Saturday, January 03, 2009

REVIEW: We Bought a Zoo

Title: We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Animals That Change Their Lives Forever
Author: Benjamin Mee
ISBN: 9781602860483/ Weinstein Books, 2008
Non-Fiction, Memoirs
Rating: C

First Line: Mum and I arrived as the new owners of Dartmoor Wildlife Park in Devon for the first time at around six o'clock on the evening of 20 October 2006, and stepped out of the car to the sound of wolves howling in the misty darkness.

Benjamin Mee, his sisters, brothers and widowed mother set out to do something few other people would attempt: to buy and to run a zoo. Dartmoor Wildlife Park was run-down and had had some legal problems due to the care of some of the animals, and it would take a Herculean effort for anyone to get it back up to standard. Knowing all this, the Mees were undaunted and went ahead with the sale, working on the necessary improvements with a shoestring budget while waiting for months for the bank to cough up the promised money. In the midst of all this, Mee had to move his family from the south of France to Devon in England, get two small children settled, and deal with a terminally ill wife. Nothing came easily.

This is a book I should have loved, but I didn't. Mee is a very wordy writer, and my mind kept losing focus in the middle of one long paragraph after another. Even his stories about the animals in the zoo began to look alike after a while; there seemed to be no real variety in them. I came away from the book with admiration for what he and his family have done. I just wish I'd enjoyed the journey more.


  1. That is so sad. I loved the sound of this book when you posted it in your list, and was looking forward to your review. Thanks for your honesty about it. Sometimes people have a great story, but not all the skills needed to tell it.

    Have you read any of Gerald Durrell's books? I guess I was hoping this one would be as good as Zoo in My Luggage. Durrell's My Family and Other Animals is on my all-time favourite's list. Do look out for them if you haven't read them.

  2. This is in my TBR pile, so I'm really sad to see it got a C. It's one I'm hoping to love too.

  3. Susan--Mee talked about Durrell in We Bought a Zoo. It sounds as though I have more books to track down! Thanks for the recommendations!

    Kathy--I hope your mileage varies on this one!

  4. Cathy - Thanks for sharing - sorry to hear that it is a bit wordy. I've got it on my wish list, so will keep that in mind when I do pick it up. I think it is a fascinating description though.

    :) Wendi


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