I’ve previously mentioned that I am a member of two book clubs. The clubs meet two weeks apart from each other which, for me, spaces out the timing of the readings perfectly. In an earlier post, I used the link-up #FridayBookShare to comment on my previous novel read. I was happy with the easy review format, while still allowing me ample reflection on my core experiences with the story. So, here I am again with a quick review of my most recent book read, Love, Life and Elephants: An African Love Story by Daphne Sheldrick.
First line of the book:
To give you the best sense of this memoir, I took the middle paragraph from the opening prologue. Upon reading this, I was totally hooked and had great difficulty putting the book down after that.
“The elephant took a pace backwards, swung her giant head and, using her trunk to lift my body, threw me like a piece of weightless flotsam high through the air with such force that I smashed down onto a giant clump of boulders some twenty paces away. I knew at once that the impact had shattered my right leg, for I could hear and feel the bones crunch as I struggled to sit up. I could see too that I was already bleeding copiously from an open wound in my thigh. Astonishingly there was no pain — not yet anyway.”
Recruit fans by adding the book blurb:
Daphne Sheldrick (nee Jenkins) was born in Kenya, in 1934, to British parents. There began her deep affinity with the wildlife that surrounded her. From an early age, Daphne began to care for orphaned wild animals. This culminated, years later, in Sheldrick being the first to discover a successful milk-substitute for orphaned elephants.
Sheldrick has done a remarkable job bringing her characters (both humans and wild/domestic animals) to life. Her story documents joy and sorrow, wonder and tragedy, deep love and devastating heart-break. This memoir is simultaneously inspirational, beautiful and gut-wrenching.
Introduce the main character (3 key words):
Daphne Sheldrick is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished (against all odds) when extreme empathy, tenacity and passion combine. The results are truly inspirational.
In 2006, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Daphne Sheldrick “‘Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ for services to the conservation of wildlife, especially elephants, and to the local community in Kenya” (source). Although this title does not fit neatly into three words…wouldn’t you just love to be introduced in this way?
Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?):
Sheldrick’s story is well-suited to animal lovers, conservationists and those drawn to well-told non-fiction tilted towards igniting action. In fact, at several points I felt as I was having tea in Daphne’s living room, listening to her tales with awe, sincere admiration…and much discomfort.
Your favorite line/scene:
This book has much to say, with messages that refuse to be ignored. Although not my favorite paragraph in terms of delight, one section that continued to haunt me was:
“The death of this great elephant evoked in us a lament for all the wild creatures of Africa and the vanishing wilderness that had protected and sheltered them for so long. It was symbolic of the tenuous future all wildlife faced in a continent where poverty bred corruption and greedy people in faraway lands created the demand the fueled the killing. The bull’s very size and magnificence heightened the sense of tragedy, for there is nothing so profoundly dead as a five-ton elephant with the allotted lifespan of a human, who has died before his time simply to supply some unthinking Westerner with a trinket.”
As the Boston Globe so astutely warns, “(readers) may be tempted, after turning the last page, to sell all possessions and join the cause.” (Source) After finishing the book, I may not have been seduced to that extreme…but I did become insatiably restless about meaning and purpose.
One could easily argue the flaws in this book. Still, this heartfelt memoir, by a truly remarkable woman, earns five solid stars from me. Not only do I recommend it highly…I also recommend having tissues handy!