19 July 2010

WAMC Round Table selection

WAMC, the NPR radio affiliate out of Albany, NY, hosts a round table book discussion with independent booksellers in their listening area. Tomorrow Joan Grenier (store co-owner) and I are the lucky booksellers and this is one of the books I'll be mentioning. You can catch us live around 10:05 am EDT or you can check out their website at www.wamc.org in a couple of days and listen to our full spiel.

Tom Nicholson's The Elephant Keeper was a quiet debut in hardcover last year, published to critical acclaim both here and in the UK, and I’m hoping that in paperback it will find the wider audience it deserves. The novel opens in England in 1766, where a ship docks with a live cargo, including a pair of young elephants, that barely survived the voyage. When a wealthy estate owner purchase the elephants, a young stable hand named Tom Page gets the opportunity of a lifetime. He nurses both elephants back from the brink of death, and in doing so, he forms a lasting bond with them. Tom eventually is able to train and communicate with Jenny and Timothy, as the elephants are named. However, when the estate owner loses his fortune, the fate of Tom & the elephants becomes a harsh one, as the 18th century is not a particularly kind time for animals of any kind, much less exotic ones. Heartbreak follows heartbreak for Tom and the elephants, but the reader gets some heartwarming moments, too. This book is a lovingly imagined portrait of a man who discovers that lasting friendships are not defined by species, and it is full of tenderness, empathy, and compassion. It’s an absolutely engaging read, though I should warn that sensitive readers will discover within themselves an inclination towards violence for those characters who exact cruelties on these magnificent creatures.

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