Wednesday 17 October 2007

History from World War II

Finished October 7
The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
This history of Jan Zabinski (the zookeeper) and Antonina Zabinski (his wife) is of Polish Christian zookeepers in Warsaw, and their experience of World War II. The animals do not figure as intimately as I expected, mainly because German zoos took most of the animals they wanted after occupying Poland. Some animals were killed in the battles between the Poles and the Germans before this, as well as some that were killed due to their enclosures being damaged. After the Germans had taken what animals they wanted, many more were killed for sport by the soldiers.
Despite this, the affinity for animals by Antonina comes through and her strong feelings of care for those persecuted by the Germans. Jan comes across as more reckless and less feeling than his wife, but that may be due to the author's sympathy for her main subject.
This book would have been better if the author had stuck to a narrative over time instead of going down distracting sidelines. It would also have been more meaningful to animal lovers if she had shown more clearly what happened to specific types of animals in a more complete way.

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