Wednesday, April 8, 2009

iasa 5 Down *The ZooKeeper's Wife

So far I've managed to read two books I thought I had read, but never really did,

Winnie the Pooh and The Color of Magic

one book in my quest to read all of Agatha Christie's work.

Cat Among the Pigeons

and two books I wanted to read but were a horrid disappointment

Falconer and The Zookeeper's Wife.

Whilst I can forgive John Cheever's Falconer for not living up to expectations, the same is not true for Diane Ackerman's The Zookeepers Wife. The latter tells the story of Jan and Antonina Żabiński, zookeepers of the Warsaw Zoo at the time of the Nazi invasion of Poland, who shelter Jews escaping from the ghetto as well as members of the Polish Resistance. Theirs is a courageous story and deserves to be told, but this book does not succeed. Ackerman presents the story in a disjointed, digressive manner. At times the digression is only an annoyance, other times it becomes quite tedious. For example, at one point, an insect collection receives a minor mention. However that leads to a two page description of various beetles complete with the information that Charles Darwin once put a bombadier beetle into his mouth. That may well be an interesting fact, but it is not relevant to the happenings and people of the zoo.
Many characters are present in the book, but one knows so very little about any of them, including the Żabińskis. For the most part the characters are flat and forgettable. And that is a shame. Jan's work with the Resistance is mentioned in an offhand, occasional manner. The workings of the escape route are absent. Even the day to day activities of the household receive minimal depth. I'm not sure how she manages it, but Ackerman is able to suck all the drama and the adrenaline soaked atmosphere from an occupied Warsaw.


moonrat said...

too bad about the Ackerman. i was interested in that choice of yours. sadness.

i have cheever's collection on my list--so interesting to me that i've managed to totally avoid him up until now.

congrats on 5% down!!

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

Interesting -- and I would have liked to read a few more sentences about your response to Falconer. I have Cheever on my list and need to decide which of his to tackle. Can you help?

About Moonrat's 5% comment -- eeps, you're right! She's moving, isn't she? Less blogging for me -- more READING...

Emily Cross said...

This is so funny, i'd just been reading that fun book 'how not to write a book' and the whole prattling on about encyclopaedia information is one of the big No Nos!! I hate when a book you were looking forward disappoints like that!