by Samuel Hawley
Distressing as all this is, for me the most poignant parts of the book were reading about her distant memories of the forest, the physical sensations she would dream away into, removing herself from current boredom and misery. Or the one moment she actually escaped and roamed the countryside for a week, finally realizing she couldn't find enough food to keep alive, she missed the company of other circus elephants, even the reassurance of familiar routine and human direction. It was a sad reminder of how used to this travelling life she had become, how dependent on the people who enslaved her. There's so much more to this book- the way circuses were run, the constant changing hands, being rented out for events and such. The danger of male elephants- eventually Far Stream saw most of them disappear from the circus tents, as people realized they were just too much liability. How things changed over the decades- the first few troupes she was with journeyed by horse-pulled wagons, later it was all by rail. She survived quite a few derailments, witnessed or experienced many kinds of accidents as well.
It's all based on actual accounts of circus elephants, most of the incidents in the book are purportedly true although of course the details have been re-imagined. They feel very authentic- the author's notes at end of the book list numerous sources that I bet are rich reading in themselves. Even the way the author chose to portray how the elephants communicated among themselves with contact calls, reassurances or moments of humor, how they felt each others' emotions and shared memories, didn't feel contrived to me (as it did to some extent in The White Bone). It felt like the way things could be. Most of all I felt sad at the complexity, intelligence and patience of these great animals that were often treated so inhumanely, for so long.
I received a copy of this book from the author, via a giveaway at Opinions of a Wolf. Thanks to them.
Rating: 4/5 263 pages, 2013