The Zookeeper's Wife

  • by Diane Ackerman
  • Narrated by Suzanne Toren
  • 10 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

When Germany invaded Poland, 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 the 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 and refusing to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, even as Europe crumbled around her.


What the Critics Say

"Ackerman's writing is viscerally evocative, as in her description of the effects of the German bombing of the zoo area....This suspenseful beautifully crafted story deserves a wide readership." (Publishers Weekly)
"Ackerman's affecting telling of the heroic Zabinskis' dramatic story illuminates the profound connection between humankind and nature, and celebrates life's beauty, mystery, and tenacity." (Booklist)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Very Disappointing, Terrible Narration

When I read the discription for the book, I was intrigued..animals, WWII, Hiding Jews from the Nazi's in the Zoo, well it sounded both fascinating and moving. I was wrong. First, the narrator was horrendous. Each time there was a quotation from the Zookeeper's Wife (this is a factual account drawn from diaries, it seems, possibly interviews with family), the narrator switched to the worst Eastern European accent I have ever heard. She'd perhaps been watching too many B vampire movies, trying to form her Polish accent. When she would switch back to her natural voice, the "Euopean" would drag for a few syllables, very distracting.
The story wasn't all that interesting either. It read more like a Ph.d thesis on the stresses of war-time than a novel. The revolutionary actions of her husband are hardly discussed at all. She mostly is the "heart of the home", which in Poland apparently means she irons, cooks and cleans. A lot. Yes, we are privy to all of her feelings, but she is of course deeply depressed. I stuck through this, but only because I kept waiting for action. There was very little. Oh, do not expect lots of adorable animal stories either, as they are all either confiscated or killed before you get 10 minutes into the book. Rather graphically. The killing of an elephant was for me very disturbing. What kind of "pick" this was I cannot say..but I can say, sadly, is do not Pick.
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- Joan "Also China MiƩville, Peter Hamilton, good space-opera, No Zombies, Apocalypses, Women who sigh and go weak at the knees when seeing a man!"


Tales of strength, disaster, delight, and integrity in war time Poland are spun through the lives of the family who inhabited the "ark" of the Warsaw zoo. Beautifully read and not to be missed.
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- Sara "Avid Reader"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-03-2008
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.