Book review: The Elephant Keeper (Christopher Nicholson)

Title: The Elephant Keeper
Author: Christopher Nicholson
Rating: 3,5/5 stars


*WARNING:  spoilers inside!


 The Elephant Keeper is about a young boy, Tom Page, a stableboy at Harrington Halls in Somersetshire. It is set in the late 18th century, and starts when Tom is a teenager and two elephants arrive on a ship from the Indies. Tom`s Lord buys the two young elephants, and Tom ends up as their keeper. The book then follows their life and how people treat them.

I thought this was a very nice book. It`s entertaining, although it does have a bit of a slow start.

Once the story picks up better, the pacing is pretty calm and constant, but it doesn`t feel slow. It just feels like it moves along steadily. No rushing, no sudden action. It feels as gentle as the nature of the elephants themselves. It`s a nice change from all the action and excitement I`ve had lately.

I do have to say though, that while the book starts off pretty normal, it gets more and more weird as you go along. Eventually, Tom obviously starts obsessing over the elephants, pushing everyone around him away. He has conversations with them, often edges on bestiality with Jenny (the female elephant), and while reading you can almost see the mental illness in him progress. It almost makes you wonder if it`s not all a dream, or an hallucination of some sort.

Still, it`s exactly that progress of Tom`s character that makes the book so interesting. After all, this isn`t a book about elephants in the 18th century. It`s about a boy and his obsession and how people treat him and how he perceives them in turn.

This book also gets quite philosophical, ending with obvious messages of carpe diem (or #YOLO, as it`s known as recently). I personally liked this part, but then I`ve always been a sucker for those kind of messages. I can imagine it`s a bit too much for a lot of people though,.

Finally, the last chapter, the very last one, was very sudden and weird in my opinion. I`m not sure if the author made a good decision in keeping that part in. It`s very confusing how suddenly the same “ I” is used for an entirely different time and situation.

But overall it`s a good book. I`d definitely recommend it if you`re looking for something calm. Especially if you`re like me and you have a tendency to read the more extreme, more fast-paced books. It`s by no means a masterpiece, but it`s a good book in its own right, and I`m glad I did read it. 

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One Response to Book review: The Elephant Keeper (Christopher Nicholson)

  1. Pingback: “The Elephant Keeper” by Christopher Nicholson | Belper Book Chat

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