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The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson

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The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson

Post by EC2 » Tue February 3rd, 2009, 3:02 pm

Paraphrased from the inside copy of the book:

'In 18thC Bristol, two elephants arrive at Bristol docks. They are bought by a sugar merchant who hopes to make a profit on them. The merchant's young stable boy, Tom, is given charge of them and forms an instant, instinctive bond. 'The Elephant Keeper is Tom's journal: the record of his life with both, then just one of the elephants as they journey across England from one country estate to another, before they finally arrive in London.'

This is an enjoyable narrative. It's one of those multi-layered books with a lot more going on under the surface if you want to take it that far. Superficially it is indeed the story of an 18thc elephant keeper and the adventures, trials and tribulations of his job as he serves different employers. That's the surface plot. It goes from one event to the next to the next - all in a very readable style. But there's more to it than that. The book is divided into several parts and with each part the narrative develops more strands and the light-heartedness slowly becomes a darker tale. To Tom the elephants whom he privately christens Timothy and Jenny, are his reason to live and he puts everything before them. It's not just a case of 'Love me, love my elephant' (there's only the female one left by the end of the story), it's a case 'the elephant comes first'. Any other relationship is subsumed by Tom's passion for Jenny, and what he imagines is hers for him.
By turns amusing and tragic, sometimes to the point of grief, this is an absorbing novel with a cast of well rounded characters. It sometimes makes for slightly disturbing reading but never crosses the line.
9 out of 10 and just under 5 stars rounded up to the full amount.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal


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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
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Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue February 3rd, 2009, 3:25 pm

Okay, that just went on my TBR. I have a thing for elephants.

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Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
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Post by Vanessa » Tue February 3rd, 2009, 5:08 pm

Sounds great, EC, thanks for that review. I shall look forward to reading it. I'm a big elephant fan, too, MLE. One of my greatest memories is an elephant ride in Goa and being able to feed and pat them.
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Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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Post by Carine » Tue February 3rd, 2009, 5:48 pm

[quote=""Vanessa""]Sounds great, EC, thanks for that review. I shall look forward to reading it. I'm a big elephant fan, too, MLE. One of my greatest memories is an elephant ride in Goa and being able to feed and pat them.[/quote]

That must be great ! I hope I can do that too one day !

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Post by diamondlil » Tue February 3rd, 2009, 7:58 pm

Added to my TBR list as well! Thanks for the review.
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