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The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story
The Zookeeper's Wife A War Story
Author: Diane Ackerman
A true story -- as powerful as Schindler's List -- in which the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of people from Nazi hands. 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. ...  more »
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ISBN-13: 9780393333060
ISBN-10: 039333306X
Publication Date: 9/8/2008
Pages: 368
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.

3.5 stars, based on 319 ratings
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story on + 102 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 15
(This is an excerpt from my review. For the complete review please visit

For those who have not yet heard of this book, its the true story of the wife of the Warsaw Zoos keeper during WWII. Most of the zoo's animals were killed during the bombing but with the help of the Polish Underground, the zoo became a haven for more than 300 Jews escaping the Nazis. Wait! Dont stop reading here just because you cant take any more Holocaust books! This book is amazing!

Although this book is about WWII, Jewish people, and the Holocaust, the focus is NOT on the people being saved (or what they were being saved from) but rather on the everyday life of one family doing the saving.

Author Diane Ackerman is a poet and a naturalist, a combination which gives this book a unique style. The research she did is apparent on every page and it makes for a fascinating read. This is a non-fiction book so dont expect a historical fiction novel here.* This book is chock full of fascinating facts. Some seemed obvious once I read them, others Id never have guessed.

I really and truly loved this book. It kept my attention, taught me any things, and was an enjoyable read. I highly recommend this book.
Chocoholic avatar reviewed The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story on + 291 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 13
I had this book on my TBR pile for a long while now because I didn't want to be depressed by reading a depressing Holocaust-era book. This book is completely not what I was expecting! It's funny, it's sad, it's cute, it's horrifying, and very much enlightening. It has a lot of nature, and animal anecdotes interspersed with the history of Poland and how all of these elements fit together. I would highly recommend this book!

It also has pictures and a reading club guide in the back.
reviewed The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story on + 412 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 12
I fully expected to love this book. I am a big reader of Holocaust literature (I am the daughter of a survivor)and this was well-reviewed and highly recommended by others. But I didn't, and I'm not sure why. The author's writing is gorgeous; her descriptions of colors, smells, shapes are almost erotic in their intensity. Her tales of animals are astounding. BUT---I was a bit bored. Perhaps it was the emphasis on the minutiae of day-to-day life under hideous conditions. I did finish it, but nearly put it down towards the end. I feel guilty as I write this!
reviewed The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story on + 7 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 10
I have to admit that I didn't love this book. I expected to like it because it sounds like a really interesting story but the writing style was just not for me. It used six words where 2 would do, and the extra words didn't help to paint a picture of the scene or anything else that I felt was enhancing. It was also full of cliches and trite phrases that I found that parts of the story got lost in the writing.
Ladyslott avatar reviewed The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story on + 113 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 9
This book was such a disappointment for me. I usually like books about WWII and of those people who risked their own lives to save those being persecuted by the Nazis. Unfortunately this book left me cold. I had no connection at all with any of the characters, from the rescuers to the rescued. I read the entire book just wishing it was over.

During the time of the German invasion of Poland, Antonina and Jan Zabinski harbored hundreds of Jews and members of the Polish underground for as little as a few nights to several years. Risking their own lives and those of their children they provided refuge in their home and in the various cages of their former zoo. All in all an admirable and truly remarkable story. However Ackerman would go into detail about the playing of one song on the piano and glide over many of the logistics of this incredible charade. It is never made clear exactly how this subterfuge was carried out, and one never feels close to any of the people in the book. The writing is either so dry it is like choking down crackers or so overblown it is like smothering in verbosity. I read another book about WWII just after this one, and the difference was remarkable. I really wish the Zabinski story could be told by a more gifted writer, this book had the sensation of a distant look back, without any warmth or true feeling.
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reviewed The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story on + 65 more book reviews
Interesting but nothing outstanding. Maybe I've read too many of this genre to be impressed any more.
MKSbooklady avatar reviewed The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story on + 956 more book reviews
As much a nature book as a story about WWII in Warsaw, Poland. A true story which will leave you wondering how people can survive such horrors.
reviewed The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story on + 1775 more book reviews
Poles who hid Jews during the Holocaust is newly appropriate given the denials of the current government of Poland. How they managed to live together is important.
"One of the most remarkable things about Antonina was her determination to include play, animals, wonder, curiosity, marvel, and a wide blaze of innocence in a household where all dodged the ambient dangers, horrors, and uncertainties. That takes a special stripe of bravery rarely valued in wartime."
reviewed The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story on + 30 more book reviews
I am sure the book was well written. I had to skip parts as it was too depressing and horrifying. I was not in the mood, I guess, as the truth be told about a horrific event in our history. What they did to the people and animals was terrible as we all know. It is a shame that the rest of the world didn't know what was actually going on in Europe.