The Zookeeper’s Wife – Diane Ackerman

I was spoiled for choice with the “Book that’s becoming a movie this year” category. It seems like Hollywood is on a roll with this…and remakes (how many Fast and the Furious movies do we need?)

The Zookeeper’s Wife became a must-read for me regardless of the list because of my need to read anything WWII related. I’ll admit, the reading started out slowly for me. The writing style was not at all what I was used to. However, with some perseverance and the promise of intrigue, I read on and found myself enjoying Antonina’s story. Antonina and her husband, Jan, are the owners of a Zoo in Warsaw, Poland. After their zoo is dragged into the violence of WWII, they both become active in the Polish underground resistance (no spoilers, it’s all in the blurb anyways).

I loved reading about Antonina’s compassion for animals and her unique way of raising the animals alongside her son. As her son grew up, there were always various animals in the house-either injured or infantile. It was strange reading a book where the horrors of Nazi-occupied Poland was interspersed with stories of cute zoo animals. Once you familiarise yourself with Diane’s storytelling style, you start to see how the zoo aspect of Antonina’s life influences her personal life.

Jan and Antonina have an interesting dynamic. It is very typical of a 1940s marriage where the husband is the decision-maker and the wife rears the kids. However, Antonina is quickly torn from this role to manage the zoo and it’s unusual human inhabitants. She juggles a growing boy, zoo animals, refugees, pregnancy and bombings with a grace that is practically unheard of. Because of this, Jan grows to see his wife in a new light. It is almost humorous to see that he starts to speak about her like a general would speak about his second-in-command.

I know that many people, like me, have had trouble getting through the first few chapters. Just push through, you’ll find an interesting tale.

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