Monday, October 8, 2007

A War Story

"The Zookeepers Wife", subtitled "A War Story", stands out in my book collection of science fiction, romance and fantasy - a different kind of book.

It is a true story, based the diaries of the eponymous heroine who lived through the Nazi occupation of Warsaw in the ruins of her beloved zoo. She continued to care for the surviving animals and her garden. She worked at her daily routine, baking bread, preserving food, teaching her young son, and playing the piano, while she hid Jewish refugees under her house.

Author Diane Ackerman melds a mountain of meticulous research into a riveting story of courage, not the courage that charges the enemy front with loaded rifles, but courage that faces the enemy unarmed except for ingenuity, wit and determination.

The details packed into The Zookeeper's Wife create a rich mosaic of daily life that contrasts sharply with her exposition of the Nazi philosophy and how it was implemented. It freezes the soul to read of the cold-blooded intentions of Hitler's high command - nothing less than the extermination of the Polish people.

Although the Zabrinksi family experienced suffering and loss, the remarkable aspect of the story is that they prevailed. They prevailed daily by keeping their love, joy and dignity. They prevailed in the end by surviving their oppressors and by keeping three hundred Jews alive in spite of the threats and violence surrounding them.

The Zookeepers Wife is a story of the triumph of the human spirit. Highly recommended.

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