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Review: We Bought a Zoo

December 27, 2011

Benjamin Mee was living in the South of France with his young family, and making a living as a journalist, when his sister called to say that she thought the family should buy a run-down zoo with money from their late father’s estate.  It would require their mother to sell the family home, but she was all for it, so they decided to pursue it.  The sale went through and the family found themselves with an unlicensed zoo on their hands and Mee and his family moved back to England.

I was really excited to read We Bought a Zoo, by Benjamin Mee, because it’s exactly the kind of book I usually love.   A memoir about ordinary people taking on an extraordinary project always excites me – except this time.  I really loved the story behind the book and I love and admire what the Mees did, but the execution of the book fell a little flat for me.  Mee focused more on the business aspects of bringing the zoo up to code and I wanted to read about the personal side of things.  I wanted emotion, heart, fears, frustrations and triumphs, but what I got felt more clinical to me – almost as if he was just reciting the facts.

I did enjoy some aspects of the book, though.  I loved it when Mee wrote about the animals.  It was fascinating to read about the behind the scenes mechanics involved in moving a large, dangerous animal or the logistics involved in capturing an escaped animal.  I also enjoyed learning about how closely zoos work together.  I admire Mee and his love and devotion for the animals in his care.

Overall, We Bought a Zoo was just okay for me, but I’m really looking forward to the movie.  From the trailer, it looks like they’ve made quite a few changes.

Review copy provided by Weinstein Books.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
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48 Comments leave one →
  1. December 27, 2011 4:24 am

    I will just see the movie then 🙂

  2. December 27, 2011 6:03 am

    I’ve been looking forward to the movie as well. I usually enjoy Cameron Crowe’s stuff, and this one has a great soundtrack.

  3. December 27, 2011 6:54 am

    Wow comparing your book review to the movie trailer tells me that they made a lot of changes. We’re really looking forward to seeing the film, but I think I’ll skip the book.

  4. December 27, 2011 7:16 am

    I hope you’ll review the movie!

  5. December 27, 2011 7:23 am

    We’re thinking of going to see this one at the theatres. Didn’t know the movie was based on a book.

  6. December 27, 2011 7:41 am

    To the movie, then!

  7. December 27, 2011 8:10 am

    I’ve seen the movie previews and from the looks of it I think you might get more of the heart and emotion you’re looking for from that. Sorry the book didn’t work for you as well as you were hoping.

  8. December 27, 2011 8:14 am

    My mom has really been campaigning to see the movie, but I was dragging my feet because I thought I should read the book. Guess I’ll pass then. I’m thinking that this might be one of those rare times when the movie is better?

  9. kaye permalink
    December 27, 2011 8:15 am

    The movie trailer looks good but I’m not sure I’d read the book.

  10. December 27, 2011 8:47 am

    Looks like we’ll just see the movie, too. We saw The Descendants yesterday. Very good movie if you haven’t seen it yet.

  11. December 27, 2011 8:59 am

    The reviews I have read of the movie are pretty positive, but they say it’s because of the acting, not the story!

  12. December 27, 2011 9:03 am

    Well you settled my dilemma…do I read the book before the movie? I think I’ll skip the book and just head for the movie.

  13. December 27, 2011 9:10 am

    The trailer made me teary (I’m such a sap for animals)! I’ll see the movie, but think I’ll pass on the book.

  14. December 27, 2011 9:15 am

    It sounds like this book could have gone in a different direction and made you a little more pleased, and I can imagine that I probably would have felt the same way. A book about a zoo full of animals should be focused on the animals, not the business aspects of managing their care. It’s too bad because I think I probably would have liked this one had it stuck to the stories of the animals, but in light of your review, I think I will be skipping it.

  15. December 27, 2011 9:35 am

    Sounds like it would make a great movie! 🙂

  16. December 27, 2011 10:47 am

    I will probably skip the book and just watch the movie.

  17. December 27, 2011 10:57 am

    We are planning to see the film soon. Thanks for your review of the book — it gives me some idea of what’s coming. Although, as noted above, there seem to be lots of changes in store!

  18. December 27, 2011 11:24 am

    I just might see the movie version, thanks for the review.

  19. December 27, 2011 11:53 am

    The movie looks adorable! 🙂

  20. December 27, 2011 12:33 pm

    I didn’t realize this was a book first. It’s not a movie we’re planning on seeing though.

  21. December 27, 2011 1:08 pm

    I saw the movie trailer the other day and got excited about seeing it. I wasn’t aware they’d changed so much. I think the same things would bug me about the book, but I still want to read it regardless.

  22. December 27, 2011 1:35 pm

    It is certainly a unique story.

    But I’m with you — when I read memoirs like this, I enjoy reading about the personal side. The business and mechanics can be interesting but when they are the heart of the story, the story tends to fall flat for me.

    The movie does look interesting to me though.

  23. December 27, 2011 2:18 pm

    The movie looks great. I hope you get to see it….I haven’t read the book, but clinical is a bit much for me to concentrate on with a full house. 🙂

  24. December 27, 2011 2:18 pm

    The movie should be fun!!!

  25. December 27, 2011 2:23 pm

    My son &i read the book both of us felt it was hohum at best,I am going to see the movie with my husband son won`t join us.

  26. December 27, 2011 3:02 pm

    i keep seeing the trailer for this movie and i’ve been wondering if i should get the book and read it or not. its a bummer to hear that the author was more intot he business side of things rather than the personal and emotion side, although i guess that’s understandable. i might just pass up on the book and watch the movie.

  27. December 27, 2011 5:20 pm

    I am debating on the movie 🙂

  28. December 27, 2011 5:38 pm

    Interesting review! I’ve been seeing lots about the movie, and nothing about the book. Thanks for reviewing it. I might try it, though like you and everyone else here, I want to know about the animals, and how the family found it, managing a zoo – the personal details.

  29. December 27, 2011 7:59 pm

    I just got an email from my mom saying that they watched the movie over the weekend and liked it. I’m glad to know that I can skip the book and fast forward to the movie.

  30. December 27, 2011 8:23 pm

    I’ve seen the movie advertised and have wanted to see it, but didn’t know it was a book. I usually like reading the book before seeing the movie, but after reading your review, I may just skip the book.

  31. December 27, 2011 8:24 pm

    At first I thought this was a movie review!!! It does seem like TONS of changes were made based on what I’ve seen of the previews. Seems it might only be buying a zoo that is in common!

  32. December 27, 2011 10:30 pm

    Didn’t realize this was a book. Love Matt Damon so I will definitely see this one.
    Hope you like the movie better 🙂

  33. December 27, 2011 10:37 pm

    Sounds like one that I would feel the same way about. I need to feel an emotional connection to what I am reading. I am interested in the film version and to see what Matt Damon does with the role.

  34. December 27, 2011 10:45 pm

    Glad I skipped the book and went straight to the movie. I loved it – its definitely got more than enough emotion and heart to make up for the book. 😉

  35. December 27, 2011 10:45 pm

    My friend saw the movie today, she thought it moved slow in some places, and was a bit long…ugh. I’m thinking I’ll wait for the rental.

  36. December 27, 2011 11:40 pm

    I didn’t realize this was a book too. I’m excited to see the movie though. It’s on our Christmas holiday list!
    2 Kids and Tired Books

  37. December 28, 2011 12:33 am

    Thanks for your review, I was hoping the book would be really good. I heard that the acting in the movie is terrific but that the story itself is a bit flat. Were going to wait until it comes to one of the movie channels we subscribe to.

  38. December 28, 2011 3:01 am

    I didn’t know this was a book. I’ve been looking forward to the movie and I think this is one time I’ll choose the movie before the book.

  39. December 28, 2011 9:58 am

    I just put the book on hold from the library wanting to read it before seeing the movie. Now I’m really wondering if I will like the book much. I guess I’ll still give it a try and if I’m not enjoying the book I’ll give myself permission to stop reading and just see the movie! Thanks for the heads up on the business detail aspect of the book.

  40. December 28, 2011 11:54 am

    Too bad the book didn’t work better for you. I wonder if the film will be better. Hope you had a great Christmas! I’ve been off of the computer for the most part. Just now catching up.

  41. December 28, 2011 6:03 pm

    I’m sorry this book wasn’t what you expected. I was excited when I realized this post was a review of the book. And then I was disappointed in the book when you revealed that it isn’t a more personal story about the family and the animals. I’m pretty surprised about that, too! The book sounds kind of dry to me. The cast of the movie was on the Anderson Cooper show last week. At one point, I think Anderson emphasized that the movie is only loosely based on the book – now I understand!

    I hope you enjoy the movie, Kathy, it looks wonderful! I’m looking forward to it!

  42. December 28, 2011 7:18 pm

    I’m not sure the book would be for me at all but maybe the movie. I’ll wait for your review of that.

  43. December 28, 2011 10:46 pm

    I hope the movie is better…it looks promising!

  44. December 29, 2011 1:35 am

    Hi Kathy! Hope you are doing great and had a great Christmas! I’m dropping by when I got a little time off, lol!

    I didn’t realize this was a book. I was thinking of watching this movie, probably the movie is better than the book because there may be a little more emotion in this case.

  45. December 29, 2011 9:48 pm

    Not sure about the book but think we’ll be seeing the movie.

  46. December 29, 2011 10:39 pm

    I loved Cameron Crowe’s prior films, and I was planning on seeing this movie, but I think I’ll skip the book. I appreciate your honesty; it doesn’t sound like a book that I would really read, but I could see why it might be something to pick up if one enjoyed memoirs. A lot of dry and boring facts just gets in the way of the story. That’s how I felt about Moneyball, too.

  47. December 31, 2011 10:51 pm

    I feel like we could sub “Puppy Diaries” for ” We Bought A Zoo” and have the same review – we want emotion not instruction!

  48. January 2, 2012 9:46 am

    The book probably isn’t for me either! Who knows when I’ll get around to seeing the movie!

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