From Publishers Weekly
A tale by BBC radio documentary producer Nicholson about a man and an elephant canters along at a delightful pace, from the first meeting between the two on the quay in Bristol, England. In 1773, Tom Page writes a history of the well-trained elephant, Jenny, and his life as a humble groom for the Harrington family's elephants that he learned to care for as a teenager. Lizzy Tindall, a bold young maid, endears herself to Tom and his elephants, but when the female, Jenny, is sold, Lizzy urges Tom to stay—that Jenny is only an Elephant. Tom, outraged, chooses to go with Jenny. The animal and keeper communicate, converse even, in their quarters in the elephant house. The pair subsequently move from master to master, ending up in a miserable menagerie in London. Befogged and befuddled in the cruel city, an aged Tom strays from Jenny only to discover that his respect for the tenderhearted elephant is singular. Nicholson's elegiac alternate endings leave only the memory of their lasting bond—the elephant's legendary ability to never forget is finally ours. (Aug.)
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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 happy to recommend the book even to those readers who aren't animal people.