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.