Saturday, December 13, 2008

faux lyricism

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: history
Challenge: A-Z (title)
Review: This book isn't really about the zookeeper's wife. Rather, Ackerman uses the story of Antonina Zabinski as a backdrop to tell the larger story of the Nazi occupation of Warsaw and the Polish Resistance. As a story-telling technique, I have no problem with this, and Ackerman does it fairly well. We learn a lot about Warsaw during the war, as well as learning about such things as the zookeeping trade and animal life. The biggest drawback to Ackerman's use of the technique, I think, is that she starts with Antonina's memoirs, which seem to have been written very lyrically (from the short excerpts we are given), and then tries to use that lyrical tone throughout the whole book. It doesn't work very well, partly because Ackerman doesn't wield her lyricism as naturally, and partly because a war story doesn't lend itself very well to such a tone. It is an interesting story, although I think the story of the zookeeper (who was active in the Polish Resistance, fought for the Home Army in the Warsaw uprising, and was held as a POW in Germany) might have been more interesting than the story of his wife. I guess he didn't write a memoir.

No comments: