From the back cover:
“After their zoo was bombed, Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski managed to save over three hundred people from the Nazis by hiding refugees in the empty animal cages. With animal names for these “guests,” and human names for the animals, it’s no wonder that the zoo’s code name because “The House Under a Crazy Star.”
More than the story of how the Zabinskis saved over three hundred people, The Zookeeper’s Wife is also a history of Warsaw during WWII, especially during Nazi occupation. Not only were the Jewish targeted during the occupation, but Hitler determine to rid the world of Poles–starting with Jews and Polish intellasia. Ackerman discusses the Polish Underground, which Jan Zabinski participated in extensively, and its efforts to find safe homes for thousands of people. The Zabinskis, along with many others, bravely sacrificed their comforts and safety for years to ensure that others also remained safe.
This book is our December book club read, and I had been looking forward to it for months. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed in the book. Most times when I read an encounter of the war, I have a tough time even rating the book (and usually don’t), but there were some formatting issues that I had with this book. There is a wealth of information provided, and Ackerman has certainly done extensive research in order to write this book. But the way that the material was presented was choppy and at times even incoherent. For several chapters, it seemed that every paragraph dealt with a different subject, and it was difficult for me to keep track of what was going on and even what the current subject was. Ackerman often wandered onto tangents, and the purpose of the tangents were often unclear until later. The book flowed better when Ackerman focused on actual stories, but when talking about the war/events in general the organization was difficult to follow. The writing, however, is actually very lyrical and easy to read.
I hate to be so negative about the way this book was written because the material in the book itself is fascinating and the story of the Zabinskis is an amazing one. But even their story often took second place to other story lines. The paragraph I provided from the back cover suggests that the main focus will be how the Zabinskis hid so many people in the zoo, but aside from a few anecdotal stories and daily activities within the zoo and attached villa, I learned very little about how the Zabinskis hid and helped so many people.