The Blonde Bookworm: The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman -- Review

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman -- Review

Monday, March 27, 2017

Title: The Zookeeper's Wife
Author: Diane Ackerman
Pages: 384
Publishing: Paperback Focus Features Edition- February 7th 2017 by W. W. Norton & Company 
ISBN: 0393354253


In 1939 Poland, Antonina Żabiński (portrayed by two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh), have the Warsaw Zoo flourishing under his stewardship and her care. When their country is invaded by the Nazis, Jan and Antonina are—and forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl). To fight back on their own terms, the Żabińskis covertly begin working with the Resistance—and put into action plans to save lives out of what has become the Warsaw Ghetto, with Antonina putting herself and even her children at great risk.

The Washington Post praised the book as being “simultaneously grave and exuberant, wise and playful,” while Jonathan Safran Foer wrote, “The Zookeeper's Wife will touch every nerve you have.”

A Focus Features release, it is directed by Niki Caro, written by Angela Workman.


The Zookeeper's Wife is a moving story about a family who ran a zoo in Poland in the late 30's and early 40's. The novel is formed by historical evidence, interviews, and the main character's journal. It is a touching and heartbreaking war story about a family who risk everything to help save other's lives. 

The story of Antonina, Jan, and their zoo is an incredibly interesting tale about the ups and downs they faced throughout their lives. What started out as a joyous life at the zoo ends in turmoil and danger when they begin harboring and evacuating Jews through their home. The writing was a bit slow and jumpy, and I found that Ackerman used unnecessary amounts of detail that left me a little bored from time to time. I think the movie adaptation will be far better than the book because the minor details will hopefully be left out. 

Antonina and Jan's story is a different take on the holocaust. While it was a true and heartbreaking story, I had difficult time diving into it because of the writing style. I think the actual story is interesting and will make a touching movie. I look forward to the movie, but I can't say I really loved the book. 

Rating 2/5


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