So I had been in South Africa for about two hours before I found myself in a book shop. I hadn’t even seen the hotel I would be staying in but when the trip stops at a shopping centre, some people may go to the chemist or the bank, I go to the book shop.
I wanted to buy something that would be a relaxing read, the itinerary on my trip was exhausting, stay tuned for forthcoming blogs about that, but I also wanted something that would give me a deeper understanding of the amazing country I was about to explore.
The Elephant Whisperer by the late great Lawrence Anthony literally leapt off the shelf towards me. Firstly, elephants are probably the coolest animals on the planet, it’s a closely run competition with pandas but elephants are winning for me at the moment and secondly reading the blurb it sounded so intriguing.
It’s a true life story from Lawrence Anthony who owned Thula Thula game reserve and what happened when he was asked to adopt a herd of rogue elephants facing extermination. What unfolds is honestly one of the most jaw dropping reads I’ve had as Anthony is accepted as part of this emotionally raw herd and how they learn to co-exist.
Some parts of this book will literally make you have to re-read it to see if you got it right. We have so much to discover about elephants and this unique relationship should go a long way towards this. Anthony gets so close to the herd that huge trust is built up and time and again friendship and love is the result.
The stars of the show are the elephants obviously, in particular a trio of characters who you instantly love. Firstly we have Nana the matriarch who is firm but fair in the way she controls the herd. Frankie is the muscle of the outfit and she is the most unpredictable of the group. Poor old Mnumzane is the hapless adolescent boy who is pushed out to be on his own until he comes of age, the relationship between him and Anthony is perhaps the most endearing.
But the book isn’t just an insight into these mega heart bursting relationships although that would be enough. It’s a fascinating look at what it’s like to run a game reserve from dealing with poaching to life threatening tribal politics to bush fires. It’s all written in a really accessible style by Anthony and Graham Spence and I really loved it, if you hadn’t already guessed. Usually I try to find something negative to give a balanced review but there is nothing that I can say for this book except I wanted more.
I challenge anyone not to adopt an elephant in Africa after reading this. I know I have.
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