Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A quicky for The Zookeeper's Wife

My computer is still broken. It's the saddest thing EVER. I've lost all of my music and photos, but was able to recover my work files (thank goodness!). I'm just waiting on a new hard drive to arrive in the mail before I can start using my less-than-a-year-old computer again. On the plus side, I've gotten tons of work done this week without the Internet here to distract me. I don't want this little blog of mine to die though, so I wanted to at least post something to say, "Hello."

SO last week I read The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman. Before picking up this book from the library, I didn't really know what it was about, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was the true story of a zookeeper and his wife living in Warsaw during the German occupation of Poland in WWII.

Prior to reading this book I didn't have much knowledge about Poland and Warsaw during World War II. Of course I'd heard of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Warsaw Uprising, but I didn't actually have any context to go with it. In Ackerman's book, she gives us a history lesson along with a beautiful story about how a couple and their young son saved hundreds of Jews during the five years their country was occupied. The zookeeper and his wife use the zoo (now void of animals and partially used as a sort of storage depot for German weapons) to hide Jews right under the Germans' noses. The couple also seeks to find ways to make the zoo profitable during wartime, first turning it into a pig farm, then later using it for public vegetable gardens.

While I really enjoyed this book and read through it quickly, I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been written as a historical novel (similar to Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks). I understand the author's desire to stick to the facts, but I think a novel-type telling would have given me more attachment to the characters. I didn't like constantly being reminded that this was a story based on research the author did (i.e. passages that read, "At this point Jan may have... or perhaps he...). I think the story would have been just as compelling if the author took ownership of the story by writing it in the first person and filling in the blanks where her research was lacking.

Regardless, this is a wonderful book and a fascinating story. Each time I read an account of World War II I'm reminded of the strength of ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Many, many people during that time risked their lives to help others for no other reason than that it was morally right. To me that's a worthy lesson in humanity.


Laura said...

How frustrating for your still new computer to give out on you!

I'll be reading the Zookeeper's Wife for my book club next month, and I didn't really know anything about it until your review. It sounds like a good one!

Angilaz said...

you should do the 'final friends' series, by Christopher Pike. for reals, yo.

Becca said...

Laura: The computer thing is the worst thing EVER, especially because I work from home and NEED my laptop to make money. Luckily I can borrow my boyfriend's for awhile though.

And, you'll love the book. It's a great story.

Angela: Never heard of it, but I'll take a look at it.

Heather J. said...

Just wanted to let you know that I linked to your review from mine. :)