book review: The Zookeeper’s Wife (Diane Ackerman)

Wow, what a great read! This is a McCullough-style biography outlining the life of the wife of the zookeeper of Warsaw, Poland during World War II. Ackerman uses meticulously researched details to bring Antonia’s story to life: how she and her family sheltered Jews from the Warsaw ghetto in their zoo. Her descriptions are vivid. She used photographs, diaries, and letters, along with newspapers from the time, to draw pictures on the pages with her words. And what a likable and brave heroine!

Another great role-model author for wanna-be biographers. 🙂


book review: The Zookeeper’s Wife (Diane Ackerman)

Wow, what a great read!

McCullough-style biography: details, details, details. Like when reading McCullough’s work, I learned a lot while reading Ackerman’s book about how to bring in additional information about weather, people’s appearances etc. from external sources rather than trying to depend on scant details from the individual. She really brought Antonia’s story to life, while providing a fresh perspective on what it was like to live in Warsaw in WWII, on the other side (outside) of the ghetto walls. So besides being a great learning tool for a non-fiction writer, it was just such an interesting read in itself. Bravo!

book review: Vita Brevis (Jostein Gaarder)

Yes, Life is Short.

The subtitle of this book is “A Letter to St. Augustin,” and so, yes, I had to have it. That plus one of my favorite authors wrote it. I’ve been slogging through the Confessions for a while now (guess I should add that to the “what Kip is reading” list too!), mostly because Sophie Scholl and her circle of her friends were pretty obsessed with them way back when. More on Sophie Scholl another day.

Vita Brevis was a little hard to track down actually, and I can see why. Thanks to my husband for tracking down a new copy from an online bookseller!! I pretty much dropped the rest of my reading list when this one showed up on our doorstep, and it was well worth it for me.

Not for everyone though. It was a little out there, and it had that “is it fact, or is it fiction?” blurring of the lines that strikes my fancy and drives other people nuts. Like other Gaarder titles, it draws on philosophy, Latin, classics, and historical times, things that amaze and interest me to no end.

I read some of the reviews by readers, and was interested to see that everyone assumed that the forward by Gaarder – that he finds the letters in an antiquarian bookshop in Argentina – was fact. For me, this was as potentially fiction as the rest.  And part of the draw to delving right in, I must add.

On the negative side, it didn’t have the same huge page-turning appeal as Sophie’s World or some of his other works. For me, it was more of a personal interest in St. Augustine’s life, and the fresh perspective from the letter of his former lover Floria – a letter which may or may not be a forgery. Nice.