July – The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony, with Graham Spence

This book came a little late in the month and isn’t a library book. We were out camping on the Scottish west coast, when I realised that July was marching on, so Husband nipped into a second-hand bookshop in Mallaig, then returned with this. He apparently selected it because I ‘like elephants’. Which is true, but I hadn’t realised that I commented on them enough for him to have noticed…

Again, this isn’t something that I would usually choose – it’s the sort of thing I associate with my mum who likes biographies of tortoises. Not that there’s anything wrong with tortoise biographies, but left to my own devices I’m more of a grimdark-fantasy, dystopian sci-fi, angry-feminist sort of reader… which when I lay it out like that sounds really depressing. Hopefully having something this little bit lighter will make a nice change.

Anyway.

The Elephant Whisperer follows the (allegedly true) story of Lawrence Anthony, who was gifted a herd of troublesome elephants…

And so far so good – though it does seem to be taking a long time to set up the premise (which took me a sentence in the paragraph above). I want to know more about Anthony’s interactions with the elephants, how he fit into their matriarchal social group – for example – and how he ‘solved’ their troublesome behaviours. Right now we’re deep in the logistitcs of the thing, but maybe I’m just being impatient.

As I said, this book arrived quite far into July so it’ll doubtless be August before I finish it. It’s nice prose, though, and easy reading so perhaps I’ll surprise myself and binge it over the next few days…

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I finished this book on August 6th, so definitely went over my (self imposed) deadline.

There were some absolutely amazing, heart-jumping-into-my-throat-to-choke-me sort of emotional moments but equally, there were huge sections which I didn’t feel added to the text at all. I get that this wasn’t a work of fiction, but I felt as though there were swathes of text which just weren’t relevant to the story of the elephant herd. I could have done with the book being a quarter or a third shorter – it would still have conveyed the same information about the elephants and would have seemed a lot more… coherent.

There were also some vastly uncomfortable pieces. For example, when the author and his wife discover that they have been granted the loan to build the high-end guest lodge. The solicitor that delivers the news didn’t want to stay and celebrate with the family, so the author shot his tyre to force the issue. And this incident was relayed with a sense of pride. Awkward.

As I said – it’s not all bad. There were some incredible moments and I really fell for Nana, the herd’s matriarch. I also really loved the detail about the wild elephant standing on the Nokia phone and it continuing to work afterwards – in part for the 3310 nostalgia, and in part because the image of such a giant creature taking exception to a tiny, chirping thing is wonderful.

That aside, I think had this not been one of my 12 books, I wouldn’t have gone any further than the first 50 pages. There was too much filler, too many points where my toes tried to curl into my feet at the akwardness. Whilst the elephants were incredible, I just couldn’t ‘like’ the author and it’s rare for me to feel that way when I’m reading something – people usually present their best selves, after all.

I’m looking forward to the next book. Hopefully it will arrive long before the end of August…