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Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Man and Beast, 24 Aug. 2011
This review is from: The Elephant Keeper (Hardcover)
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This is a bit of an odd book. In some ways it is quite a simple story of a boy and his elephant, set in a very interesting time period (late 1700s) when attitudes to things like science, nature and medicine were changing dramatically. On the other hand, it is a novel about the human condition - desire, disappointment, broken families, despair, happiness - that uses the central relationship of man and beast as the canvas to illustrate the author's own feelings on the subject. Sometimes it is both, even on the same page.

It is probably not a book most people would pick out to read, but I think it is well worth a try. It is not a "normal" story, and the plotting of the book feels very uneven at times. There are some parts that read like a children's novel such as Black Beauty and other parts that touch on the darkness of the human condition in quite disturbing ways. I also found the structure to be a little frustrating - in some sections it is a first person narrative, in others a "diary" style of writing with dates and key points. The final section I will leave for you to make up your own mind.

Overall, it is a book certainly worth reading, although I can't say I felt entirely satisfied when I had finished. The author writes the characters well and there are some lovely sections of prose. It is very easy to imagine the scenes described - the London section felt particularly well written - and most of the main characters, although a little clichéd at times, provoked the right sort of emotions. However, the ending felt a little tacked on and this is one of those rare books that could actually benefit from a few MORE chapters to wrap things up a bit better. A good three stars.
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Location: UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 114,054