Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Zookeepers Wife by Diane Ackerman | Book Review

Reading Group: High School+ 

Personal Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars

Synopsis: A true story in which the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of people from Nazi hands.

After their zoo was bombed, Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski managed to save over three hundred people from the Nazis by hiding refugees in the empty animal cages. With animal names for these "guests," and human names for the animals, it's no wonder that the zoo's code name became "The House Under a Crazy Star." Best-selling naturalist and acclaimed storyteller Diane Ackerman combines extensive research and an exuberant writing style to re-create this fascinating, true-life story―sharing Antonina's life as "the zookeeper's wife," while examining the disturbing obsessions at the core of Nazism. Winner of the 2008 Orion Award. 8 pages of illustrations

Cover: I like the simplicity of this cover.  It's the gates to the zoo, and I'm sure if you wanted to you could write an entire paper about the symbolism this gate shows; the secrets, the fear, the hope.  

My Review: I need to preface this by saying that Nonfiction is not my favorite genre.  I appreciate nonfiction, but I would rather read a historical fiction story than a straight nonfiction one.  I just find nonfiction includes a lot of facts and figures and often goes on tangents to explain different people.  I understand it's because it has to, but it often slows down the story for me.
I don't think this novel is an exception to that rule, but I do believe that it's an extraordinary story.  The fact that the Zabinski's were able to hide Jewish people on their property, which was often visited by Nazi's at the same time.  And only two people out of over 300 were discovered and killed after leaving the zoo.  In high school, I took a course called Sociology through the Holocaust, and we talked about the Warsaw Ghetto, but we didn't spend a whole lot of time talking about the Polish people.  During the time, Poland was stuck between Germany and Russia, which is a big reason why it was fought for by and eventually fell to the Nazi's.  It's easy to forget that a lot of Polish people probably didn't want to be invaded by Germany and so many of them were willing to fight against them and help Jews escape.  But the risk it was to help Jews was so high.  It wasn't only putting your life in danger, but the lives of your entire family and the Zabinski's were willing to put it all on the line.
When I finished reading this book, I bought the movie.  It is Hollywood's take on the story, so some things are dramatized and incorrect, but I loved it.  I think it's important to read the book before watching the movie, so you know what parts aren't 100% accurate, but the movie is a great visual to compliment the book.  For anyone who's seen it, I found an article that shows what was real and what was Hollywood.  If you want to read it, you can click here
To me, the Holocaust and World War II are so interesting simply because I don't understand how the world let it happen, but at the same time the more I learn about it, the more I see how it was allowed to happen for so long.  It's just so crazy to me, and so I like reading stories about it.  Do any of you have a time period or world event you can't seem to get enough of?

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