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The Zookeeper's Wife

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  84,712 ratings  ·  10,109 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
Paperback, Movie Tie-In Edition, 368 pages
Published February 17th 2017 by W. W. Norton Company (first published September 7th 2007)
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Betsy Gilliland The movie is based on the book. Also, Cybercrone. Don't be so mean. …moreThe movie is based on the book. Also, Cybercrone. Don't be so mean. (less)
Betsy Gilliland I would highly doubt a young adult would stick with the "details" in some sections, for example the part where they describe a bazillion different kin…moreI would highly doubt a young adult would stick with the "details" in some sections, for example the part where they describe a bazillion different kinds of beetles that exist. You also need an understanding of the mission of Nazism and the cruelty inflicted on people in order to "cleanse" an ethnicity! ((less)
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Average rating 3.48  · 
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 ·  84,712 ratings  ·  10,109 reviews

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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.
Will Byrnes
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction 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 ca
Feb 13, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Elyse  Walters
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
Dec 26, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 14, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Miranda Reads
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
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 sympath
Sep 21, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ashley Marsh
Feb 24, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-clubs
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
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, and t
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
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 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 piano t
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jen Meegan
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
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Barbara H
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
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
The Dusty Jacket
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Jan and Antonina Żabiński were Christian zookeepers horrified by Nazi racism, who capitalized on the Nazis’ obsession with rare animals in order to save over three hundred doomed people. Their story has fallen between the seams of history, as radically compassionate acts sometimes do. But in wartime Poland, when even handing a thirsty Jew a cup of water was punishable by death, their heroism stands out as all the more startling."

"The Zookeeper’s Wife" takes place in Poland from the summer of 19
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. I'd been vaguely interested in it because of the WW2 angle and from my friends' reviews, but have been putting off reading it for awhile.

I mostly read via the audiobook from the library, and the narrator was one of the best I've ever listened to. That's partly what helped the book gain a five-star rating.

I was a zoo aficionado as a kid. I loved zoos so much that my family had a national zoo membership and we did zoo tourism. :) I'd pick a zoo over a
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 of one 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
May 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
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.
Dec 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'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
The Zookeeper’s Wife

I went into this book having no idea that it wasn’t fiction, and that it was about Poland and WWII. I can’t say it was a joy to have all this new, horrible information unfold as it read. . . it was a horror to realize the depth and breadth of a war of which I thought I at least understood the main crimes against humanity was much deeper and wider – and I suspect this is a realization into which I will continually faceplant. For all the good words, good story threads, there we
Maria Espadinha
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
People in Cages

Once upon a time there was a zoo with no animals. Instead, there were people living in cages!

How did that happen?

It was Hitler’s fault! Who else?!...

The Warsaw Zoo was an idyllic place filled with beautiful plants and all sorts of animals. But the war changed everything:
All the “valuable” animals were confiscated by the Nazis and the others were shot to death. Left with an empty zoo, the zookeepers (the Zabinskis) had enough space to save as manny Jews as possible — they were now
Jan 08, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Andrea Cox
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
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
What a disappointment. A tedious and confusing read. The author seems undecided with the direction she wants to take the reader. Is this story primarily about a group of people trying to make it out of WWII alive; or, is this the story about the flora and fauna of Warsaw and how they were affected by the war?

I would not recommend this book to anyone.
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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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