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The Elephant Keeper: Book summary and reviews of The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson

The Elephant Keeper

by Christopher Nicholson

The Elephant Keeper

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About this book

Book Summary

"I asked the sailor what an Elephant looked like; he replied that it was like nothing on earth."

In the middle of the 18th century, a ship docks at Bristol with an extraordinary cargo: two young elephants. Bought by a wealthy landowner, they are taken to his estate in the English countryside. A stable boy, Tom Page, is given the task of caring for them. The Elephant Keeper is Tom's account of his life with the elephants. As the years pass, and as they journey across England, his relationship with the female elephant deepens in a startling manner. Along the way they meet incredulity, distrust and tragedy, and it is only their understanding of each other that keeps them together.

Christopher Nicholson's charming and captivating novel explores notions of sexuality and violence, freedom and captivity, and the nature of story-telling -- but most of all it is the study of a profound and remarkable love between an elephant and a human being.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A] charming first novel, told in Tom's tender, somewhat melancholic voice .... Throughout, Nicholson, with a light hand, explores questions of how and why we make choices, and contrasts our attitudes to life with that of animals." - The Independent (UK)

"Like the elephant at its centre, Nicholson's book is gentle, profound and sweet-natured." - The Guardian (UK)

"This is a wonderful feat of story-telling, remarkable for its ability to wrench your heart without resorting to easy sentimentality." - The Daily Mail (UK)

"Elephants may never forget, but Jenny, the elephant heroine at the heart of this tender novel, is simply unforgettable." - The Courier Mail

".... the elephant's legendary ability to 'never forget' is finally ours." - Publishers Weekly

"The 18th-century diction is convincing, but too much elephant lore, though engrossing in its own right, slows the pace." - Kirkus Reviews

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Reader Reviews

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Deb Y. (Blanco, TX)

Enticing Elephants?
Who would have thought a novel about elephants would be worth reading? Not I, she said. However, I have to admit I was wrong, very wrong. I am a sucker for stories told in the first person (this time by the elephant keeper, not the elephants - hence, the name of the book) and this one was lovely. It is a book definitely worth your time - and it certainly won't be any trouble.

Molly B. (Longmont, CO)

Good summer reading
This book is full of great information about the nature of elephants and humans, as well as life in 18th century England. Details about the care of elephants and horses in that era add to the interest of the story. The writing is as gentle as the souls of the two main characters, and the author subtly has the reader become a part of the connection between the two. The communication between elephant and boy is so natural and easy that I stopped in mid-book once, said to myself, "Wait, I'm not even questioning this?" and then continued reading with no doubt about it. I don't even think it was suspension of disbelief. By writing this book, Mr. Nicholson has done a great service to both elephants and readers.

Heather F. (Orlando, FL)

A Great Read
The Elephant Keeper is a wonderfully touching story that kept me rapt through the chapters. The relationship between Tom and the two elephants he cares for is portrayed very sensitively and with a great empathy that brings a real depth to the story. Although I did find the instances of elephant cruelty to be upsetting, overall. I found the story very well rounded. I enjoyed learning so much about the daily lives and habits of elephants, they are remarkable creatures that I have long been interested in. I also thought that the candid portrayal of eighteenth century life was rendered very well. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy animal stories and additionally to those who are searching for a great coming of age story.

Amellia H. (Omaha, Nebraska)

Wow!
Let's see, I would have to say this is reminiscent of "Water for Elephants." Not completely because of the "elephant" theme, but rather a book in which you learn so much! I loved the characters ... all of them, from the Timothy to Lord Bidborough, good or bad, happy or sad. I even loved the obsessive nature of one of the characters, it makes that character all too real! I think many readers will immediately fall in love with learning the lives of elephants. I know I did, and I also learned what amazing memories elephants have. You can't help but look at the elephants at the zoo in a new way. Give this a try, I don't see how you could be disappointed! :)

Kathryn K. (Oceanside, CA)

A Joy to Read!
Every once in a while a book comes along that is a joy to read. This coming of age story about a boy and an elephant is such a book.

Set in 18th century England, it is amusing, moving, as well as fascinating. It’s really a love story – a tale about a young boy and Jenny, the elephant, growing into adulthood together. Thanks to Nicholson, I’ll never think about elephants in the same way again! Who says dog is man’s best friend? In this story it’s an elephant! When I finished the last page, I thought with a sigh -- what a great read! It's a "keeper" -- I can't wait to share it with my friends!

Judy K. (Conroe, TX)

The Elephant Keeper is a Keeper!
This will have to go down as one of my favorite books ever. I read it almost straight through. I kept thinking I’d put it down, but then…just one more chapter. I got so caught up in Tom’s story, Jenny’s story, and the evolution of their bond and of Tom’s character. The book reminded me of stories I read and loved in my youth, but it is not a children’s book at all. It’s a book about love, devotion, patience and endurance. Not to be missed.

...13 more reader reviews

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More Information

More Information

Christopher Nicholson read English at Cambridge University. He has been a community development worker in Cornwall, and a radio scriptwriter and producer in London. He lives in Dorset. A reading guide for the book is available here.

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