The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story

By Diane Ackerman
Read by Suzanne Toren

10.92 Hours 01/01/2007 unabridged
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Jan and Antonina Zabinski were Polish Christian zookeepers horrified by Nazi racism, who managed to save over three hundred people. Yet their story has fallen between the seams of history. Drawing on Antonina’s diary and other historical sources, bestselling naturalist Diane Ackerman vividly re-creates Antonina’s life as “the zookeeper’s wife,” responsible for her own family, the zoo animals, and their “guests”: resistance activists and refugee Jews, many of whom Jan had smuggled from the Warsaw Ghetto. Jan led a cell of saboteurs, and the Zabinski’s young son risked his life carrying food to the guests, while also tending to an eccentric array of creatures in the house: pigs, hare, muskrat, foxes, and more. With hidden people having animal names and pet animals having human names, it’s a small wonder the zoo’s code name became “The House under a Crazy Star.” Yet there is more to this story than a colorful cast. With her exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Ackerman explores the role of nature in both kindness and savagery, and she unravels the fascinating and disturbing obsession at the core of Nazism: both a worship of nature and its violation, as humans sought to control the genome of the entire planet.

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Summary

Summary

A New York Times Bestseller

Jan and Antonina Zabinski were Polish Christian zookeepers horrified by Nazi racism, who managed to save over three hundred people. Yet their story has fallen between the seams of history.

Drawing on Antonina’s diary and other historical sources, bestselling naturalist Diane Ackerman vividly re-creates Antonina’s life as “the zookeeper’s wife,” responsible for her own family, the zoo animals, and their “guests”: resistance activists and refugee Jews, many of whom Jan had smuggled from the Warsaw Ghetto.

Jan led a cell of saboteurs, and the Zabinski’s young son risked his life carrying food to the guests, while also tending to an eccentric array of creatures in the house: pigs, hare, muskrat, foxes, and more. With hidden people having animal names and pet animals having human names, it’s a small wonder the zoo’s code name became “The House under a Crazy Star.” Yet there is more to this story than a colorful cast. With her exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Ackerman explores the role of nature in both kindness and savagery, and she unravels the fascinating and disturbing obsession at the core of Nazism: both a worship of nature and its violation, as humans sought to control the genome of the entire planet.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“Suzanne Toren’s respectful reading allows the horror of the Holocaust to emanate from the compelling story…Toren skillfully portrays the fear and revulsion expressed by Antonina in her diary and creates convincing accents for the many Polish characters.” AudioFile
“Suzanne Toren deftly reads this account of Jan and Antonina Zabinski…This audio version, brilliantly set and realized and deeply compelling, offers a significant example of courage under fire. The book has also been made into a film.” Library Journal (audio review)
“Ackerman…makes beautiful work of harrowing tales of [her characters’] determination to keep souls alive, in the actual and metaphorical sense both.” New York Daily News
“A true story—of human empathy and its opposite—that is simultaneously grave and exuberant, wise and playful.” Washington Post Book World
“Fresh and compelling…Ackerman has succeeded in a vivid, cinematically written book that’s bound to find its way to the screen.” San Francisco Chronicle
“An inspiring read…may join Schindler's List and Hotel Rwanda as popular accounts of heroism in the face of genocide.” Salt Lake Tribune
“This suspenseful, beautifully crafted story deserves a wide readership.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“An exemplary work of scholarship…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 (starred review)
“Ackerman has done an invaluable service in bringing a little-known story of heroism and compassion to light. Highly recommended.” Library Journal

Reviews

Reviews

Author

Author Bio: Diane Ackerman

Diane Ackerman is the author of many highly acclaimed works of nonfiction and poetry, including A Natural History of the Senses, a book beloved by millions of readers all over the world, and The Zookeeper’s Wife, a New York Times bestseller which received the Orion Book Award. She has taught at Columbia and Cornell and has been published in the New York Times, Smithsonian, Parade, the New Yorker, and National Geographic.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD, MP3 CD
Category: Nonfiction/History
Runtime: 10.92
Audience: Adult
Language: English