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The Elephant Keepers' Children

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  1,472 ratings  ·  323 reviews
From the author of Smilla's Sense of Snow, an epic novel about faith and the magic of everyday life.

Told from the precocious perspective of fourteen-year-old Peter, The Elephant Keepers' Children is about three siblings and how they deal with life alongside their eccentric parents. Peter's father is a vicar, his mother is an artisan, and both are equally and profoundly dev
Hardcover, 502 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by Other Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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People who know me well know that one of my least favorite topics of conversation is religion. It varies in importance from person to person, so I find it impolite to probe into the religious workings or non-workings of the majority of individuals. Perhaps this has something to do with the extremes to which faith is wielded by a variety of people; why is it that talk of God is so frequently usurped as a means to an end rather than a means to improvement? It is this question that is poised so pla ...more
“I have found a door out of the prison.”

So begins this tale full of unexpected humor, adventure, intrigue, and the search for transcendence. Peter, Tilte, and Hans grew up in a rectory. Their father is the pastor of a church on the tiny island of Fino, and their mother plays the organ when she’s not busy inventing gadgets. Both of their parents are elephant keepers, by which the children mean that they “have something inside them that is much bigger than themselves and over which they have no co
Kels Fidler
I regret to say that I didn't really enjoy this book, The Elephant Keepers' Children by Peter Hoeg, that I won on Goodreads, and I'll tell you why:

-the prose was overwrought and overcomplicated, and it made me feel like I was stupid, and keep in mind, the narrator is a fourteen year old boy, and shouldn't sound like he is a Rhodes scholar
-there are far too many characters to keep track of and I kept getting confused
-because the prose was so confusing to me, I barely even absorbed what was happen
I'm giving this 2 stars even though this was a DNF - some readers will enjoy wading through the dense prose, the constant diversions and the overlong sentences more than I did. What I got out of the first 1/4 of the book was this was a world populated by slightly quirky people, with some sort of magical realism going on. Not paranormal, but more psychological magic.

Here's one reason for the DNF: all too often our hero/narrator says "I'll get to that in a moment" or "I'll explain that later" (in
Rebekka Steg
This week I've been reading a book in Danish, by the Danish writer Peter Høeg (author of Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow, The Quiet Girl, Borderliners). I especially loved Borderliners, it's actually one of my favourite books. The Elephant Keepers' Children (my translation, there's no official translation yet) is in the style of mystical realism, similar to Haruki Murakami. The philosophical idea behind the novel, is the thought that some of us have "elephants" inside of us, that we need to be ke ...more
Melissa Lee-tammeus
I read half of this book. I really wanted to get through it, but the library wanted it back. I had had it for 9 weeks and was just sitting on it. Clearly, with that being said, it was a rough one for me to get into and, truly, to even understand. It is reminiscent of the old crazy writing of Tom Robbins "Still Life with Woodpecker" or the one about the chick with the big thumb (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues). Just very surreal and I felt like I was in a funhouse the whole time. I wasn't certain if ...more
Kenneth Fredette
I love Peter Høeg's books, ever since he wrote Smilla's Sense of Snow in 1993.
Stephen King once wrote an article describing why we crave horror stories, concluding that the darker cravings of one’s nature can be suppressed as long as we occasionally indulge those desires. E.g., you can keep the alligators under your mind’s trap door “as long as you remember to feed the gators.”

So, if Mr. King is to be trusted (and with his imagination for dark things, I would trust him on this front) we all have a split nature with our “gators” and the nice world of churches and daisies t
One of my favorite books which I reread is his Smilla's Sense of Snow, but I only just tolerated this book.
I am always suspicious of translations as feel they cannot represent the author's true voice, but since I do not read Danish, have no choice. The faults in this book I will therefore blame on his translator, chief among them the stupidly distracting character names. The plot is fantastical, but I might have accepted it were the names reasonable. They were ludicrous, unnecessary, and dimini
Karen Klein
I started out thinking that I wouldn't like this book, would stop reading it and just bring it back to the library but it's one of those books that kind of just sucks you in after awhile and you have to keep reading. For some reason, and this is only my opinion, 14 year old Peter (the main character) reminds me of Flavia De Luce in Alan Bradley's series..........they get themselves into outrageous situations, are able to extricate themselves from those situations just in the nick of time and bel ...more
Fun absurdist romp. I really liked the voice of the narrator, Peter. This has the same peculiar sense of humour - deadpan philosophical - that seems to be a Scandinavian thing. It reminded me of both Doppler and The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared.

But I think that Hoeg doesn't use his time very well. At over 500 pages, the story could have got much larger and crazier, or else he could have edited it down to a tighter 300 to 350 pages.
Anne Slater
I will grant you that this is one fat book-- just shy of 500 pages. If you are impatient for action and a direct line thereof from start to finish, don't bother with this book. That's usually my style, but I just got sucked into The Elephant Keepers' Children-- in the first 2 pages.

The brazen ingenuousness of the narrator was the beginning. I have known 14-year old boys. They are either monsters or charmers. Our narrator is an unpretentious charmer who assumes that the reader is a willing liste
It takes a good translator to ensure that humour in one language has the same effect in another - and Martin Aitken is a very good translator! This is the story of three children whose fairly odd parents have disappeared and their journey to find them. Written from the point-of-view of the youngest child, Peter, we see the eccentricities of others according to a 14 year-old and the confusion of that period of adolescence just before early adulthood. Peter's middle sibling, sister Tilte, is the m ...more
Quirky, but my kind of quirky. Peter, Tilte, and their dog Basker are searching for their parents who have disappeared and maybe involved in some shady dealings. They have an older brother Hans who does not really play a huge role in the novel. Their father is the rector of the Fino church and their mother is an inventor, highly skilled at making things, and plays the organ on sundays. The children suspect that their parents may have acquired a taste for the finer things in life like mink coats ...more
I think it took a genius to write this book and make it readable, likeable and fun. It could easily have been a book tossed into the dustbin. The story mocks every convention of modern society in tongue-in-cheek ways with hilarious plays on words even with the names of characters and places, some almost unintelligible in the audio addition because they are so foreign sounding.
The book is unusual in that it is not addressing the reader at large, but is supposed to be a private conversation betwee
Margaret Carmel
I really loved this book. There were two general main ideas that I really identified with. First, was the idea of everyone having elephants. "Elephants" in the book are the idea that everyone has demons or uncontrollable bad things inside of them that cause them to do negative things or things that don't make sense. Basically, no one is perfect especially adults. The children in this book are dealing with their parents "elephants" in this story. I like the idea of children discovering that their ...more
The narrator of this romp through the bracing terrain of spiritual enlightenment and madcap action-adventure shares with me a love of the convoluted, beautifully constructed sentence that provides a long-winded, gently mocking indirect introduction to a short declarative fact. If I didn't live with 14-year olds I would probably have added that the boy seems precocious. His sister is the best character -- a force of nature who persuades everyone to her view and puts friends in a coffin to help th ...more
Not bad writing, but also not much happening.
A story told as a 14 year old boy from a fictional somewhat remote island of Finø in Denmark (pronounced Fiina on the audiobook for some reason. Maybe the differences between a, o, ä and ø are not that clear... a = like u in English word hut, ä = like in English word man, o = like au in naughty, ø = like i in bird). The inner voice did not remind me of a 14 year old boy who's grown in a remote area. There was just too much academic wisdom in his ramb
I loved, loved, loved Hoeg's writing style. Quirky, ironic, hilarious - all the things that can combine to make an immensely enjoyable read. The plot was slow and meandering, but the writing made the pages fly by fast, still feeling fun. The characters were great, too, each one unique and interesting. It was difficult to predict what crazy plan or twist they would come up with next!

Though this was a fun read, I felt like the deeper ideas didn't come through. There's a lot about religion, especia
Rosemary Ellis
You have heard of the "elephant in the room." Well, this book is more about the elephants inside each of us and those we love, as told from the perspective of a 14 year old boy. The story takes place in Denmark and focuses on the narrator and his 16 year old sister, both very precocious, and a bunch of eccentric characters.

As I was reading this, I kept thinking about what a great movie it could be. Action, adventure, young love, mystery, family dynamics, spirituality, religion, magic, comedy and
Look, if an author is aiming for whimsey, and I am assuming Hoeg was, considering that he was naming his characters things like "Leonora Ticklepalate" and "Thoredeus Claptrapp," the author needs to keep his book short. Whimsey only works in under 200 pages, otherwise it becomes an ordeal, which this book was...
PS If the goal of your book is to address the issue of the existence of God, whimsey is probably not the best approach.
Sashko  Liutyj
дуже багато любові: до рідного міста, до країни, до місцевого пива, і, найголовніше - до людей.
і ще - до слонів, які живуть всередині нас.
неймовірно, як в такій легкій книжці вміщується стільки мудрості і магії.
найвищі бали і палкі рекомендації)
Abandoned ship 7/8ths of the way through. I wanted it to be better than it was. In the end, I couldn't justify giving it a 300th chance. It's confusing, absurd, and in the end, kinda dumb ....
Nancy Brisson
Peter Hoeg (picture an oblique line through the o), author of The Elephant Keeper’s Children, also wrote Smilla’s Sense of Snow, which put him on the world’s literary map. This novel, though very well written and, at times, humorous, may not end up being quite as popular.

The subject of the book is to get us to look at what drives us, what is our “prime mover”, our elephant that we keep at the heart of our lives. Letting a hidden elephant run your life is not necessarily a good thing either accor
Kylie Purdie
This is one of those books where I feel I should have got more out of it than I did. That's not say I didn't enjoy it, I'm just not sure what it was all about.
The elephants referred to in the title are not literal elephants, instead they are elephants that some of us carry inside, the things that elephant keepers have inside them that is much bigger than themselves and over which they have no control.
Peter and Tilte are concerned that their parents elephants have lead them to do something danger
I first picked this book up because it had "elephant" in the title. I know, I know, it's childish, but my love for elephants and the beautiful colors made me pick the book up (I have a version that is a soft baby blue and green with dots). I have to admit I was reluctant to read it. Very much so. It sat on my shelves for months, until one day I decided to pick it up. I couldn't put it down. It was strange, because I'll admit the exposition was drawn out, the point was slow to be revealed, and it ...more
Michael Jenkins
I had a very difficult time rating this book. The writing style was magnificent but the story fell flat on content and development. It was one of those novels that could have been much better if it was a little more consistent and not all over the place. Peter was probably the only memorable character in the story, the rest were just fillers and their story was not really told. I also believe that the idea of his parents disappearing did not really say anything. I was sligthly confused how the p ...more
I truly wanted to like this book - the story was intriguing, the writer proven,and at times it had the absurdity of magical realism - but I felt ambivalent. The continuous, "I'll tell you but first I must get distracted by something else" got old fast as did the characters. The sister and brother seemed to have almost interchangeable voices as did the various villains. The reason I give this book three stars is that I wonder if some of my problem is a result of translation. Not knowing, I give t ...more
Likely his most accessible novel, and still filled with the beauty of his wildly skewed vision of this world--at times both philosophical and simple--but often a little pedestrian in the comedic intent. At times the flow of action was more three stooges than Peter Hoeg's usual course of unexpected circumstances. Still, I couldn't resist the lovely depth of his characters and the poetry of his words. Well worth a read, and probably more appealing to the average reader than his other less approach ...more
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Peter Høeg was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. Before becoming a writer, he worked variously as a sailor, ballet dancer, and actor. He published his first novel, A History of Danish Dreams (1988), to positive reviews. However, it was Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1992), a million-copy best seller, that earned Høeg immediate and international literary celebrity. His books have been published in more than th ...more
More about Peter Høeg...
Smilla's Sense of Snow Borderliners The Quiet Girl The Woman and the Ape The History Of Danish Dreams

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“I don't know if you're in love with someone. If you're not, there's something I would like to say to you, and that is that love comes to everyone. All fifteen years of my experience in life tell me that the world is organized in such a way that all of us find someone to love. Unless we work against it. So if you're not in love with anyone but would like to be, you should try to discover which part of you is working against it.” 2 likes
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