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The Elephant Keeper

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  1,809 ratings  ·  371 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
Hardcover, First, 298 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by William Morrow (first published September 1st 2008)
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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
2nd out of 27 books — 22 voters
Water for Elephants by Sara GruenThe Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence AnthonyModoc by Ralph HelferHannah's Dream by Diane HammondLove, Life, and Elephants by Daphne Sheldrick
Elephant Books
10th out of 78 books — 67 voters

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Community Reviews

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Petra X
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!
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
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 s ...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
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
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
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
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Erin Newell
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 yo ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
"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
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
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

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
Jennifer Osterman
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 diff ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
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
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 lovers ...more
I picked up The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson at a used book sale because I liked the cover and who doesn't enjoy a good story with an elephant? This is the story of Tom Page, a young man in 1770s England who cares for two elephants that his wealthy boss purchases for his estate. The story has three parts, the first a history as he knew it of the two elephants (Timothy and Jenny) in his care. The middle was a diary of Tom's current life with the elephants and included the sale and dep ...more
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.
Anna Engel
I really wanted to like "Elephant Keeper" and read nearly 200 pages before giving up in a weird mixture of frustration and boredom. For one, I disliked the infrequent misspellings that the author seemed to think added authenticity to the story - words like surprize, choaked, and probossis. It's not convincing to me that a young man with limited education would only make these "errors." It would have been better - and less distracting - to dispense with the ruse of written-by-the-man-himself.

I enjoyed this book despite its predictability. This is the story of a young groom working on a fine estate who gets to raise and keep a couple of elephants that he nurses to health after their sea journey from 'the Indies'. Moving to another grand estate on the sale of the elephant that remains in his care, his master asks him to write a history of the elephant. And so we read of the moves from grand estates to a sort of zoo in London as the elephant and the keeper/diarist are bought and sold b ...more
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
Jeanne Halloran
"The Elephant Keeper" is a heart warming story of Tom Page and his beloved Jenny (the elephant he cares for). Spanning over many years, Christopher Nicholson portrays this unique relationship with humor and great understanding of human emotions. He also tells of the cruelty of some individuals, such as Mr. Singleton, with deep insight into the human psyche. I found the story packed with interesting fact about elephants and commend Mr. Nicholson for doing a thorough research of the topic. My only ...more
Shelly Lincoln
I loved the beginning of the book - the conversations with the elephant, Jenny, her history, her interactions with her brother. But it goes downhill from there. The second section with the conversation amongst the nobility is overly long and not terribly entertaining or engaging, the history in the menagerie is less about the elephant and more about the elephant keeper who seems terribly naive and the final section contains an ending which is confusing and unsatisfactory. I'm giving it three sta ...more
I loved this book! It is one of my special favorites that I will definately read again!
Dianne Kaucharik
This is a love story of sorts..a fictional account of the love between a man and the elephant(s) he is hired to "keep". The story is tender and sweet, though sometimes sad. Readers of this book may also enjoy Hannah's Dream and When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals.
Angela Smith
This had been sitting on my tbr shelf (bookcase) for almost five years and I decided it was time to read it. The story is set in 18th century England, when Elephants were a rarity, most had never even seen a real elephant.

Tom Page, a young grooms man's son on an estate goes to the docks with the master and sees a couple of young elephants almost at death's door after a terrible sea voyage. His master purchases them and Tom seems to have a natural aptitude with the animals and is put in charge of
Rena Jane
Ordered this book by mistake. So many similar titles recently, it seems. But since I had it, and I love elephants, read it anyway. I'm so glad I did. It's a beautiful story.

A brother and sister elephant arrive on docks of an English port, very dehydrated and nearly dead. They are taken to a rich man who has a stableman that takes on the care and healing of the two elephants. Much about elephant biology is revealed in the early part of the book. And the caretaker, Tom Page, becomes the main human
Set in eighteenth century England, The Elephant Keeper follows a young horse trainer, Tom Page, from when he first laid eyes on a pair of young elephants towards the later years of his life with his new charges. From the moment he sees them he is enthralled by them and immediately accepts the duties of caring for these creatures. From the very beginning he never leaves their side and becomes extremely close to them. The elephants, Jenny and Timothy, are separated after Timothy becomes too much t ...more
Friends of  Linebaugh Library
"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
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