The Zookeeper’s Wife… a different type of war story

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Alexandra VanElls

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About six months ago, I began reading the Zookeeper’s Wife, a World War II story. I decided to start reading it because I saw a trailer for the movie, which came out March 31st. I have yet to see the movie, but I must say, the book greatly disappointed.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is about a husband and wife, Jan and Antonina. Jan owns a zoo in Poland and Antonina helps him take care of the animals. However, when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the Germans captured some of the animals and killed the rest. Because Jan and Antonina no longer have the animals to care for, they sneak people in from the Warsaw ghetto into their zoo, hiding them as helpers or relatives, or by putting them in the abandoned animal cages to keep them from the Nazis.

Though this book sounds incredible and fascinating, I found it extremely boring. It had a very slow start that it took me months to read. The book is based on a true, war story, which is what drew me in when I saw the trailer for the movie. I did think it was an incredible story, but I could not get over the fact that a.) the book read too much like nonfiction and b.) had so many German words that I could not remember what they all meant. I understand that it is a nonfiction book that was written by someone who took a ton of time to research the couple’s story, but I expected it to read more like a fiction book.

One part of the book that I really liked was that there were excerpts from Antonina’s actual diary that she wrote in when she was alive. It was interesting to hear what was happening directly from her, because this was not a typical Holocaust/World War II story. It was not at all gruesome, which I appreciated.

Overall, I thought the idea of the book was better than the reality, I just hope that once I see the movie, it will bring the book to life more than just reading it. I think I would recommend that you read this just because, even though it was very boring at times, it was overall a good story.

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