THE ELEPHANT KEEPER by Christopher Nicholson.jpg

THE ELEPHANT KEEPER by Christopher Nicholson

THE ELEPHANT KEEPER by Christopher Nicholson – in paperback at 10 euros 

England, 1773, and after a long voyage from the East Indies, a ship docks in Bristol and rumour quickly spreads about its unusual cargo—some say a mermaid is on board. A crowd forms, hoping to catch a glimpse of the magical creature as one crate after another is unpacked: a zebra, a leopard and a baboon. There’s no mermaid, but in the final two crates is something almost as magical – a pair of young elephants, in poor health but alive. Seeing a unique opportunity, a wealthy sugar merchant purchases the elephants for his country estate and turns their care over to a young stable boy, Tom Page. Tom’s family has long cared for horses but an elephant is something different altogether. It takes time for Tom and the elephants to understand one another but to the surprise of everyone on the estate, a remarkable bond is formed, especially with the young female. 

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. 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 absorbing novel explores notions of sexuality and captivity but, above all, is the study of a remarkable love between an elephant and a human being.  The Elephant Keeper was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award in 2009 and would be an interesting choice for reading groups.

Christopher Nicholson studied at Cambridge University under the late modernist poet Jeremy Prynne. Soon after Cambridge, he spent three years as a community development worker in rural Cornwall. In 1981, he moved to London and worked as a scriptwriter with the BBC World Service and until the mid 1990s made and presented award-winning feature programmes and documentaries. For the past few years, he has been writing full-time and lives on the northern edges of Dorset.