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The Elephant Keeper

3.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,986 Ratings  ·  397 Reviews
"I asked the sailor what an Elephant looked like; he replied that it was like nothing on earth."

piEngland, 1766/i: After a long voyage from the East Indies, a ship docks in Bristol, England, and rumor quickly spreads about its unusual cargomdash;some say a mermaid is on board. A crowd forms, hoping to catch a glimpse of the magical creature. One crate after another is unpa
Paperback, 298 pages
Published June 22nd 2010 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published September 1st 2008)
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Petra X
May 05, 2015 Petra X rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
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
May 01, 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 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
May 01, 2016 Joanna rated it it was ok
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.
Oct 09, 2009 Trish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 19, 2009 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 07, 2011 Wendy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Jun 07, 2011 Michelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 18, 2010 Raina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
May 25, 2015 Shirley rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Aug 16, 2009 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Christopher Nicholson’s The Elephant Keeper is a surprisingly melancholy re-imagining of what is must have been like to introduce exotic animals into late eighteenth century England. The first half of the novel is a sweet mix of coming of age and innocent love story of Elephants and their Keeper, Tom. The second half of the book darkens and depicts Tom’s full blown obsession with his charges. Tom commits his life to the elephant’s care, dissociating himself with human kind in favor of his beasts ...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
Aug 27, 2009 Melissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

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
Dec 21, 2015 J rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 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
Sep 23, 2009 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 28, 2016 Lyanndra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Not to take what Life offers would be a great mistake, and taking what Life offers must be one of the secrets of happiness."

I've just finished reading this lovely book and am significantly contented. I picked up The Elephant Keeper at a second-hand bookstore some time ago and to be honest, what drew me to it at first was the beautiful cover. Being of the historical fiction genre, a genre that I tend to fall in love with every now and then, I thought it would be worth the read, and it surely was
Oct 03, 2009 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.

Jan 26, 2014 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Debi Yoneda
Feb 26, 2016 Debi Yoneda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A charming story written in somewhat old English style with words spelt like they may have been in the 1700's or early 1800's. An endearing story of the connection between a caretaker and an elephant he cared for.

Do elephants have souls and are they able to communicate with us. This theoretical question is posed throughout the story. Love seems to be the other major theme between a human and an animal. It has been said that we tend to attach human qualities to the animals we ca
Apr 25, 2012 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jeanne Halloran
Apr 11, 2014 Jeanne Halloran rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
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2016 Reading Chal...: The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson 1 6 Nov 22, 2015 12:49PM  
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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 Eleph ...more
More about Christopher Nicholson...

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