The Zookeeper’s Wife
by Diane Ackerman
The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman is a high interest nonfiction account of the German invasion of Warsaw told from the perspective of Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Dr. Jan Zabinski. Diane Ackerman skillfully weaves together historical events of both horror and beauty.
The Zabinski’s, Active in the Polish underground, used the zoo as an unusual hiding place while attempting to carry on with the care of the animals, operating of the facilities as usual, and raising their children. Tales of the animals and the day to day operation of the zoo during this occupation break up the recounting of the people and their struggle to survive. Ackerman depicts the life and people of the Warsaw ghetto, giving us a glimpse into the terrible history.
A vast number of people passed through the zoo, and this book is brimming with anecdotes, bringing to life the characters. The narrative is full of interesting details on how people avoided detection and the extraordinary lengths and methods taken.
Ackerman delves into the history of the German mindset and recounted some of the experiments carried out by the Nazis. This retelling of history is not as graphic as others I have read, but the ideology exposed chills the soul.
The ZooKeeper’s Wife is a story of compassion and daring, and a story of real lives saved and lost. I would classify this as a necessary history, an exposition of humanity both good and evil. Well worth the read.
I listened to the audiobook on CDs. The book seemed to have a slow start, but the narrative garnered more of my interest as I listened.
Winner of the 2008 Orion Award
Lit Lover’s Reading Guide for The Zookeeper’s Wife
Visit The National WWII Museum online here to listen to more first hand accounts of WWII.