The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story

( 205 )

Overview

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. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare...
See more details below
Hardcover
$19.23
BN.com price
(Save 22%)$24.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (167) from $1.99   
  • New (11) from $4.10   
  • Used (156) from $1.99   
The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49
BN.com price
(Save 29%)$14.95 List Price

Overview

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. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants—otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes.

With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her. 8 pages of illustrations.

About the Author
DIANE ACKERMAN is the author of the bestselling A Natural History of the Senses, among many other books of nonfiction and poetry. She lives in upstate New York.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Diane Ackerman has a molecule named after her (dianeackerone), but perhaps her greatest claim to fame is that all her works are wondrously different. Whether she's writing about "sacred play," the natural history of love, or the alchemy of the mind, she manages to arrest and stimulate our senses. (And, yes, she's written a book about the senses, too. And we haven't even mentioned her verse or her children's books.) The Zookeeper's Wife is a war story unlike any other. A narrative about a Warsaw animal keeper who saves hundreds of Jews from Nazi gas chambers draws inevitable comparisons with Schindler's List, but Ackerman's artful, almost lyrical book occupies a genre of her own invention. Her narrative interlaces stories of Jan and Antonina Zabinski's improvised sanctuary with telling glimpses into the animal societies their hunted benefactors shared. Ultimately, this is a book about what it means to be human.
D. T. Max
Nature is patient, people and animals fundamentally decent, and the writer, as she always does, outlives the killer—that is the message of The Zookeeper's Wife. This is an absorbing book, diminished sometimes by the choppy way Ackerman balances Antonina's account with the larger story of the Warsaw Holocaust. For me, the more interesting story is Antonina's. She was not, as her husband once called her, "a housewife," but the alpha female in a unique menagerie. I would gladly read another book, perhaps a novel, based again on Antonina's writings. She was special, and as the remaining members of her generation die off, a voice like hers should not be allowed to fade into the silence.
—The New York Times
Susie Linfield
A lovely story about the Holocaust might seem like a grotesque oxymoron. But in The Zookeeper's Wife, Diane Ackerman proves otherwise. Here is a true story—of human empathy and its opposite—that is simultaneously grave and exuberant, wise and playful. Ackerman has a wonderful tale to tell, and she tells it wonderfully.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Ackerman (A Natural History of the Senses) tells the remarkable WWII story of Jan Zabinski, the director of the Warsaw Zoo, and his wife, Antonina, who, with courage and coolheaded ingenuity, sheltered 300 Jews as well as Polish resisters in their villa and in animal cages and sheds. Using Antonina's diaries, other contemporary sources and her own research in Poland, Ackerman takes us into the Warsaw ghetto and the 1943 Jewish uprising and also describes the Poles' revolt against the Nazi occupiers in 1944. She introduces us to such varied figures as Lutz Heck, the duplicitous head of the Berlin zoo; Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, spiritual head of the ghetto; and the leaders of Zegota, the Polish organization that rescued Jews. Ackerman reveals other rescuers, like Dr. Mada Walter, who helped many Jews "pass," giving "lessons on how to appear Aryan and not attract notice." Ackerman's writing is viscerally evocative, as in her description of the effects of the German bombing of the zoo area: "...the sky broke open and whistling fire hurtled down, cages exploded, moats rained upward, iron bars squealed as they wrenched apart." This suspenseful beautifully crafted story deserves a wide readership. 8 pages of illus. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

The 1939 Nazi bombing of Warsaw left its beloved zoo in ruins with many of its animals killed or wounded. Worse was to come when Berlin zoo director Lutz Heck had surviving rare species shipped back to Germany as part of a Nazi breeding program and held a New Year's Eve hunting party for German officers to finish off the remaining animals. Witnessing this horror was the zookeeper's wife, who wondered, as she recalled later in her memoirs, how many humans would die in the same manner in the coming months. As Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Jan, soon learned, the Nazis had targeted Poland's large Jewish population for extermination, and the couple, who were already supplying food to friends in the Warsaw Ghetto, pledged to help more Jews. And help they did. Ackerman's (A Natural History of the Senses) moving and eloquent narrative reveals how the zookeepers, with the aid of the Polish underground, boldly smuggled some 300 Jews out of the Ghetto and hid them in their villa and the zoo's empty cages. Based on Antonina's own memoirs and newspaper interviews, as well as Ackerman's own research in Poland, the result is an exciting and unforgettable portrait of courage and grace under fire. While some critics might feel she glosses over Polish anti-Semitism, Ackerman has done an invaluable service in bringing a little-known story of heroism and compassion to light. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ5/1/07; for a profile of Ackerman, see "Editors' Fall Picks," p. 32-38.-Ed.]
—Wilda Williams

Washington Post Book World
“A lovely story about the Holocaust might seem like a grotesque oxymoron. But in The Zookeeper's Wife, Diane Ackerman proves otherwise. Here is a true story... that is simultaneously grave and exuberant, wise and playful. Ackerman has a wonderful tale to tell, and she tells it wonderfully.”
Los Angeles Times
“It is no stretch to say that this is the book Ackerman was meant to write.”
Booklist
“An exemplary work of scholarship and an 'ecstasy of imagining.'”
Jonathan Safran Foer
“I can't imagine a better story or storyteller. 'The Zookeeper's Wife' will touch every nerve you have.”
Jared Diamond
“Diane Ackerman has surpassed even herself in her latest book, which is alternatingly funny, moving, and terrifying. This powerful thriller would be a great novel—except that it is true.”
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393061727
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/4/2007
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 812,038
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Diane Ackerman

Diane Ackerman has been the finalist for the
Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in addition to many other awards and recognitions for her work, which include the best-selling The Zookeeper’s Wife and A Natural History of the Senses. She lives with her husband Paul West in Ithaca, New York.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 205 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(76)

4 Star

(59)

3 Star

(26)

2 Star

(34)

1 Star

(10)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 205 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2007

    Vague

    It's a shame that this book misses the mark. The story of Jan and Antonnia deserves to be told by someone who can do it justice. The author can't even decide the narrative point of view, she never commits to it as either a novel or a documentary account, switching view points and adding obscure parenthetical references that are odd distractions. The run-on sentences are very hard to follow. Time and location shifts are vague and confusing too. I heard about this book through an interview with the author on Public Radio, but the interview was 10,000 times more entertaining than the book itself.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2007

    Reaching the goodness within

    I wholly endorse the five star reviews already printed here. I find the most memorable aspects of the book are the instances in which Antonina was able to reach the goodness within apparently evil people through her calm communications. Although the descriptions at the beginning seemed lengthy, the book was hard to put down as it drew to the climax of the Polish uprising.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 17, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    What a great read! really enjoyed it. It was very easy for me to

    What a great read! really enjoyed it. It was very easy for me to connect to the characters

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Loved it!

    Being Jewish, I have often heard stories about how my ancestors hid during the war. What I find truly commendable is the non-Jews who risked their lives and the lives of the family members in order to harbor these Jews. They are like an extended family in my eyes. This book was extremely well-written and once you pick it up, you do not want to put it down.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2009

    Slow start, but worth reading on

    Amazing history lesson.despite what man meant for evil - goodness continued to flourish. Interesting characters who persevered through a most awful time in history and their story wasn't lost. Thanks to the author for allowing us a glimpse into survival of ordinary folk in extraordinary times.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Wonderful

    I think every high school student should read this book,gives a great explanation of what nazisism was all about

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 2, 2011

    Great story, poor writing.

    I absolutely love reading anything set in this time period and love that the story is fact based. The book serves as a good reminder of the heroics that took place under extrordinary circumstances. The problem was the writing. The author can describe things beautifully as long as it is pleasent. I thought there were times when the UNpleasent details needed to be fleshed out further. Also, at times the story would FINALLY be moving along nicely and the author would go off on a tanget about some inconsequential detail that added nothing to the story and quite frankly she just got annoying. I would reccomend googling the family from the story to learn about them because the family's actions really were incredible but i would pass on the book. There are plenty of other WONDERFUL war-time stories out there. Cheers!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 14, 2010

    Good read

    The Zookeeper's Wife, by Diane Ackerman, takes place during World War II, where a zoo ran by Jan and Antonina Zabinski in Poland, was able to hide and save over three-hundred lives. After Poland was invaded and their zoo was bombed, they started hiding some of the "guests;" who were the refugees that the Nazis were looking for throughout the war. They hid these guests in empty animal cages. This book is a very long book that takes a long time to read. I enjoyed the book particularly because it was about war, and I enjoy war stories. There was not much war-like action throughout the book which personally I did not really like, because I would have liked more action instead of everyone just hiding from the Nazis. If the author put more life into this book, then I would have enjoyed it more, because it feels mostly dull and unexciting at some times. The author really did not add war-like action like battles or fights. The next year's Juniors should read this book because although I personally did not like it as much as I would of liked, it still explains the history very well and about World War II, which helps a lot in history class. It is a high level reading, because it is about war, and how the Nazis took over and tried killing millions upon millions of people. It also thoroughly explains how these refugees were in hiding from the Nazis, because they knew if they got caught, they would be killed. In the book The Zookeepers Wife, Jan and Antonina took a huge risk by letting in over three hundred refugees who if found were going to be killed. If Jan and Antonina were caught, they would be killed immediately because they were hiding refugees in their home from the Nazi soldiers.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 23, 2011

    VERY GOOD

    Well worth it but a little more intense read. Def recommend and would LOVE to see it as a movie!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 15, 2010

    Enlightening

    I enjoyed the book overall. I was unaware of the level of hatred pointed directly at Poland during WWII and was unaware of their heroic efforts at resistance. As far as the writing, I felt the author was perhaps conflicted on whether she wanted to write a fiction or a non-fiction piece of work. I would have preferred a fiction book based on the real life of the protaganists. That would have allowed the author more freedom than she took to hypothesize what the characters were actually feeling.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2009

    Informative read

    Learn about Warsaw during WWII. People did alot the help others survive.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2009

    Wonderful

    Although I was disappointed in the way the book ended -- or actually seemed to "fade out" -- I loved this book. One of the few books I've read about Warsaw and Poland during WWII that strangely, wasn't really depressing. It was disturbing and parts were heartbreaking, but over-all it was a great testament to human goodness.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 29, 2009

    One of the best books ever on World War II

    The description, the research, the deeply developed characters all woven together made me love this book. It covered an arena of WWII, occupied Poland, more specifically its capital, Warsaw, that I had not read or studied about outside my World History class in college. Once inside the drama, people, and intrigue, I was hooked--I had discovered a new favorite author: Diane Ackerman.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Mommy Etc-Review

    I found this historical novel to be very, very interesting. It was chosen for my book group but I am starting to get nervous that they will not have liked it as much as I did. Being that I am a history teacher I loved the fact that most of this novel was based on research by the author and told like a biography. I think that some people will find this style of book off putting.

    The book tells the tail of a Zookeeper and his family who live in Warsaw at the start of WWII. The story tells the tail of this family (primarily the zookeeper's wife) during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. The book tells the tale of what happened to the Jewish population of Warsaw, life in the Warsaw ghetto, and how the zookeeper's family helped as many people as possible. It was a great look into not only what life was like in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation, but what life was like for a family (particularly a housewife) during this era.

    For me what I liked was the historical aspect of the book. I loved the first hand accounts of what life was like in the city during the war and what it was like for the Jews living in Warsaw during the occupation, reassignment to the ghetto, and eventual liquidation of the ghetto. More importantly the aspect that I loved about this book was it showed how average people did above average things to help the Jewish community during WWII. Everyone has heard of people the Schindler who saved thousands, but you never hear about all those who helped three or four people along the way. This book showed how one family made a difference for several people and risked their lives in the process. Not only is it a great historical piece, it also a great psychological piece in that it looks at the human condition and the desire to help others versus our desire to protect ourselves.

    For those who love historical books this is a must read. I give the book **** according the the J. Kaye scale.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing Book

    Such an insightful book that really led us into the mind of someone experiencing WWII firsthand. It's so important to remember what happened 60+ years ago so that it never happens again and to realize the horrible tragedy while also remembering the amazing people that helped the persecuted and helpless regardless of what religion or background. In addition it was so well written and delved into the thoughts and feelings surrounding the tragedy that was WWII while also exploring the individual repurcussions that go along with being so selfless. The characters were relatable and interesting and had depth so that you could envision them as real people dealing with a horrible time in history.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2009

    Very Highly Recommended

    A very well done, true story of righteous humanitarians - Jan and Antonina Zabinski.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 12, 2009

    A wonderful story, killed by poor writing.

    The fascinating story of Antonina, her husband and son, and their zoo in Warsaw in WWII is nearly ruined by the poor writing of this book. The author skips around in time and place, slipping in barely related anecdotes and reaching for unusual phrasing that distracts rather than enlightens (...she saw her son's face shriek"...). We are also held at a deliberate distance from Antonina's life, as we are told she would have done this, would have worn that (or maybe not). Repeated mention is made of Antonina being pregnant in the winter of 1942-3, but then she 'rises from her bed' with no further mention, either of a baby or its loss, as if nothing had ever happened. The story itself, however, is so compelling that I was willing to put up with the lamentable writing through to the end. Any credit for 'provocative', 'thrilling', 'touching', 'absorbing', and 'enlightening' go to Antonina herself: Ms Ackerman does not do her justice.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 9, 2009

    Disappointing

    I read this book through a book club and couldn't even get through the whole thing. It's not a book I would have chosen to read on my own but I was interested when I heard the storyline. However, the style of writing makes it difficult to read (run-ons, jumping back and forth, very little character description, etc). I never really "bonded" with the characters because the author jumps between narrative and documentary style writing. It should have been written as a ficitional story based on real life events to include more dialoge. There was also too much talk of animal killings and very little explanation of what was going on with the Jewish people in the zoo.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2008

    Gripping story of life in Warsaw during the War

    I had no idea of the terror that not only the Jews of Warsaw endured but also the people of Poland in general and specifically in Warsaw. This story relates the angst experienced in a home filled with love and people who care about each other and love animals.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2008

    scattered narrative

    Interesting story but it goes off on so many tangents its nearly unreadable.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 205 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)