Review: The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

When a book is made into a movie, my interest in always sparked, especially if the novel is based on a true story. Most of the time I wait until I’ve read the book before I see the movie, but for a number of reasons, I ended up watching The Zookeeper’s Wife before I read Diane Ackerman’s novel.

While the movie paints the story well, the book gave me a much more detailed look into the life of Antonia Żabiński.

Antonia was the wife of Jan Żabiński, the keeper of the Warsaw zoo in Poland during World War Two. She loved her life as the zookeeper’s wife and was devastated by the destruction the Nazis brought to her zoo, home, and city.

Perhaps it was this devastation that spurred Antonia and Jan to become involved in the Underground of Warsaw. Their involvement with the resistance against Hitler led their home on the zoo grounds to become a hiding place for Jews and those running from the Nazis.

Interestingly enough, the zoo was occupied by a Nazi general and soldiers. Antonia and Jan allowed the Nazis to use their zoo as a pig farm so as not to arouse suspicion or attract the attention of the enemy.

Throughout the book, Antonia is battling against terrible fear and sorrow. Fear that the Jews will be discovered and she and those she loved would be found out and punished. Sorrow over the destruction of her beloved zoo.

Despite her warring emotions, Antonia remains courageous. As a result she and her husband were able to save 300 Jews. Only two of those they hid did not survive the war.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is a great picture of courage, strength, and love. Antonia and Jan placed the lives of those around them above their own lives.

In reading Ackerman’s novel I gained a fuller understanding of what it looks like to love in the midst of one of the most horrific times in history. The author opened my eyes in a new way to the horrors of the Nazis, but at the same time showed me how love and courage abide in the face of tragedy.

I would recommend The Zookeeper’s Wife to anyone looking for a good read to wrap up their summer. The only thing about this book that might turn people away is that it is written more like a nonfiction novel than a fictional novel. However it reads well for a nonfiction story and isn’t dry or boring. I mean after all, Ackerman is telling a true story. Her style of writing in The Zookeeper’s Wife works best for the story she is telling.

Overall The Zookeeper’s Wife is a great book that vividly portrays the power of love in one of the most traumatic times in history.



All images credit to Google.


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