Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Elephant Keeper” as Want to Read:
The Elephant Keeper
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Elephant Keeper

by
3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  2,214 Ratings  ·  419 Reviews
"I asked the sailor what an Elephant looked like; he replied that it was like nothing on earth."

England, 1766: After a long voyage from the East Indies, a ship docks in Bristol, England, and rumor quickly spreads about its unusual cargo—some say a mermaid is on board. A crowd forms, hoping to catch a glimpse of the magical creature. One crate after another is unpacked: a z
...more
Hardcover, First, 298 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by William Morrow (first published September 1st 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Elephant Keeper, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Elephant Keeper

Water for Elephants by Sara GruenThe Elephant Keeper by Christopher  NicholsonWhen Elephants Weep by Jeffrey Moussaieff MassonThe White Bone by Barbara GowdyHannah's Dream by Diane Hammond
Elephants
29 books — 26 voters
Water for Elephants by Sara GruenThe Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence AnthonyModoc by Ralph HelferLeaving Time by Jodi PicoultHannah's Dream by Diane Hammond
Elephant Books
87 books — 105 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Petra X
May 05, 2015 Petra X rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
Book about a rather nice lady elephant and her pervie keeper. Its one thing to want to love and protect your pet, whatever its size, rarity value and potential murderous temperament, it's another to leave your human beloved for it.

Daft story beautifully told, very enjoyable to read, but daft all the same. Imagine if it had been about a man leaving his girlfriend to live with his unstable pitbull? And then, after the pitbull had lost it and killed someone who wasn't very nice, run away with it!
...more
Issicratea
Sep 11, 2016 Issicratea rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, 1990-2010
The Elephant Keeper is an engaging novel and an interesting meditation on the relationship between human beings and animals, and on power and class divisions within human society. I liked an assessment in a Guardian review I found online, which captures the novel’s themes well: “a rich meditation on the Enlightenment: its rationality and superstition, silly games and serious concerns.”

The title character of The Elephant Keeper, Tom Page, is a trainee groom tasked by an eighteenth-century English
...more
Charles
Apr 30, 2010 Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book. It's an account by Tom Page, the elephant keeper of the title, of his relationship with two elephants in 18th century England, and it manages, with no apparent effort, to talk about the nature of love, power structures and their effect on human relationships, notions of the afterlife, landscape gardening and a host of other things. It does so with grace, humour, depth and, above all - perhaps unexpectedly, given that the core of the book describes the love and respect a ...more
Anne
Jul 16, 2010 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a lovely surprise of a read, a beautiful story of a boy's love and care for Jenny the elephant through all the twists and turns of their lives in 18th century England. It's not faultless - I was more taken by the first half of the book when the young Tom starts to write his history of the elephant than the second which gets a little dark and tackles wider social issues. And there are slower sections that don't grip the attention as effectively. And much is made in other reviews of the ...more
Katherine Muylaert
De cover oogt heel aantrekkelijk, een olijke olifantenslurf en een jongetje, in sepia tinten die je meteen twee eeuwen terug de tijd door katapulteren. Je wordt van in het begin ondergedompeld in een andere tijd, een andere maatschappij, een ander soort leven. Een manier van leven die wij ons niet meer kunnen voorstellen.

Tom Page, een staljongen die zichzelf leerde lezen "door naar letters te turen" en die leerde schrijven in een dorpschooltje, wordt door zijn meester gevraagd om de wedervaren o
...more
Sovotchka
I'm actually in two minds about this book.

I adored the first part (the actual "History of The Elephant") and was a bit bored by the second, although I enjoyed the descriptions and the conversations between the noblemen. The third was a bit more interesting, although not much about the Elephant (although she was mentioned quite a lot, I didn't feel her presence as much as during the first two parts of the book), and I was was utterly confused by part 4. My rational mind couldn't follow this part
...more
Laura
Jul 19, 2009 Laura rated it liked it
The first half of this novel, in which the narrator sets out a "True History of an Elephant" up until the time of writing, is incredibly charming. The author's pastiche of a late eighteenth-century writing style occasionally seems forced, but for the most part one is willing to let it slide, because Tom Page is a likable narrator, and the story of how he met, trained, and grew attached to a pair of elephants is engaging and sweet.

Once the narrative is brought to Tom's "present" it begins to fall
...more
Trish
Oct 09, 2009 Trish rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, animals, teen
Christopher Nicholson had not registered on my radar before this latest gentle, lumbering, big and somehow soft narrative about two elephants who land at the docks in Bristol, England in the 1700's. The novel is not written like anything that came out of that era, thank goodness, but one gets a feeling of life stripped of its furious pace and all the unnecessary essentials we all find so time consuming now. I laugh quietly to learn on the HarperCollins website that Nicholson is a Thomas Hardy fa ...more
Wendy
Oct 07, 2011 Wendy rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lois
May 20, 2015 Lois rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why? Is it so wrong to name an animal? And to love them? Granted that the love you feel towards them is not the perverse kind of love. Then there is nothing wrong in loving them.

Oh well, the book's setting is in the 18th century.

Oh, Tom, I adore you so much.

On page 101, "The reader may judge me harshly, if he chooses, and yet, was I not in the right? Is is not evident, that an elephant is of more value than many human beings?"

I will not judge you harshly Tom, in fact applaud your decision! A
...more
Raina
Oct 18, 2010 Raina rated it it was amazing
"I asked the sailor what an Elephant looked like; he replied that it was like nothing on earth."

The Elephant Keeper, a wonderful and heartbreaking book, is the story of Tom and two young elephants who, in 1776, arrive at the docks in Bristol, England. They are purchased by a wealthy sugar merchant for his estate, and he hires a young stable boy, Tom Page, to care for them. The story, told by Tom, follows the lives of boy and elephants as they learn to understand each other, and develop a remarka
...more
Michelle
Jun 07, 2011 Michelle rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erin Newell
Apr 10, 2012 Erin Newell rated it it was ok
I cannot remember where I picked up this book, but someone somewhere mentioned to me that it was a good read. It's set in 18th century England and is clearly about an elephant keeper. It's separated into several books. The first few books were interesting enough, but then things got weird in the 4th or 5th book. I wish I would have stopped before reading on. The first few books are all about this boy turning into a man, and how he takes care of two elephants bought by his "master" when he was ...more
Shirley
May 25, 2015 Shirley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The year was 1766. Tom, a seventeen-year-old, takes over the care of two elephants he chooses to secretly name Jenny and Timothy. How sad to live in a time when people do not name their animals. How sad to live in a time when there were no animal rights groups to advocate for the care and well-being of animals. Animal-lovers will understand the telepathic connections between Tom and his charges.

Christopher Nicholson's writing is reminiscent of some of the best writing found in classic literatur
...more
Melissa
Aug 27, 2009 Melissa rated it it was ok


I had to wait a couple of days after reading this book to post the review. It has now been three. And I still don’t know how I feel about the story. Which doesn’t leave a good taste in my mouth.

The story itself flows well. You get emotional about the elephants and how they live their daily lives. But for the main character, Tom, I could take him or leave him. There isn’t much depth into what he is about, and as the story unravels, even less so.

I am at a loss as to what to say about this book. It
...more
Jennifer Osterman
Aug 29, 2009 Jennifer Osterman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won an ARC of this book and really liked it. I loved the first half of the book in which Tom Page tells the story of how he became the elephant keeper. The second half of the story, in which Tom and Jenny become part of a zoo or menagerie is a much darker story that is only hinted at in the beginning. One isn't sure if it is the elephant keeper who has gone mad, or if he is just being lonely and fanciful. I was very engaged in the characters and in the plot, but I felt that there were two ...more
J
Dec 21, 2015 J rated it did not like it
I really did not enjoy this book, and would not recommend it to anyone. Set in 1700s England, the story is about the keeper of 2 elephants--the first elephants in England. Of course no one knows anything about elephants, including the young man selected to be their keeper. He does his best, does an admiral job, and loves and is protective of them. Despite that, the book is rife with descriptions of animal abuse--not by the keeper, but by others. Abuse not just of the elephants, but other animals ...more
Carolyn
The Elephant Keeper is a novel that emphasizes the ways that communication can be a barrier and how those barriers can be surmounted by affection, understanding, and patience. Jenny and Tom are an inseparable duo. The aspect of this novel that I enjoyed the most was probably the ways in which the reader can recover our innocence through the "new" look at elephants. Because the novel is set in the 18th c, the age of exploration is rekindled through Tom's learning and growing with Timothy and Jenn ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Oct 03, 2009 Bookmarks Magazine rated it liked it
Shelves: nov-dec-2009
Had Christopher Nicholson simply tried to write a historical novel of the 18th century, critics probably would not have liked his book quite so much. Most of them found at least one aspect of the book that bothered them -- from the occasional flat character to inconsistent pacing to episodes they felt didn't make sense. But all were so charmed by the writing and by the way the author develops the characters of the pachyderms Timothy and Jenny, as well as their relationship to Tom, that they were ...more
Megan
Sep 23, 2009 Megan rated it really liked it
A wonderful story of a boy/man and elephants over the period of several years. The first half of the book totally drew me in. Once it got to present day it was a little disjointed, which may have been the point. The relationship between Tom and Jenny/Timothy is fabulous and very well developed. I do wish there had been more development of some of the other characters and been able to tell what they thought of Tom's devotion/obsession. Wonderful and heartbreaking book especially for animal ...more
Joanna
May 01, 2016 Joanna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Supposedly, it's a very moving book about the bond between a young horse keeper and elephants in XVIII century England. True, it's a bit moving and it focuses on this bond. Still, it's also about the society of XVIII century England - which is a heavy topic, male sexuality - and I have no idea what the Author wants to express here, loneliness, life choices - and it just gets really depressing. A bit chaotic too.
Christine
Oct 03, 2009 Christine rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009-reads
I seemed to fall into a little bit of a rut with elephant books in September. As a young boy Tom Page becomes “the elephant keeper” when two nearly dead Indian elephants are off loaded from a ship in Bristol England. In the late 18th century not a lot was known about elephants in England and Tom Page shares his learning experience with us in the pages of this book. A beautiful book … I loved it.
Cheryl
Jan 09, 2016 Cheryl rated it it was ok
After I finished reading the book I realized that almost nothing happens in the book and the main character is really flat. You can basically describe the book in one sentence: the main character cares for the elephant(s) as they get passed around from owner to owner and chooses his relationship with them over human relationships. That's about all the depth and interest this story has.
Elaine
Apr 25, 2012 Elaine rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks
Elephants are amazing, gentle, and kind. Humans are not. But Nicholson shows how humans can have a relationship with another species, which makes our exploitation of them so cruel, and he does so just through the love story between Jenny and her keepet
Jocelyn
Jul 26, 2011 Jocelyn rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! It is one of my special favorites that I will definately read again!
Devon
Nov 16, 2016 Devon rated it it was ok
I was very disappointed with this book. Elephants are my favorite animals and the beginning of the novel was so promising. However things took a turn for the worse when Tom, the elephant keeper, began to experience romantic ardor for the female elephant in his care. Borderline bestiality?? Ok, I'll push through that awkwardness and keep reading. My reward? A rape scene where Tom even admits that he wishes he could repeat the act when he watches the young woman lying unconscious from shock and ...more
Margo
Oct 13, 2016 Margo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Poorly written attempt to create a statement about men and beast. Descriptions or scenes are dull and overly long in many sections and seem almost copied from somewhere else.
Story of a boy horse groomer who is assigned to take care of two elephants. After a while, the elephants are sold and he takes care of the female in several places and finally in a poorly managed menagerie. Starts out fairly well as the boy meets the elephants. Has strange and dull scenes of a conversation between an upper
...more
Teri Christman
Oct 29, 2016 Teri Christman rated it really liked it
A beautiful, sad tale of a boy and the two elephants in his charge. You had me at elephant.
Realini
Aug 02, 2016 Realini rated it liked it
Shelves: theater, delightful
The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson
Sad, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel…on this and other works you could access:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...


First of all, this note is about the adaptation of the novel, produced for BBC Radio and its shortcomings might not apply to the novel

Having said that, the subject in itself is depressing for this reader.
There are two macaws- that some would criticize me for having, since their place is in the jungle, supposedly- three
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
2016 Reading Chal...: The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson 1 6 Nov 22, 2015 12:49PM  
  • Behemoth: The History of the Elephant in America
  • Elephant Memories: Thirteen Years in the Life of an Elephant Family
  • Cowboy and His Elephant
  • History of Britain & Ireland
  • Hannah's Dream
  • The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes: And Other Surprising True Stories of Zoo Vets and their Patients
  • An Inconvenient Elephant
  • The White Bone
  • The Angel of Blythe Hall: A Historical Novel
  • Alice in Exile
  • The Servants' Quarters
  • Mary of Carisbrooke: The Girl Who Would Not Betray Her King
  • Down All the Days
  • Postcards from a Dead Girl
  • Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers
  • Girl by the Road at Night
  • In This Hospitable Land
  • Anne Boleyn

Goodreads is hiring!

If you like books and love to build cool products, we may be looking for you.
Learn more »
668737
Christopher Nicholson was born in London in 1956 and lives in south-west England. He read English at Cambridge University and then worked as a BBC radio scriptwriter and producer. He was married to the artist Catharine Nicholson, who died in 2011, and has two children, a son and a daughter. He lives in south-west England. He has written three novels: 'The Fattest Man In America' (2005), 'The ...more
More about Christopher Nicholson...

Share This Book



“Greatly excited, and making little squeals and rumbles of pleasure, the Elephants grazed through the blue-bells, their trunks flying out to latch on to hazel branches, which they dragged and tore down and stuffed into their mouths.” 0 likes
“They are called Elephants and they are very noble and wise creatures, who come from far away across the sea.” 0 likes
More quotes…