerald Durrell book. Their son Ryszard kept as pets a badger who bathed sitting back in the tub like a person and an arctic hare who stole cured meats like “a fat, furry thug.” Much of the book is based on Antonina’s journals, but I wish there had been more direct quotes from it and less in the way of reconstruction.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    There is no way that I can sit down and adequately review this book after reading it. Diane Ackerman has skillfully and beautifully written this very complex story. She is a naturalist, who has very well utilized her discipline to write this historical piece. It will remain with me for a very long time, so I must mull it over and deliberate how I can do justice to this multilayered tale. I have read many accounts of WW II, in articles and in books, but Ackerman was able to create charm, suspense There is no way that I can sit down and adequately review this book after reading it. Diane Ackerman has skillfully and beautifully written this very complex story. She is a naturalist, who has very well utilized her discipline to write this historical piece. It will remain with me for a very long time, so I must mull it over and deliberate how I can do justice to this multilayered tale. I have read many accounts of WW II, in articles and in books, but Ackerman was able to create charm, suspense and beauty with her writing. It was compelling- each page contained some item of wonder. The book was enjoyable until the completion of the very last page. My goal is to seek out more of this wonderful author's work. I would rate this book 5+ stars if possible!

  19. 4 out of 5

    TL

    An interesting but poorly told story overall... the author went off tangents quite a few times and the story I thought I was going to get about these two brave people seemed to get lost in the shuffle most of the time. The writing at times was interesting for a period then would struggle to keep my interest, with me re-reading some parts because I forgot what I had read that quick. Not a horrible book but could have been done better, in my humble opinion. *Mom wants to see the movie but myself, ma An interesting but poorly told story overall... the author went off tangents quite a few times and the story I thought I was going to get about these two brave people seemed to get lost in the shuffle most of the time. The writing at times was interesting for a period then would struggle to keep my interest, with me re-reading some parts because I forgot what I had read that quick. Not a horrible book but could have been done better, in my humble opinion. *Mom wants to see the movie but myself, may just wait till its on DVD.*

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gemma

    Naively, I imagined this was going to be an account of the efforts to save the animals in the Warsaw zoo during the war. The zoo however was near anti-aircraft guns and thus an immediate target for the Germans when they invaded Poland. Many of the animals were immediately killed and Polish soldiers killed all the dangerous animals the next day. One thing I realised here was how much more emotionally painful I found the thought of bombs dropping on animals in cages and in enclosures than I ever f Naively, I imagined this was going to be an account of the efforts to save the animals in the Warsaw zoo during the war. The zoo however was near anti-aircraft guns and thus an immediate target for the Germans when they invaded Poland. Many of the animals were immediately killed and Polish soldiers killed all the dangerous animals the next day. One thing I realised here was how much more emotionally painful I found the thought of bombs dropping on animals in cages and in enclosures than I ever feel about them dropping on people. For some reason it took the imagined distress of elephants and lions to truly bring home the horror of an air raid. Anyway, the animals that survive are soon carted off to a German zoo. The zookeeper and his wife keep the zoo and its outbuildings by breeding pigs. Soon they are using the zoo to hide people escaping from the ghetto. I found this an interesting rather than enthralling account of the quiet courage of these two individuals. At times it was a bit overwritten for my taste. Several times I couldn't help thinking how much better it might be were it a novel and the author had a more comprehensive knowledge of the material. I can imagine Anthony Doerr for example writing a fantastic novel set in a zoo during WW2! It gives a good account of the war years in Warsaw, including many characters who have featured in other books and films, including the man who ran the orphanage in the ghetto, immortalised in Schindler’s List, and Irene Sendler, also immortalised in a film. I'm curious now what the film will be like.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Huether

    This is an extra ordinary story, written by an author that brought to light all that is beautiful;nature loving in the midst of World War II in Poland. The events are are true, taken from the diary and notes of the Zookeepers wife Antonina Zabinska. Antonina had a special gift with the care of animals; even keeping the babies in her home. The Zoo became a refuge for many people, young and old, who had no home left nor nothing to eat They saved over three hundred lives. Antonina would play on the pia This is an extra ordinary story, written by an author that brought to light all that is beautiful;nature loving in the midst of World War II in Poland. The events are are true, taken from the diary and notes of the Zookeepers wife Antonina Zabinska. Antonina had a special gift with the care of animals; even keeping the babies in her home. The Zoo became a refuge for many people, young and old, who had no home left nor nothing to eat They saved over three hundred lives. Antonina would play on the piano thunderous melody's to alert her hidden guests, to be quiet and hide when German officers entered her home. I recommend this book to all readers.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I was disappointed in this book. A great (and true) story of kindness, courage, and hope in the most horrific of times, The Zookeeper's Wife is the story of the family that ran the Warsaw Zoo during the time of the German occupation of Poland. After all the animals were killed or transplanted to other zoos, Antonina, her husband Jan, and son Rys, helped aid and shelter Jews who would certainly have been killed in concentration camps without their assistance. While the story is great, the problem I was disappointed in this book. A great (and true) story of kindness, courage, and hope in the most horrific of times, The Zookeeper's Wife is the story of the family that ran the Warsaw Zoo during the time of the German occupation of Poland. After all the animals were killed or transplanted to other zoos, Antonina, her husband Jan, and son Rys, helped aid and shelter Jews who would certainly have been killed in concentration camps without their assistance. While the story is great, the problem with the book is with the storytelling. Way too much research information is passed along (beetles??), too much digression from the story so that the author can explain something, and a style of writing that really takes time and effort to get used to.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I really wanted to like this book. The Zabinskis saved over 300 people from the Nazis. It is an important story and should be told, but the story got lost in the zoological facts. At times, I felt like I was reading a research paper on animals that got mixed into a WWII story. It really didn't flow and I could not enjoy it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Grady

    'Why do we humanize animals and animalize humans?' There are many stories that continue to come out of the WW II experience, stories of courage, love and survival in the face of near hopeless situations inflicted upon the globe by Nazi Germany, and, thankfully, biographies of heroes whose moral convictions were stronger than the destructive forces of Hitler's cadre. THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE is yet another unknown story, a true tale of survival of the human spirit pitted against what seemed to be the 'Why do we humanize animals and animalize humans?' There are many stories that continue to come out of the WW II experience, stories of courage, love and survival in the face of near hopeless situations inflicted upon the globe by Nazi Germany, and, thankfully, biographies of heroes whose moral convictions were stronger than the destructive forces of Hitler's cadre. THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE is yet another unknown story, a true tale of survival of the human spirit pitted against what seemed to be the end of the world in Poland. Yet this book is not 'just another war story'. As presented by the astute investigator and gifted writer Diane Ackerman, whose many books include 'A Natural History of the Senses', 'An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain', 'The Moon by Whale Light - and Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins', Crocodilians and Whales', 'A Natural History of Love', 'Deep Play', 'Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden', 'The Rarest of the Rare: Vanishing Animals, Timeless Worlds', and anthologies of poems such as 'I Praise My Destroyer: Poems' and 'Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems', this is a magical tale about a couple in Warsaw whose roles as zookeepers allowed their shared appreciation for animal life and ways of adapting to devise ingenious ways to protect many of the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto from mass execution. Jan and Antonina Zabinski were Polish Christian keepers of the Zoo when the Germans under Hitler's scheme of world domination and purification of Europe for the chosen race of Aryans began. Ackerman quietly builds her setting by concentrating on the special gifts of these two remarkable people in caring for the animals of the zoo: her descriptions of the various members of the menagerie are at once comical and insightful. When Hitler's move into Poland began the Zabinskis, long friends with the many Jews who lived around them, devised clever ways to turn the zoo and their own villa into a safe haven for the increasingly threatened annihilation of their friends who happened to be Jewish. Throughout the horrors of the German destruction of the city and the attempts of the Warsaw Uprising, led in part by Jan Zabinski, the couple maintained an atmosphere of calm and grace for the some 300 Jews in their hiding. Using the Zoo as a shield to deflect occupying German interest in animal studies as a part of their theory of purification, and as a means to gather food in the Jewish Ghetto for the 'animals', they were able to feed their 'guests' and provide papers and documents to aid the escape of the Jews who chose to flee Poland. And after the war the Zabinskis continued to refurbish the zoo and offer sanctity to those Jews whose lives had been so devastated during the crush of Warsaw. Ackerman is a master craftsman and her depth of scientific knowledge about the animal kingdom makes her ability to relate this story of 'The Zookeeper's Wife' match the inordinate amount of research about her subjects to create an important document about an historical fact previously unknown. And yet her ability to invest her story with poetic force is always evident: '...war plays havoc with sensory memories as the sheer intensity of each moment, the roiling adrenaline and fast pulse, drive memories in deeper, embed every small detail, and make events unforgettable. While that can strengthen friendship or love, it can also taint sensory treasures like music. By associating any tune with danger, one never again hears it without adrenaline pounding as memory hits consciousness followed by a jolt of fear...It's a terrific way to ruin great music'. There are times in this fine novel when the reader is jarred from the flow of the story being told by Ackerman's insertions of data or stepping in to remind us that she interviewed some of the survivors in her research: the drama of the tale is diluted momentarily by facts and figures and names, moving the reader away from the visceral experience of the Zabinski's story to remind us that we are reading a documented biography. Yet in the end the book is so powerful, so overflowing with gracious writing and so full of the indomitable human spirit that such small 'flaws' become inconsequential. Ackerman has unveiled another great moment in the histories of human kindness during times of war, and we are the richer for it. Highly recommended. Grady Harp

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. I'd been vaguely interested in it because of the WW2 angle and from my friends' reviews, but have been putting off reading it for awhile. I mostly read via the audiobook from the library, and the narrator was one of the best I've ever listened to. That's partly what helped the book gain a five-star rating. I was a zoo aficionado as a kid. I loved zoos so much that my family had a national zoo membership and we did zoo tourism. :) I'd pick a zoo over a I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. I'd been vaguely interested in it because of the WW2 angle and from my friends' reviews, but have been putting off reading it for awhile. I mostly read via the audiobook from the library, and the narrator was one of the best I've ever listened to. That's partly what helped the book gain a five-star rating. I was a zoo aficionado as a kid. I loved zoos so much that my family had a national zoo membership and we did zoo tourism. :) I'd pick a zoo over a theme park any day! So all the zoological detail in the book was really interesting and vivid to me. Then all the WW2 stuff just had me on the edge of my seat. The sheer odds against this couple were overwhelming, and I kept expecting horrible things to happen (which they did, of course, but not as horrible as they could have been). I loved all the Resistance details! Highly recommended.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Annalisa

    All this time I thought this was a piece of fiction and was delighted to realized it's non-fiction. There's something off about telling the story as though it were fiction, sometimes slipping into novel-style storytelling and sometimes info-dumping for pages about zoology or Polish tradition or Nazi habits in what should have been footnotes. It probably reads a little easier than straight non-fiction to stylize it that, but it left me with a longing to delve more into the details of the story Ac All this time I thought this was a piece of fiction and was delighted to realized it's non-fiction. There's something off about telling the story as though it were fiction, sometimes slipping into novel-style storytelling and sometimes info-dumping for pages about zoology or Polish tradition or Nazi habits in what should have been footnotes. It probably reads a little easier than straight non-fiction to stylize it that, but it left me with a longing to delve more into the details of the story Ackerman couldn't know, for a more fleshed-out story. I love, love, love that this book is about the giving Polish people who rarely make an appearance in other Holocaust stories. The Polish are fierce, defiant, and extremely patriotic and it was a major blow to them and to their intellectual and artsy capital to have the Germans so easy destroy all that culture. What I wouldn't give to step back in time and see Warsaw before September 1939 in all its glory. While the Jews were at the front of a grand extermination project, so were the Polish. The Nazis wanted their beautiful country for their own people and nothing, not the people, not their architecture, not their vegetation and animals, were good enough for Hitler's Aryan race. Not only did the Polish have Germany on one side of them fighting to claim their country, they had Russia on the other doing the same thing in a much more underhanded way. If Poland had fearfully stood by, there may be nothing left of their culture today. But they didn't. The Polish Underground was the most organized in World War II and did some of the worst damage to Nazi cargo. The Warsaw Ghetto was the only one to fight back against its Nazi oppressors. And while other stories may tell of scared Polish people turning in Jewish neighbors, many of them leave out the thousands of Poles who hid, fed, transported, and risked their lives to help their Jewish friends and neighbors. If a German were found hiding a Jew, they would have been sent to a labor camp, but if a Pole were suspected of helping Jews, they'd be shot on the spot. Their lives were only slightly more valuable than a Jewish life, and not even more valuable, but not quite targeted yet. And what did the Poles get for all their fighting and patriotism? Almost fifty years trapped behind the Iron Curtain where much of their story was lost. (Let's not forget that it was the Poles who set off the chain of events that brought down the Cold War.) While I didn't connect the Zabinskis and the people they saved as I would have liked (a fictionalized story to give substance to their lives and terror would have served the story better), I did with the Polish plight and I'm glad that there was enough details of the zookeeper's story to tell. My favorite quote: Dozens of statues and monuments grace Warsaw's streets, because Poland is a country half submerged in its heavily invaded past, fed by progress, but always partly mourning.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Moonkiszt

    The Zookeeper’s Wife I went into this book having no idea that it wasn’t fiction, and that it was about Poland and WWII. I can’t say it was a joy to have all this new, horrible information unfold as it read. . . it was a horror to realize the depth and breadth of a war of which I thought I at least understood the main crimes against humanity was much deeper and wider – and I suspect this is a realization into which I will continually faceplant. For all the good words, good story threads, there we The Zookeeper’s Wife I went into this book having no idea that it wasn’t fiction, and that it was about Poland and WWII. I can’t say it was a joy to have all this new, horrible information unfold as it read. . . it was a horror to realize the depth and breadth of a war of which I thought I at least understood the main crimes against humanity was much deeper and wider – and I suspect this is a realization into which I will continually faceplant. For all the good words, good story threads, there were toooooo many terrible ones - ones I duck away from, ones our society continues to argue about - whether it even really happened. . . .astonishing. There are descriptions I cannot even write. . .too heartbreaking. There seems to be no end to all the terrible events affecting so many, and many whose voices were forever silenced. Oh, that Antonia! What a clever woman! The entire zoo community continuing to live under such a paralyzing cloud, trying so hard to save the animals that so many had loved and cared for all those years inspired me to keep on facing my battles with some semblance of their relentless will to rise above it all. Antonia was risking her life, her family for a tribe that a smaller-minded person could say was not hers. . .but she was one who thought bigger, whose tribe was multi-species - not limited to something as contrived as race, religion, geographical region. All humans mattered, all animals, too - all worthy of saving efforts. I loved the references to the cycles of perennially relentless nature teaching them that no matter the situation, the sun will rise, broken trees will find a way to send a shoot straight up, rain will fall, babies need caring for and roses will bloom. An extraordinary book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Cox

    by Andrea Renee Cox What an emotional story! I might have read a library copy, but I'll be adding one to my personal library at some point. At times it was a little difficult to follow. Once I found my rhythm with the author's writing style, I really enjoyed the narrative. Learning about the Warsaw Zoo and its inhabitants--humans and animals alike--during WWII was fascinating, and I was moved to tears on multiple occasions. Some content (particularly sexual content and a few expletives) is inappr by Andrea Renee Cox What an emotional story! I might have read a library copy, but I'll be adding one to my personal library at some point. At times it was a little difficult to follow. Once I found my rhythm with the author's writing style, I really enjoyed the narrative. Learning about the Warsaw Zoo and its inhabitants--humans and animals alike--during WWII was fascinating, and I was moved to tears on multiple occasions. Some content (particularly sexual content and a few expletives) is inappropriate for children; parental discretion advised. I was not compensated for my honest review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    J. Schlenker

    I listened to the audio version, some of the time in a hammock, a mistake. I found most of it rather dry. Sometimes I felt like I was listening to the audio version of a Wild Kingdom show. It seemed there was only spurts about the zookeeper's wife. Last night I saw the movie, one of the rare instances I found the movie to be better than the book. I wondered how they would even depict this book as a movie while listening, but was quite surprised. I guess I needed the visual to really appreciate t I listened to the audio version, some of the time in a hammock, a mistake. I found most of it rather dry. Sometimes I felt like I was listening to the audio version of a Wild Kingdom show. It seemed there was only spurts about the zookeeper's wife. Last night I saw the movie, one of the rare instances I found the movie to be better than the book. I wondered how they would even depict this book as a movie while listening, but was quite surprised. I guess I needed the visual to really appreciate this work, and I do appreciate the author taking on this monumental task. There was a lot of research that went into it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Being a big animal lover, this was hard to read. It never ceases to amaze me how truly horrible Hitler and the Nazis were. A difficult but good true story.

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