The Zookeepers Wife Discussion Board

Hi everyone! Welcome to our first book club discussion :)


This board will be for people to discuss major details, ask questions, and generally discuss the book. I will post the discussion questions I have found, but please do not feel constrained by them. They are merely a tool to get conversation rolling if we are having trouble with what to talk about.


Thank being said: Let's set the date for finishing this book as May 23rd (a Sunday) so we all have a week to really get into the good details on this book.


I am SO thrilled to be doing this with everyone, and can't wait to see what is said about our first book.


 

Posted on May 3, 2011 at 9:36 am
aggiebride
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(15) Comments

aggiebride
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aggiebride

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Book Club Discussion Questions 

1. How does Diane Ackerman's background as a naturalist and a poet inform her telling of this slice of history? Would a historian of World War II have told it differently, and, if so, what might have been left out?


2. Reviews have compared this book to Schindler's List and Hotel Rwanda. How would you compare them?


3. Did this book give you a different impression of Poland during World War II than you had before?


4. Can you imagine yourself in the same circumstances as Jan and Antonina? What would you have done?


5. How would you describe Antonina's relation to animals? To her husband? How does she navigate the various relationships in the book, given the extreme circumstances? Is her default position one of trust or distrust?


6. Do people have a "sixth sense" and how does it relate to "animal instinct"?


7. Some might judge Jan and Antonina guilty of anthropo-morphizing animals and nature. Would you? Why or why not?


8. Can nature be savage or kind—or can only humans embody those qualities? As science and the study of animal behavior and communication teach us more and more about the commonalities between animals and humans, is there still any dividing line between the human and the animal world? If so, how would you describe it?


9. The Nazis had a passion for animals and the natural world. How could Nazi ideology embrace both a love of nature and the mass murder of human beings?


10. The drive to "rewrite the genetic code of the entire planet" is not distinct to Nazism. What similar efforts are alive today? Are there lessons in Jan and Antonina's story for evaluating the benefits and dangers of trying to modify or improve upon nature? Do you see any connection between this story of more than sixty years ago and contemporary environmental issues?


11. Genetic engineering of foodstuffs is highly contentious. So are various reproductive technologies that are now common, such as selecting for—or against—various characteristics when choosing from sperm or egg banks. How would various characters in this book have approached these loaded issues? (Questions from author's website.)

Posted on May 3, 2011 at 9:38 am
cassandrajl
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07/11/2010
cassandrajl

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Great questions you found for discussion, AggieBride. Looking forward to answering them when i get closer to finishing the book.


I doubt most people are ready to start discussing the actual questions just yet, but I thought maybe we could do a "check in" of some sort.


Can we talk about.... (And without really discussing plot so as not to give anything away for anyone or confuse anyone)



  • where you are in the book (page/chapter wise)?

  • do you like Ackerman's writing style in this book?

  • How do you feel about the book in general so far?

Posted on May 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm
aggiebride
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aggiebride

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I'm around chapter 15, and the writing style was hard for me to get into at first, but I'm starting to get into the book. I think it's an interesting writing style, like reading a really really well written history textbook. I think it is really neat how the author used actual personal accounts to weave together the story.

Great questions!
Posted on May 10, 2011 at 4:09 am
cassandrajl
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cassandrajl

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I'm only on Chapter 7. I'm reading a little bit each night or so but I'm kind of having a hard time really getting into the book. I like her writing style, but I'm not sure I like how she goes about writing the book, if that makes sense. Each time I seem to start to really get into the story, as a novel, the author will throw in "She might have seen such things as" or "It was likely that" and that throws me off and bothers me. Like you said, AggieBride, it sort of feels like a well-written history book. I'm hoping i'll get more into the book as I read more!

Posted on May 10, 2011 at 5:01 am
KMack
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KMack

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I'm only in chapter 3 :( (i know..i'm sloooow lol) and i agree that Ackerman's writing style is a bit different than what I'm used to. I like dialoge and so far i don't think there's been any which makes it difficult to read.  It's definitely been hard for me to get into due to the "historical" way it's written.

Posted on May 10, 2011 at 8:36 am
shneffer
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07/29/2011
shneffer

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I'm on chapter 9 and I definitely agree with everyone -I'm having a difficult time getting into it -but I know it's important to tell the back story. I'm determined though :) I think the key is to read a bit every day -when I stop for a couple of days I have a hard time getting back into it.

Posted on May 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm
cassandrajl
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cassandrajl

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I feel the same way schneffer- I'm reading just a bit at a time. If I stop for a while I can't pick it up as easily. :)

Posted on May 11, 2011 at 2:24 am
aggiebride
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aggiebride

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I realized one of the issues I am having is usually the books I read from this era are from first person perspective. I think that may be one of my problems, but I am really getting into the characters that are being developed.
Posted on May 11, 2011 at 10:23 am
thenewmrs.elepano
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06/25/2011
thenewmrs.elepano

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thenewmrs.elepano

I'm still making it through and I completely agree with aggie that I love seeing the characters develop!

Posted on May 12, 2011 at 5:10 am
starbux
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12/31/2009
starbux

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I'm just in Chapter 2 and I'm usually a fast reader.  I'm having a hard time getting into it. I'm hoping to have some reading time on Sunday.  Hopefully, I can get through a few chapters and really get into it. 

Posted on May 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm
cupcake1818
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09/10/2011
cupcake1818

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I'm on chapter 11... I have read this book before so I was a little bit more prepared for Ackerman's writing style. It still took me quite a while to get into the story again, I think that has a lot to do with the fact that there is no clear time frame established with the story. She seems to jump around quite a bit and her stories lose focus, it takes some concentration on my part to stay interested.

Posted on May 13, 2011 at 6:52 pm
aggiebride
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aggiebride

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okay, So I will be on a plane tomorrow... my goal is to read read read... hopefully, I can get the book knocked out! We still have 16 days left, so I think we should be good, but remember if you just can't get through the book and just don't want to... no biggie :) I actually had a talk with one of my english professors about "abandoning" books. She and I talked a lot about the education aspect, and not/allowing students to do this, but I was thinking of book club the whole time, lol! I have trouble putting down a book even when I'm not enjoying it because I want to know the ending... At this point, I really just want to get done with this book. I'm enjoying the context, but not the content, if you know what I mean. I have read a lot of WW2 and Holocaust literature, and this is definitly interesting, but not my favorite so far. If you are interested in the topic but not the book, there are a few other Holocaust books I prefer: Maus, and Night come to mind.


I think what keeps me coming back right now is the excerpts from personal corrospondance, where I really get to hear the persons' voice in the novel. I am really liking that aspect, but the continuity, or the lack thereof, is what is becoming increasingly difficult for me. I know we have talked about this in shorter form, but I wanted to extend how I was feeling with this, and ask you what aspects you ARE and ARE NOT liking since it seems many of us are having trouble getting into the book.


If you are getting into the book, what is pulling you in?

Posted on May 14, 2011 at 6:11 pm
KMack
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OMG Night was an amazing book! Still struggling to get into ZW. I fear this just isn't my type of read
Posted on May 17, 2011 at 4:05 am
JustCali
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06/12/2010
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I actually finished it a couple weeks ago. It did take me a long time to get into it...the first couple of chapters are usually hard for me in any book though, since it's all background info.


After I starting getting into it. I couldn't put the darn thing down. I really enjoyed reading a book from an ALMOST 'outside' perspective. Not from the Germans and not from the Jewish, but from someone who was just as involved, but not targeted and was trying to help, not victimize. I also really enjoyed the animal aspect of it, when you think about that time, you feel for the people, but I had never thought about the animals in zoos or otherwise that would have been affected also, and since I am a veterinary major...that kinda struck me.


I will save most of the discussion questions until more people have finished the book, as I definately don't want to spoil anything! Happy reading!

Posted on May 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm
aggiebride
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aggiebride

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@just Cali- I am so glad to hear you got into this, as I saw that history books don't often interest you. Another one you may want to check out (it's a bit sad, but wonderful) is a picture book entitled "Fatihful Elephants" .. It is about a Japanese Zoo during the wartime. One of my professors read it in one of our classes, and I swear, I cried. Here is the wiki about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faithful_Elephants
Posted on May 17, 2011 at 6:46 pm

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