Friday, June 19, 2009

The Zookeeper's Wife

I read a few reviews of The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman and they all made it sound like an interesting and well-written book. It is a true story, based on diaries and other sources, told from the perspective of a couple that managed the Warsaw zoo before WWII. The war and German invasion put an end to the zoo, but they found various ways to keep the property used and busy so they could use it as a major part of the Underground and a place to hide many Jews as they helped them escape the Nazis.

It is a nonfiction book with good historical detail that the author includes and the research she has done. She explains many of her sources throughout the book when she uses a journal or story told by someone who lived in Warsaw at the time. But it is written much like a novel in that she doesn’t footnote you to death or have sharp breaks between subjects. The format works wonderfully! It is so easy to read and moving in how she conveys the environment, the people, and the struggles.

I think the story is a great way to learn about the history of WWII, the people involved, the ideologies proposed. It was scary how much of what the Nazis believed is still with us today.

Including the love and care and Antonina’s empathy with the animals added another emotional level to the story. What the animals struggled with – the fear and disruption and moving to new places or being killed for gratuitous entertainment matches what the Jews and other people experienced.

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