David's Reviews > The Zookeeper's Wife

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
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Dec 29, 07

Read in December, 2007

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,"
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