Top positive review
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Utterly wonderful, and a must-read for any animal lover
on 10 September 2009
This is the best autobiography I have ever read. Beautifully written, compelling, and heart-breaking. I was moved to tears again and again as I read of McKenna's pain at losing beloved friends and family, and treasured animal friends as well.
For Born Free fans, this book has plenty of "behind the scenes" content. We learn how certain scenes were filmed, anecdotes from during the filming, and the fates of the lions used in the film. But Born Free is only a small part of McKenna's story. She writes at length of her theatre and television exploits, though this is never tedious and always interesting. Sometimes her work in television took her to extraordinary places, such as the Himalayas, and her descriptions of these are rich and vibrant.
The chapters on McKenna's work for Zoo Check, the organisation that later became the Born Free Foundation, are the ones that haunt me the most. Until reading this book, I had seen zoos as a necessary evil; now I see no reason for them to be necessary. McKenna's stance on zoos is staunch and unrelenting, as she writes of the many terrible zoos she visited, and the disturbed animals captive in them. "Don't you think a year of freedom is better than twenty in captivity?" she asks, after writing of the success of releasing into the wild three dolphins that had previously lived in aquariums in England.
Her passion for Nature, and her pain at seeing it raped so by humankind, is overwhelming. It is almost unbearable to read her words, of greed and ceaseless human cruelty. In the book are several of the poems she has written, and the one that stood out the most for me was one that talked of the seasons, then, the last two lines read: "They're cutting all the trees, Soon we won't know what the season is". I won't ever forget those words.
Much of the book is devoted to McKenna's passion for animals and nature, that's true, but no one should ever accuse her of loving them at the expense of humans. She writes lovingly of two African children she "fostered" (she gave them financial support, and sometimes visited them with gifts to help the family), and of the Gurkha campaign, which she was a staunch supporter of (I say "was" because that campaign's purpose has been fulfilled; indeed, McKenna writes this triumphantly, and it must have been one of the very last parts of the book written, considering how recently the campaign was won).
I recommend that every animal lover out there reads this. But there is a real tragedy to this book: those who need to read it the most will never, ever read it.