Diane Ackerman: The Zookeeper’s Wife
My mother mentioned this–well, the film–to me, specifically the part about Antonina’s habit of playing music when Nazi sympathizers or mixed company came calling to warn the people in the underground to cease activity and “practice the silence of the tomb.” It popped up when I was looking for my next title, so I went with it. I was only half paying attention to my mother when she told me about it, so I didn’t really know what I was getting into.
It is the telling of historical first-hand accounts of the events leading up to, surrounding, and after the Holocaust. From diaries, interviews, news reports and a variety of official and otherwise documentation, we learn about the life of Antonina Zabinski, a Polish Christian, and the Jewish refugee underground.
In addition to human accounts, the book is filled with well-timed and well-told information about animals and plants and how a lot of the attention paid to them at the time correlated with the many experiments and ideologies of the Nazis. The story’s telling is clever and rather bizarre and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a method for relaying historical information. You kind of fall in love with some of the “characters” but a line or two later you’re reminded–in such a matter of fact and oddly pleasant way–that they are not characters but people who lived in horrible times.
Suzanne Toren was a great reader. Her conversational tone was engaging and the way she slipped in and out of accented dialogue was a great addition to the reading.