I recently pledged to myself that I would work to find a better balance between my fitness regime and my regular life. As part of that, I’ve challenged myself to read a book a week. My deep love of reading has taken a back burner over the past few months as I hit the gym and took up running. And I wanted to return to it. So, for 2011, I will be reading a book a week. Up first: “The Elephant Keeper” by Christopher Nicholson.
When I reached the last page of “The Elephant Keeper” I actually had a smile on my face. This is a sign that it was a good book. That, and I recognized a little bit of sadness as I closed the book — because I had grown to really like the characters (both man and pachyderm) and felt like I was part of their story.
The story is told from the point of view of Tom, the elephant groom, who accidentally comes to care for a pair of elephants — and then write the history of one of the elephants. Because he is the son of a groom and not formally educated, much of the language is simple, and the spelling is often phonetic. I think this adds to the story, rather than takes away from it. And, trust me, usually I’m the first to pick apart the grammar and spelling in a novel.
The book was well written, and Nicholson really was able to capture the deep relationship between an elephant and her “keeper” — though it’s never really clear if Tom keeps the elephant of the elephant keeps Tom. Their relationship is more deep than many human friendships. Heck, probably even deeper than many marriages. I found myself longing to have that deep of a connection with someone — friend, partner, someone. The two knew each other as well as they knew themselves. Really, they were the only thing each of them had. I will say that Tom’s description of a dream where he is the elephant’s sexual partner is a little disturbing, it’s easy to see why and how he crosses that line. Jenny, as he lovingly calls the elephant, was the closest thing he had to intimacy. And to make the leap from emotional intimacy to sexual intimacy is not difficult — especially in dream land.
I’m glad this book was the first one I read for my 2011 book-a-week challenge, as it was an easy read. Not because it was simply written or a simple tale. It was just a good, fun read that kept me interested and made me want to keep turning pages — even when I should have been sleeping. The story was told in an interesting way and allowed me to develop a relationship with both Tom and Jenny. To a certain extent, I could see why Tom felt a closer kinship with an elephant than he ever had any humans.
Note: I’ll be keeping a running log of the books I’ve read and the ones up next on my list, as well as a rating of each book. Check out my list here. And if you have any suggested reading for me, I’d love to hear ’em — just leave me a comment here or on my 52 Books in 2011 page.