The Zookeeper's Wife

The Zookeeper's Wife

Paperback - 2007
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When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw--and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants--otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes.With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton, c2007.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780393061727
Branch Call Number: 940.531835
Characteristics: 368 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 22 cm.


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When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw--and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for di... Read More »

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Oct 29, 2017

A look a WWII through the eyes of the Zoo and people in Warsaw, Poland. Devastating details portrayed. Sometimes I got lost in this book. The details of personalities and the depths people went to help their fellow citizens was enlightening and heartwarming. People can be resilient and resourceful. Good thankfully out does evil but at such a high price. Maybe this is obvious from WWII history but in todays' world it seems important to be reminded.

Aug 28, 2017

I, too, drown in the details, very difficult to follow. Author's writing style was boring. The book was mostly a study in zoology. However, there were interesting historical facts. The movie was better.

Aug 15, 2017

I drowned in the details... more of a sort of non-fiction presentation than a story; not well laid out somehow. I look forward to the movie as hopefully they get more story and less fact based in the presentation.

Aug 09, 2017

This was a book of missed opportunities. The premise offered fertile ground for characters escaping the Nazis. Instead it was a study in zoology. How were they hidden or secreted. That became a secondary plot. Never warmed up to the characters. In no way could this novel be compared to Schindler's List. Very disappointing

Aug 05, 2017

Thought the book was okay but it did not think it conveyed how horrific the crimes really were. I never had the the sense that losses were that devastating to the characters. it was just like they accepted what happened and moved on. However, maybe that was all they could do.

Jul 27, 2017

Found the author's writing style distracting and boring. The author seems to want to educate the reader on her background research, as well as on the characteristics of the various zoo animals in addition to writing about the zookeeper and his wife. It just doesn't work. Maybe it gets better ...I gave up after a couple of chapters.

Jul 25, 2017

After reading several critics comments I feel compelled to observe that I didn't feel as critical about the pacing or writing style because I thought the author was writing in what she felt was Antonina's voice and style. She is the heroine of the story. My overall impression is that I was glad to read about situations experienced by Polish people during World War II who were not in the military, not politicians and not among the wealthy. Also, It was surprising to learn that, in the midst of war, there were those who were as concerned with the survival and safety of the zoo population as the war refugees.

Jul 16, 2017

Enjoyed the book. Made me want to read more about Poland's struggle and resilience during WWII. I found myself referring back to the black and white photo's in the book imagining the real life events.

Jun 14, 2017

This book was difficult to follow at times. It took between 75 and 100 pages before I could follow the story line clearly. I also feel that there were many more people who risked their own lives to save the lives of Jews during WWII. Their stories haven't been told, but they will will be honored some day. On a scale of 1-10, I give this book a 4.

Jun 07, 2017

An excellent and true story about saving human lives and saving animal lives, told by a poet. Her prose runs to sensual details, and lengthy and evocative lists ("autumn laced the air with a stitchery of migrating songbirds and chevrons of blaring geese"), and the narrative delves deeply into the sounds, and smells, and emotional character of the "Noah's ark" that the Zabinskis made of the Warsaw zoo during the Nazi occupation. Ackerman even plumbs philosophical questions about human and animal nature, both Nazi ideology which could boast of ecological awareness and simultaneously seek to destroy parts of the planet's genome, and questions of how humans and animals can live interlocking and symbiotic lives.

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AbigailCurious Jan 27, 2015

Violence: It describes the brutality of the nazis, sometimes in great detail.

AbigailCurious Jan 27, 2015

Frightening or Intense Scenes: It has moments where you can be truly frightened, and believing that characters may have died.


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AbigailCurious Jan 27, 2015

AbigailCurious thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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Apr 24, 2017

“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.” - p. 322


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