To begin with I am Miriam and this is my first review and first time reading the book in the correct month. I love reading non-fiction, fiction, textbooks and well most things. I am glad I read this book but it took me a long 2 1/2 weeks to do it.
I don’t know if anyone else experienced this but I found the flow of the story rather choppy. I think it was a great idea to write about Antonina Zabinskis her story is amazing and her courage was everlasting, but it could have been written better. (Less choppy and jumping around to so many different people) I obviously did not like the author’s style of writing and think she did a bit too much name dropping. The people she kept bringing up in the story seemed to have some connection with fame. This annoyed me because it made it sound like the Zabinskis were only saving famous people. I know many like to hear about the rich, famous and well known in history but I like to hear the history of the little people too. I realize that these famous people did randomly pop up in the Zabinskis lives I just don’t think she needed to elaborate (for an entire chapter) on why these people they were saving were famous and well known in the world. It took away from the flow of the story and made me put the book down quite a bit. I think she should have focused more on Antonina, Jan and Rys, the book is after all named for Antonina. However I did love the research the author did.
Diane Ackerman obviously did a lot of research. You see it everywhere in the book. This made me respect her knowledge and continue reading. I loved the tidbit from Herodotus (the first historian ever) on page 81 where he was quoted about the Tarpan horses. This put the significance of the extinct horses into perspective for me. It showed me that these horses had been around for a LONG time and now they were not. This showed the connection with the high ranking Nazi who allowed the continuation of the zoo specifically because of these horses which in turn allowed the zoo to save the people. While I loved this information I think it took away from the story telling aspect. I think books should be stories. I know there is a need for reference books but they are so much easier to read and understand when told as a story.
I felt the first ¾ of the book was choppy but her last section which I like to consider her conclusion finally started to flow. Those last 80 pages go by quickly because you can see she is finally getting somewhere with the Sabinskis. I loved that she finally started to actually analyze what she was writing about Antonina. She had previously been throwing facts out there that she had read from Antonina and others. It felt like reading a textbook but she finally started to show us Antonina. A part I loved was on page 209 it said:
“…Antonina [believed] in living as joyously as possible given the circumstances, while staying Vigilante.”
I definitely saw this. She went through so much but she never stopped saving people. She risked her life so many times for others. It was amazing. After reading so many WWII stories I have never seen anyone remain so joyous and positive. I started to ponder this statement. I feel it was rather profound and the conclusion I came up with was that she was doing everything in her power to save everyone! She never held back never said no never questioned her husband’s motives. She could remain joyous with a happy conscious because she gave everything she had. She never sat back and let people die. So many sat back during this war and let others die and felt guilty about it because they knew it wasn’t right. She had no need for quilt because she gave her all. I loved that about Antonina. Some might feel it was horrible of her to feel joy and be happy during this depressing time but she earned the right to feel some joy by saving so many.
All in all I way so glad I read this book. Yes it could have been written better but this was one story that really needed to be told and read. Thanks for reading this and feel free to disagree and write about it. All thoughts on this book would be great!
P.S there are obviously a million things to be said about this book so feel free ok! There were other things I liked and disliked but I tried to keep it small so others could write too. Oh and I previously wrote rather negative review of this book on my blog but wrote a more mild one here because reviews should be mild right?