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The Zookeeper's Wife

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3.44  ·  Rating details ·  59,792 Ratings  ·  8,558 Reviews
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 P ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton Company
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Betsy Gilliland The movie is based on the book. Also, Cybercrone. Don't be so mean.
Joel It's written for adults but young adults could easily read it

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Will Byrnes
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
...more
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.
Elyse
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Wanda
Feb 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Maddie
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
description

Feedback on the movie - just as good as the book :) and lived up to the books standards!

This book is about acts of heroism of Jan and Antonina Żabiński, a family that put their lives in jeopardy to save others!

description

description

This book is remarkable as it was based on true events and facts captured in the diary of Antonina during World war 11, and about Antonina, Jan and their son Ryszard (named after a saint as they formed part of the Polish Cathoholic tradition) Żabiński.

description

Jan Żabiński, was the director
...more
Kate
Nov 14, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Kate by: I heard her interviewed on NPR
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nancy
Dec 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
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). ...more
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
...more
Daniel
Sep 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
"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
...more
Liz
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
...more
Maureen
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Ashley Marsh
Feb 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: owned, 2017
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 ...more
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
...more
Rebecca Foster
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 ...more
David
Dec 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jen Meegan
Jan 18, 2008 rated it liked it
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
...more
Barbara
Jul 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Maria, Teri,Kelly and all my GR friends
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 ...more
Gemma
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
TL
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Grady
Dec 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
'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
...more
Annalisa
Mar 07, 2009 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Kathy
Jan 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
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
...more
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 ...more
Kathy
May 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddy-read
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.
Andrea Cox
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Kim
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
Mayda
This should have been an engrossing story, given the subject matter. Set during WWII in Poland, Jan and Antonina are caretakers of a zoo that has been taken over by the Nazis. Animals that were long-time residents of the zoo are either shot or sent to other zoos. Jan becomes involved in the underground resistance. He and his wife hide displaced Jews, to save them from being sent away to camps and death. This book had a great deal of promise, but the author missed the mark in telling it. Not well ...more
Book Concierge
Audiobook performed by Suzanne Toren

When Germany invaded Poland, and the Nazis occupied Warsaw, they began the determined extermination of that country’s Jews. But many Polish citizens helped to shelter their Jewish friends and neighbors. This is the story one of family, and the wife and mother in particular: Antonina Zabinski, the zookeeper’s wife.

It’s a fascinating story, and well told. Jan Zabinski was the director of the Warsaw Zoo, and he and his family lived in a villa on the zoological g
...more
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Diane Ackerman has been the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in addition to many other awards and recognitions for her work, which include the bestsellers The Zookeeper’s Wife and A Natural History of the Senses.

The Zookeeper’s Wife, a little known true story of WWII, became a New York Times bestseller, and received the Orion Book Award, which honored it as, "a groundbreaking work o
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“I watched her face switch among the radio stations of memory” 26 likes
“I don't understand all the fuss. If any creature is in danger, you save it, human or animal.” 13 likes
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