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Download The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story Audiobook, by Diane Ackerman Click for printable size audiobook cover
2.99983529153399 out of 52.99983529153399 out of 52.99983529153399 out of 52.99983529153399 out of 52.99983529153399 out of 5 3.00 (18,214 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Diane Ackerman Narrator: Suzanne Toren Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2007 ISBN: 9781482974126
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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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Quotes & Awards

  • “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 and an ‘ecstasy of imagining,’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

  • “An exemplary work of scholarship…[which] illuminates the profound connection between humankind and nature, and celebrates life’s beauty, mystery, and tenacity.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 1.666666 out of 51.666666 out of 51.666666 out of 51.666666 out of 51.666666 out of 5 Kari A | 6/22/2017

    " I was very excited to start this book, after hearing the reviews of the movie. I've not seen the movie, but I did not care for the book. The narration was uninspiring, to the point of putting me to sleep! I listen while doing needlework, so I am doing something I enjoy...I don't fall asleep while stitching. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lisa Sheffield | 2/13/2014

    " This is a fascinating story and I learned a good bit about the occupation of Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto -- but Ackerman is a bit far afield when it comes to telling history and a "story" -- so the jumping around and glossing over information was a negative. The other thing that bothered me throughout the book -- Antonina was terrified of being discovered by the Germans, yet she kept a written diary that survived and is the basis for the book -- just seems odd to me. The tale is heart-wrenching as is the brutality of the treatment of the Poles and the Jews, but ultimately the story illuminates humanity at its best as strangers help strangers and make sacrifices in life-threatening situations. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary Haas | 2/12/2014

    " Not always the best writing, but the story is so intriguing you'll stay with it. Astonishing bravery and resistance in Nazi occupied Poland "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Isabelle | 1/30/2014

    " Amazing story about a family non-Jewish zoo owners in Warsaw harboring refugees during WWII. Loads of historical background, as well as quite a bit of zoological info. I think the aspect I'll remember the most is the young son growing up in an atmosphere of trust (his beloved animals) and terror (the German occupiers). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Holly | 1/29/2014

    " A curiously flat telling of how a Polish couple worked as part of the underground during World War II and saved hundreds of people (and animals too). A heroic story that deserves a better telling. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Peter Colclasure | 1/22/2014

    " Not quite as good as you would think. The premise is captivating. But slightly misleading. Though many people were hid in the zookeeper's house during the war, most were stationed there temporarily, en route to permanent hiding places. Also, the writing style was a bit too poetic and flamboyant for my tastes. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kanoobie01 | 1/16/2014

    " I really wanted to love this book. I did learn a lot about Warsaw during WWII, so that was cool, but I just couldn't get into her style of writing. It felt random and disjointed. Amazing story though. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Pam Deppe | 1/14/2014

    " I struggled through this book. It didn't hold my interest with all the animal descriptions trying to read between a war story and a zoo story just didn't do it for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nancy Metzger | 1/3/2014

    " Loved this book. Very clever how they saved people during world war 2. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pat Chilek | 11/8/2013

    " Eye opening experiences on Warsaw,Poland in WWII. How could the Germans treat the Jews so horribly and how could the Jewish people survive such treatment? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marina | 11/7/2013

    " Fantastic book. I couldn't put it down...hard to read some parts but the straightforward storytelling style kept me glued to the pages. Amazing story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rita | 10/17/2013

    " Great war story that takes place in Warsaw, Poland in 1930-1940's. Surviving Hitler among animals and "Special friends". "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kristina | 4/29/2013

    " This was a fascinating and daring story of WWII. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Noelle Brandau | 12/22/2012

    " I couldn't get into this book and didn't make it past page 50. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathy | 6/21/2012

    " I didn't finish reading this. Would like to go back and finish it but not right now. There is a lot of technical information to wade through but have learned some interesting information about the Jewish Ghettos during the invasion of Poland. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Yvonne | 3/11/2012

    " Very interesting view into the war time life of a family in Poland. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Maria | 12/9/2011

    " Nice and compelling read, if not a little slow and blunt. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brenda | 9/21/2011

    " When I had tried before I could not read this book because of the names. By listening to this book I was able to read it! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Earle Baldwin | 8/16/2011

    " My favorite read from my favorite author. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marla | 7/23/2011

    " I liked the topic of the book, but didn't care for the author's writing style.... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ruthanne | 6/29/2011

    " Enjoyed it a lot.. full of humanity. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbara | 6/28/2011

    " Fascinating! A different view of the Holocaust. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brenda | 6/22/2011

    " Even though it is an astonishing true story of nazi occupation of Poland, it's not a page-turner. The writing style is an awkward mixture of research and narrative. I can appreciate the author's goal to tell every detail and stay true to the research, though. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carla | 6/22/2011

    " It was a bit dry but overall an amazing story and really interested within the context of the war and life in europe. I'd recommend it, i read it while traveling and it was perfect for that. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 6/21/2011

    " I loved the Author's style. Very descriptive. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Donna | 6/18/2011

    " Probably one of the worst books I've ever read... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Patti | 6/16/2011

    " Historical true story...wish it was written in novel form "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michele | 6/10/2011

    " If you like historical books this one was very touching and gave a literal "bird's eye" view of occupied Poland during WWII. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Caroline | 6/9/2011

    " I really enjoy reading the emotional stories of WWII. Unfortunately this book was filled with more boring research than actual plot. Less than 1/4 of the book was interesting to me. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Linda | 6/8/2011

    " I listened on tape. Another Holocaust book. Great story this one about Warsaw, Poland. Glad I listened on tape because it seemed like it went on and on, but it was also very interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa | 6/7/2011

    " This was an aspect of WWII that I had never thought about before. The story was heartbreaking as most stories that from that era are, but the courage and commitment by these zookeepers was inspiring. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Nancy | 6/5/2011

    " Didn't finish it because it was just too sad. Book club for January 2011. "

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About the Author
Author 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, 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.

About the Narrator

Suzanne Toren has recorded hundreds of audiobooks and has earned twenty-nine Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine. She has received the Narrator of the Year Award for her audiobook recordings for the Library of Congress. She has performed on Broadway and in regional theaters in works penned by Shakespeare, Molière, and Arthur Miller. She has also appeared on Law & Order and in various soap operas.