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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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

Overall

  • 3.8 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    633
  • 4 Stars
    492
  • 3 Stars
    367
  • 2 Stars
    163
  • 1 Stars
    93

Performance

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    631
  • 4 Stars
    366
  • 3 Stars
    165
  • 2 Stars
    67
  • 1 Stars
    39

Story

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    544
  • 4 Stars
    324
  • 3 Stars
    228
  • 2 Stars
    110
  • 1 Stars
    66
Sort by:
  • Overall

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.

44 of 51 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Joan
  • Swamp Yankee
  • 07-16-08

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.

54 of 70 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Alice
  • Redding , CT, USA
  • 07-14-08

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.

34 of 44 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Boring

I was expecting so much more more from this and I was really disappointed. The story was bland and more like an encyclopedia than a story. I though there would be more with the animals and actually using Jews IN the zoo. The parts that were story like were good, but they were infrequent.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Carl
  • Denver, CO, United States
  • 10-22-11

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.

14 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Powerful story expertly read

Would you consider the audio edition of The Zookeeper's Wife to be better than the print version?

I haven't read the print version, but it would be hard to imagine how the audio version isn't 100% better: it's expertly read.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Well, the heroine, of course, who seemed immensely competent.

Which scene was your favorite?

The one describing the badger using Rich's chamber pot.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, Ackerman does not "play to the crowd" and evoke hysterics: she presents the story in a calm, measured voice.

Any additional comments?

The reader made it come alive for me, changing her voice for each character, and obviously of Polish background, pronouncing all the Polish names and places. Excellent!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Warsaw--WW2

An honest assessment of Polish life during WW2. Our heroine is the wife of the Warsaw Zoo. Survival was a matter of edge, tact and luck as the Germans destroyed the city, burned the ghetto and then left.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Wonderfully narrated

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

The narration added authenticity to this story set in Poland in WW2.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

n/a

What about Suzanne Toren’s performance did you like?

I enjoyed her use of accents.

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

no

Any additional comments?

n/a

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

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.

11 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

The Warsaw Zoo and Keepers Suffer in WWII

Would you consider the audio edition of The Zookeeper's Wife to be better than the print version?

I have not read the print version. I preferred the audio.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The Zookeepers's wife was a remarkable woman who kept her family, relatives and friends--even strangers who asked for help--safe with her level-headedness, compassion, and inner strength.

Have you listened to any of Suzanne Toren’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No.

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

Moments in the book where their little boy, Rich, had to deal with things he could not understand. He reacted as a child but was obedient. He had good questions but they could not always share the real answers with him. He trusted his parents.

Any additional comments?

no.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful