The Elephant Keeper

Travelling without my children is something of a luxury these days, so even the 12-hour flight (or actually two 12-hour flights in two days) that I had to do last week wasn't such a bad experience.

And especially when I had a good book to keep me company.

I picked up The Elephant Keeper in a bit of a rush at the airport bookshop – and with limited time to choose came limited expectations of the book.

But I was very pleasantly surprised and I ended up really enjoying it. The book is set in the 18th century and is about a young stable boy Tom Page who becomes the keeper of two elephants imported from the West Indies by a wealthy land owner who has a vague notion on breeding them for their ivory.

Realising the ivory plan is impractical, the man sells the elephants to two different owners and Tom decides to follow the female (Jenny).
They are taken into the household of Lord Bidborough, a Sussex aristocrat who asks Tom to write an account of the "True History of the Elephant", which is how the book comes about.

The book essentially tells of how Tom follows the elephant to different owners, in the process developing an ever closer relationship with her and at the same time sacrificing his chance of a more conventional future.

Although the book is called The Elephant Keeper, it isn't clear by the end who is keeping who.

My husband asked me when I finished it whether you had to love elephants to enjoy it and I told him no, but you'll definitely love elephants when you've read it.

The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson