25 May 2009
Book Review: The Zookeeper's Wife
Title: The Zookeeper's Wife
Author: Diane Ackerman
Published: 2007 Pages: 323
Genre: Nonfiction, Holocaust
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
In The Zookeeper's Wife, Ackerman tells the story of the Warsaw zookeeper and his wife who saved around 300 people during World War II by hiding them in the bomb-ravaged zoo, both in the house and in the animal cages. I read this book weeks ago, but I am just now getting around to reviewing it, not because I didn't like the book, far from it, but reading and commenting on books about the Holocaust are emotional for me. I have no personal connection, no family members died in the war, I'm not Jewish, but for some reason, thinking about this time makes my heart hurt in a very real, very personal way. So it took time to process the novel.
The book focuses on Antonina Zabinski. She did not lead the exciting life of intrigue her husband did. Jan was a professor in the secret Warsaw university, he served in the underground Polish Army to fight the Nazis, and he helped smuggle people out of the country to safety. Antonina, however, did just one thing, but its importance can not be underestimated. She created a home for the Jews hiding at the zoo. Her story, her life, is worthy of retelling.
Antonina's journal provides the foundation for this novel, adding a very authentic and poetic tone. Her writing is beautiful and poignant, pulling emotion out of the readers, and Ackerman does a wonderful job intermingling historical fact with these more personal snippets. By the end of the novel, the reader has a very good sense of who Antonina was as a wife, mother, and friend.