The Zookeepers Wife by Diane Ackerman
22/Clearly not 40 THE GREAT READING BINGE OF 2016
One of the most remarkable things about Antonia 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.
This was a very intense and interesting read. It takes place in Warsaw, Poland between 1938 and 1946 and tells the tale of Jan and Antonia Zabinski and how they managed their zoo during the war and saved over 300 Jews from persecution. They lost many of their animals at the start and managed to stay undercover from the Gestapo and protect what they could through the worst of it. Using letters, diary entries and conversations from survivors, the author spells out a heart wrenching war story where hope prevails.
I think this book captured the spirit of Poland during some of its darkest times. I cried and cringed through most of it and felt the terror of survivors as they dealt with the brutality of war.
I believe these types of books are important in teaching, and preserving a history of things that could be forgotten. It was beautifully portrayed while at the same time, gut wrenchingly real. The author did a beautiful job of bringing history to life.
I highly recommend this book. Please bear in mind, if you are an animal lover, some of the parts may be hard to read and process, especially at the beginning.
The legend tells that they are ordinary people, not flawless or magical, and that most of them remain unrecognized throughout their lives, while they choose to perpetrate goodness, even in the midst of an inferno.