The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story

W.W. Norton & Company  2007


The Zookeeper’s Wife delves into a little known aspect of World War II: the part played by the Warsaw Zoo in saving the lives of over 300 people. This book is based upon the writings of Antonina Zabinski— the true life zookeeper’s wife—survivor interviews, and research. The story, which takes place before and during the war, centers on the zoo and its inhabitants. The author lyrically explores the sights, smells, flora, and fauna, as well as individuals and events.

Mrs. Zabinski, who did not consider herself a heroine, managed to save over 300 lives in spite of the Nazi occupation, replete with its restrictions, food shortages, and relentlesss hunt for Jews. The author relates the relationship between the Zabinski family and the Nazis, with their obsession with rare animals. Incorporated is excellent information about the Resistance, the Underground, the Warsaw Ghetto resistance, the Warsaw uprising, and the hiding of those hunted by the Nazis.

This is not a casual read. The range of events and depth of detail make this book best suited to serious students of World War II and the Holocaust. A note on sources, author’s note, bibliography, details.

Reading Group Guide

The Zookeeper's Wife is now a major motion picture starring Jessica Chastain, and JBC Book Clubs has created a book club kit for movie tie-in edition. Read the book, see the movie, and discuss how the two at your next book club meeting. This reading guide includes background research on Polish resistance, discussion questions, recommended reads, and recipes, and more, and can also be used for just the book or for a film club only seeing the movie. Download your copy here.


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