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The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman

>> Friday, September 12, 2008

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 423
A-Z Reading #41 (Z Title)

I first heard about this book when
Jenclair reviewed it last year. Since then I’ve seen several other positive reviews and the title made it perfect for the A-Z challenge.

For some reason I had been under the impression that this book was fiction, so I was a bit surprised when I went to find it at the library and it had a non-fiction call number. It’s the story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski and also of Warsaw during World War II. The book begins in 1935 and tells how Jan became the zookeeper at the Warsaw Zoo. When Germany invaded and the zoo was bombed, they stayed to try to care for the animals who had survived and ended up caring for both Warsaw and many of its Jewish citizens. The Nazis allowed the Zabinskis to use the zoo first as a pig farm and later as a fox fur farm to help feed and clothe their army.

Ackerman used Antonina’s diaries as a primary source for her story and while it does focus on her, there are many side stories of her husband’s activities in the Polish resistance as well as the many ‘guests’ who hid from the Nazis in their villa and the empty cages and enclosures at the zoo.

The book contains many powerful episodes of courage and sacrifice in the face of horrible circumstances. I found it to be a fascinating book.


Joy 9/12/2008 9:53 AM  

Well, that's interesting! I didn't know that it was non-fiction. Your review has made me more intrigued.

Red lady-Bonnie 9/12/2008 1:55 PM  

I have this book on my TBR shelf and am looking forward to reading it. I didn't realize that it is non-fiction either!

Vickie 9/12/2008 2:21 PM  

SuziQ: I was tagged for a fun book list and I tagged you, Sherri, and Joy! Come take a look at my blog today....

Bookfool 9/12/2008 4:21 PM  

I thought it was fiction, too! Wow, that makes it even more intriguing. I think I've got this one on my wish list. I'll have to double check.

Heather,  9/12/2008 4:29 PM  

sounds great! I'll add it to my list.

Framed 9/13/2008 10:15 PM  

I thought it was fiction as well. It sounds well worth the read.

SuziQoregon 9/14/2008 6:55 AM  

Oh I feel so much better hearing that others also thought it was fiction!!

Joy: it wasn't super compelling, but a very interesting story that I hadn't heard about before.

Bonnie: I think I was a bit disappointed in that there was a lot of 'asides' to tell other stories than Jan and Antonina, but at the same time they were all interesting and made the story about more than just them.

Vickie: Cool, but I may not join on that.

Bookfool: It is intriguing. One of those stories that makes you wonder if you'd have the same courage.

Heather: I enjoyed it, hope you do too.

Framed: There are parts of the story that are difficult due to the subject matter, but I learned a lot about Warsaw during the war.

Anna 9/14/2008 8:16 AM  

I can't wait to read this book! I love non-fiction books involving WWII.

Carrie 9/14/2008 9:22 AM  

I love WWII also. Looks a great read!

sassymonkey 9/15/2008 6:49 AM  

This is on my A-Z list too and in a pile beside my bed. I probably won't get to it until closer to the end of the year but I'm glad to read that people have been enjoying it.

Booklogged 9/15/2008 1:12 PM  

I remember when this book first came out I thought it was nonfiction, but then later something led me to believe it was fiction. Now I find out it's not. I haven't even read the book and I'm confused! I do love Ackerman's writing and hope to get to this one.

Hey, SuzieQ, my mother, husband and I are making a trip to Oregon in Oct. Can you suggest any fun spots we should visit in Portland? Interesting libraries, bookstores, restaurants, places not listed on the tourist brochures and websites. We are planning on Pittock Mansion, Voodoo Doughnuts, Moonstruck Chocolate, Ramona statues, Powell's, Chinese Gardens, driving by the houses in Irvington, Pioneer Square and the Waterfront Park. Does it sound like we need a month?! That would be nice. I love Portland. We enjoy the tourist attractions, but would love to hear what some of your favorite spots are. I've read that Park Kitchen is a MUST. Have you been there? Any other recommendations for good restaurants?

Any help you can give will be much appreciated. Thanks, SuzieQ. If you'd like to email- booklogged AT gmail DOT com. I know your life is busy, so don't feel like you have to do this. Only if you can fit it in.

Les 9/16/2008 2:58 AM  

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this one! I'd read mixed reviews (some stating it is pretty slow-going) and was concerned since my book group just chose it for our October selection. I was even tempted to sit the month out, but now I'll give it a try.

A note to Booklogged - Have a fun trip to Portland!! I'm green with envy! Too bad you don't have time to head over to the coast for some delicious clam chowder at the Chowder Bowl in Nye Beach. :)

Teddy Rose 9/16/2008 3:08 PM  

Wonderful review! This book is on my TBR. I also thought it was fiction. LOL!

SuziQoregon 9/17/2008 10:52 AM  

Booklogged: I sent you an email - hope you got it.

Les: yum - Chowder Bowl!

Teddy: I'm finding it fascinating that SO many of us thought this was fiction.

SuziQoregon 9/17/2008 10:54 AM  

Anna: I'll be looking forward to seeing what you think of it.

Carrie: Hope you like it. I learned a lot about Warsaw during the war.

Sassymonkey: It definitely got moved up the TBR list because it was perfect for the A-Z challenge. I'm glad it did.

Stephanie 10/16/2008 8:39 AM  

I actually brought this one home from the library, but never had the chance to read it. Thanks for the review.

SuziQoregon 10/21/2008 10:32 AM  

Stephanie: it's definitely worth a read. Hope you do and enjoy it.

alisonwonderland 12/12/2008 9:36 AM  

i'm hoping to get to this in the next two weeks. (i still need "Z" for the A~Z Challenge.) i was thinking it was fiction too. i'm looking forward to reading it.

SuziQoregon 12/18/2008 2:34 PM  

Alison - hope you can get it in for your A-Z challenge. I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of it.

alisonwonderland 12/28/2008 8:44 PM  

Suzi: i finished the book this afternoon and have posted my review. i really liked the book!

SuziQoregon 12/28/2008 8:45 PM  

Alison: thanks for letting me know!

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment. I read and respond them here although not always right away. If you would prefer an email response let me know.

I do moderate comments on posts older than 14 days in order to control spam. I will approve your legitimate comments as soon as I can.

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