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The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story | [Diane Ackerman]

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story

When Germany invaded Poland, 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 the empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts.
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Publisher's Summary

When Germany invaded Poland, 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 the 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 Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital.

Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants and refusing to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, even as Europe crumbled around her.

©2007 Diane Ackerman; (P)2007 BBC Audiobooks America

What the Critics Say

"Ackerman's writing is viscerally evocative, as in her description of the effects of the German bombing of the zoo area....This suspenseful beautifully crafted story deserves a wide readership." (Publishers Weekly)
"Ackerman's affecting telling of the heroic Zabinskis' dramatic story illuminates the profound connection between humankind and nature, and celebrates life's beauty, mystery, and tenacity." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (518 )
5 star
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3.6 (165 )
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3.9 (157 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Sara USA 09-06-08
    Sara USA 09-06-08

    I love reading reviews. No plot spoilers please. These are not book reports!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful!"

    Tales of strength, disaster, delight, and integrity in war time Poland are spun through the lives of the family who inhabited the "ark" of the Warsaw zoo. Beautifully read and not to be missed.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joan Norwich, CT, 06360 United States 07-16-08
    Joan Norwich, CT, 06360 United States 07-16-08 Member Since 2006

    Joined in 2006. In my 40's, grew up reading the Classics, from Asimov, Clarke, Vonnegut. Moved on to Urban Punk/ Fantasy as well as Alt. History. Fantasy; Camber Series, Mistborn, George R.R. Martin. Question-Where are the other Wild Card Books dang it?

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very Disappointing, Terrible Narration"

    When I read the discription for the book, I was intrigued..animals, WWII, Hiding Jews from the Nazi's in the Zoo, well it sounded both fascinating and moving. I was wrong. First, the narrator was horrendous. Each time there was a quotation from the Zookeeper's Wife (this is a factual account drawn from diaries, it seems, possibly interviews with family), the narrator switched to the worst Eastern European accent I have ever heard. She'd perhaps been watching too many B vampire movies, trying to form her Polish accent. When she would switch back to her natural voice, the "Euopean" would drag for a few syllables, very distracting.
    The story wasn't all that interesting either. It read more like a Ph.d thesis on the stresses of war-time than a novel. The revolutionary actions of her husband are hardly discussed at all. She mostly is the "heart of the home", which in Poland apparently means she irons, cooks and cleans. A lot. Yes, we are privy to all of her feelings, but she is of course deeply depressed. I stuck through this, but only because I kept waiting for action. There was very little. Oh, do not expect lots of adorable animal stories either, as they are all either confiscated or killed before you get 10 minutes into the book. Rather graphically. The killing of an elephant was for me very disturbing. What kind of "pick" this was I cannot say..but I can say, sadly, is do not Pick.

    28 of 33 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alice Redding , CT, USA 07-14-08
    Alice Redding , CT, USA 07-14-08 Member Since 2003
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    "Don't bother!"

    I was very disappointed in this book. The story had great potential and was apparently based on the memoirs of people who lived through the experience. However, I found the author's style frustrating and the narrator's annoying. While the story is supposed to be about "The Zookeeper's Wife", it is really a series of vignettes about many people and events. There are multiple digressions into unrelated material and pedantic source references throughout. The author frequently just lists, jobs, vehicles, animals and events rather than including them in the story. The narrator slides from her own voice into a wistful Polish accent in a rather random way - even in mid-sentence to indicate a quote. If you are interested in a story about Warsaw during the war, there are many better books available that give credit to the courage and tenacity of the resistance.

    18 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn United States 04-08-12
    Carolyn United States 04-08-12
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    "LOVED this book."
    What did you like best about this story?

    I loved the way the author described some of the animals and plants and scenes. I could almost see, smell, taste and feel the things she was describing. Great history lesson also. Makes me want to visit the places she talks about. In fact, I looked it up on the internet.


    What does Suzanne Toren bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Loved the authentic accent...beautiful language.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Absolutely.


    Any additional comments?

    Wonderful book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen United States 01-07-12
    Karen United States 01-07-12

    I've just gotten hooked on audio book this last year & I love them. Now I can "read" a book & do other things like walk or hobbies.

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    "Excellent book"
    What did you love best about The Zookeeper's Wife?

    The guts of the characters


    What other book might you compare The Zookeeper's Wife to and why?

    ?


    What does Suzanne Toren bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    the accent was amazing


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    when the son and mother thought they were going to be shot


    Any additional comments?

    It was one more point of view about the Holocaust that helps me to see more into a nightmare. I liked seeing it from a Polish perspective.
    I loved seeing it through the eyes of the zoo and the animals.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carl Denver, CO, United States 10-22-11
    Carl Denver, CO, United States 10-22-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Amazing tale"

    Poland is sometimes dismissed because they were overrun so quickly and then so many of the camps were located in their borders. This story shows that not all Poles accepted the German occupation or participated in the extermination of the Jews. This is a well-told tale of resistance in the face of certain death if they were discovered. Of doing what was right with no possible personal gain. She was an amazing woman.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Trudy Spokane, WA, United States 05-09-11
    Trudy Spokane, WA, United States 05-09-11
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    "Would read it again"

    It is really easy to avoid books based out of this time of our life but I would suggest not skipping this one. Very informative and easy to listen to.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nadene 01-14-10
    Nadene 01-14-10 Member Since 2009
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    "reads as a non-fiction tale"

    This book was very well researched and detailed. If you are looking for an expository book with details on the antics of zoo animals and details on 30 beetles found in a collection..., this is the book for you. It did have some good details on the lives of the Jews in the Polish ghetto. I was looking for a more plot-driven novel, so I put this book aside after about 1/2 of the book. A disappointment for me.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JJReader 07-12-08
    JJReader 07-12-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Beautifully written but slow moving"

    This book will probably win literary awards since the writing is excelent and the language is beautiful. That being said, the story itself is very slow moving and I was never able to really feel a connection with the characters. Given the subject matter, I expected some degree of suspense, but it never developed. Some chapters were totally descriptive and interrupted the story line completely. While the reader does a really good job, the presentation is so lyrical it becomes monotonous. Perhaps an abridged version would be a better choice.

    10 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna Westminister, CA, United States 09-15-10
    Donna Westminister, CA, United States 09-15-10 Member Since 2010
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    "VERY GOOD"

    I totally enjoyed the book..... and it gave a good insight on what folks had to go throw during the war. We in America should be thankful that we have never had to have a war fought on our grounds.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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