If you follow me on Instagram (@kate_sheridan07), you will have seen a picture of this book. I strongly recommend this book, and I'm going to tell you why. This is the first book review I've written on this blog, but this book is honestly fantastic and everyone should read it. I think Laurence Anthony should be a household name.
Elephants have always been my favourite animal. Ever since I was little I have loved, and been memorised by these gentle giants. Laurence Anthony's books were recommended to me by one of my best friends, and fellow animal lover, and so I got 3 of his books for christmas, and this is the first I have read. I was hooked right from the prologue.
It's an autobiographical story of Lawrence Anthony's journey of saving a herd of elephants. Laurence Anthony owns and runs a game reserve in South Africa. He is given a heard of elephants, who are described as troublesome, and were going to be killed if he didn't take them. The book tells the story of how he saved their lives, by learning to communicate with them, and how a previously troubled herd find peace and a home at Thula Thula, Lawrence's reserve.
What this book does so beautifully, is describe nature as it is. Lawrence is a well known conservationist, and he owns a game reserve in Africa. He knows the African bush better than most, and he describes it so well. As someone who has visited Africa a few times, I felt reading this he had captured the magic of Africa beautifully and I felt like I was back there again. I felt like I knew him and his staff by the end of the book, and had been to Thula Thula. And of course, I felt like I knew the elephants.
"To understand how they [the elephants] taught me so much, you have to understand that communication in the animal kingdom is as natural as a breeze. That in the beginning it was only self-imposed human limitations that impeded my understanding."
This quote is on the second page of the prologue, and after reading it I instantly knew I was going to love this book. The book hadn't actually started, and I was hooked. Lawrence understands how humans can learn from animals, and that it's not always the other way round; and that's something I greatly respect. He has great respect for all living beings, and understands that the true value of nature has nothing at all to do with money.
Later on in the book he is describing a baby elephant, who has a particularly traumatic beginning. He writes "Wildlife can absorb adversity that would destroy a human without a blink." Again, recognising that there is so much wildlife can teach us, and there are things they can do that we, as a species, can only dream off. I love it when people speak like this, because I am a strong supporter of this. I know there are things other animals can do better than we can. So many people believe that animals are dumb, and numb, creatures; even creatures are majestic as elephants. This is simply not the case, and Lawrence shows the incredible characteristics of elephants in this book. Lawrence saved their lives, but they also saved his on various occasions, described in the book as they knew him, and cared for him. They learnt to recognise his voice, and smell. They learnt to trust him. A herd of wild Africa elephants, who hated humans based on their previous experiences with them, learnt to trust Lawrence Anthony. That is an incredible thing. African elephants are more aggressive than Asian elephants, and are also bigger. Wild elephants do not trust people, and people are often the enemy, with their guns and dogs. For a completely wild herd to forgive, and trust people based on the care and compassion of one man, is outstanding.
Like all good books, there is a picture section. This is important I think for a book like this. If you have never visited Africa, or been in the African bush, these pictures can really help you visualise the landscape described. They also identify some individual elephants, and so you can see their faces, their size, and their trust in Lawrence. Some of the photos show how close he was able to get to them: proof of their trust in him.
This book made me laugh and cry, it desperately made me want to go back to Africa. I don't want to give away any spoilers of the stories you will read in this book, which made writing a review a little tricky.. but if I were you, I would just take my word for it, and buy the book!
, by Kate Sheridan