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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elephant versus man, moving and primal
This book argues strongly against mankind's misuse and overdevelopment of the land that once belonged to noble beasts such as the Asian elephant. I became captivated by the story and by the author's sympathetic stance towards the elephant. The book will make you mourn what is happening to wild animals, and it reaffirms that when mankind messes with animals, the animals...
Published on July 5, 2001 by Ann Shillinglaw

versus
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If elephants weep, it may be because of this book...
Let me say first of all that I'm really fond of elephants, India and travel writing, separately or together, and quite frankly this book is an affront to all three. It's one of the worst books I've read recently, both for style as well as content.

Mr. Hall's narrative suffers from "Dr. Watson Syndrome." No matter how trivial or well-known a piece of...
Published on November 17, 2006 by LionLady


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elephant versus man, moving and primal, July 5, 2001
This book argues strongly against mankind's misuse and overdevelopment of the land that once belonged to noble beasts such as the Asian elephant. I became captivated by the story and by the author's sympathetic stance towards the elephant. The book will make you mourn what is happening to wild animals, and it reaffirms that when mankind messes with animals, the animals are the ones who get destroyed. Mankind's ultimate destruction might take a bit longer .... This is a thoughtful book with an element of magic -- the myth of an elephant graveyard that grounds the more realistic, down-to-earth elements of Hall's adventure account. I would love to read more of this author's adventures, esp. if they involve magnificent animals. Hall has a journalist's eye, yet he creates moments in which you feel you are there, under the stars, hearing the sounds of the jungle with him, waiting in fear of the thunderous sound that will signal that the rogue elephant is near. It is a very fast read -- a bit like a suspense novel -- but what I appreciated most was its folkloric touch, Hall's hope to find the mythic elephant graveyard, and the sense that animals are mysterious and magical, and that our world is impoverished with each death of a spectacular animal like the elephant. Last but not least, this nonfiction book would make an amazing film.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Blast!, October 17, 2000
This is a great read. Like all good books, it is an amalgamation of many things: a memoir, a travelogue, a social & environmental critique, and a great adventure with a dash of mystery and lots of humor. The title is a bit stodgy, but the story is far from it. We really see India in a different light, a land both benign and disturbingly fatalistic. Tarquin manages to couple some very visceral descriptions of locales with a profound appreciation for India and the elephant that is rarely seen in literature. Tarquin is going to mature into a great travel writer someday soon. Meanwhile, somebody give this man a prize ($) so he can dash off on another adventure (so we can read about it in his next book).
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Real life travel/adventure story reads like a novel, October 30, 2002
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This review is from: To the Elephant Graveyard (Paperback)
As you can tell from my moniker, I am a lover of elephants. So it was with some trepidation that I bought this book (against my wife's advice) to read about a modern version of George Orwell's short story "Shooting an Elephant." Here, it seems that a rogue elephant has gone berserk in India and is killing a number of Indians for no apparent reason.
The narrator, an AP reporter, catches up with the hunter who has been retained by the local government to kill the elephant. The hunter, Mr. Chowdhury, is, strangely, a lover of animals, especially elephants. There is some nice discussion of why he nevertheless takes tasks like this one.
The book takes Hall (the narrator), Chowdhury, and others (mostly elephant riders) on a hunt for the rogue throughout northeastern India. They have a number of interludes, some of which are funny, others tragic, until the final confrontation. Along the way, we learn a bit about why the elephant was going berserk.
Hall has a nice, unobtrusive writing style. It's not flashy, and he knows enough to let the narrative momentum carry the book, although he throws in occasional travel- or history-related discussions of the local Indian culture. For example, he recounts the myth of why the Indian god Ganesh has the head of an elephant. (The gods had to replace his head after an accident, and an elephant was the first creature they saw.)
I was afraid that I would find this book incredibly sad and painful (see Barbara Gowdy's "The White Bone"), but instead, it was very saistfying. It's still sad about the rogue elephant, but maybe because it's not as senseless as poaching, the story, while sad, is understandable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are indeed the Elephant's graveyard, March 31, 2013
This review is from: To the Elephant Graveyard (Paperback)
I picked up the book from the library without knowing what it would be like to read. Boy, was I surprised.

Tarquin writes very well not only on the main topic of the book - the hunt for the rouge elephant, but shares some other insights into the history of North-East India - be it the bravery of the forest guards at Kaziranga, or what the Bodo movement was really about, the Central Government's continued and possibly deliberate lack of interest in developing the region, the history of Kohima and many more issues.

The story of the rouge elephant, the mahouts, the history of how elephant were domesticated, and for wild elephants the movement corridors are being taken over by the ever increasing human population of the country is all told very well. The increasing number in incidents of man-elephant conflict is a telling sign that very soon elephants in the wild may be history in India too...much like what has happened in the far east.

A thoroughly enjoyable read, and makes you think as well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Told Tales, March 12, 2013
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This review is from: To the Elephant Graveyard (Paperback)
Riding on a hunt in India's Assam Province after a rogue elephant stalking all things to do with the local booze: grain fields & sacks, fermentation vats & its drinkers.

As a child reader raised by the last generation of the British Empire who held sway over India, the legend of The Elephant Graveyard was passed down to me, perhaps thru Kipling's tales & Tarquin Hall is a worthy descendant!

When he was a New Delhi AP reporter, he learns that India's great Elephant Whisperer, Mr. P. C. Choudhury, will be hunting a man-killer, & like all young chaps full of piss & vinegar wheedles an invite.

As he gets to know & is accepted into an elite group of mahouts & rides their elephants, he pesters everyone with questions, rather like those blood-sucking mosquitoes, to which I had some negativity until it dawned on me (Duh!) it's how he prods people into talking... which they eventually do, & the results are equal parts fascinating, hilarious & everso sad.

As a reporter he feels bounds to record the current dire straits of India's elephant population as humans crowd them into smaller forest lands, curtailing their life style & migrations, as well as recounting how the babies are culled from wild herds to be raised for work & festivals + the state of State Reserves & the officers who guard against poaching.

The awe & wisdom of those who live with & respect these amazing creatures is evident throughout, even unto the hunters of those driven mad by bad men, as we become privy to wonderful legends & insights into elephant lore.

Tarquin Hall has a way with words, & many of 'em will expand your vocabulary , an eye for beauty & a willingness to listen thus producing an absorbing & fun read that's worth a place in any library.

While TO THE ELEPHANT GRAVEYARD is a bit of a throw back yarn & comes with B&W snapshots, it is definitely a ReReader!

Now I'm off to start his series re: India's Most Private Investigator The Case of the Missing Servant: From the Files of Vish Puri
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a read!, November 8, 2000
By 
Robert Frith (London, England) - See all my reviews
'To the Elephant Graveyard' is a truly brilliant travel book. It's unlike anything in the genre I have read before. It fuses the hunt for a rogue elephant with touching and vivid travel writing, taking the reader on a gripping journey through North East India, a part of the country in turmoil. Hall's unassuming insight and his powerful narrative voice makes this a real page turned. I cannot recommend this book enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death of an elephant, death of a culture., January 14, 2013
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This review is from: To the Elephant Graveyard (Paperback)
This book is about more than the hunting and killing of a rogue elephant. Hall uses his trek through Assam to expound on Assamese culture and the adverse effects of colonialism and the tea trade, the ongoing depredation of the rainforest, endless political conflict and corruption in India, and the fragile relationship between tame Asian elephants and their handlers...among other things. It is as much about the death of a way of life as it is about pachyderms.

Although he is surprisingly obtuse on occasion, and perhaps not always the most likable fellow, Hall is an adept writer. His visual descriptions are especially skilled, but he doesn't leave out the sounds, the smells, or the feel of things on his skin. He shows restraint in not make himself the center of the story. This is, thankfully, neither a tale of personal epiphany nor a self-aggrandizing "Adventures in Assam" travel book. Hall was invited on the elephant hunt as a journalist, and he strays little from that role. I forgave him the odd grumble or whine.

The author does drop a few racially insensitive comments (saying, for instance, that one fellow looks like an American Indian without the warpaint), which may rankle some readers. I found, too, a clumsy error that the editor should have axed. But given that I am unlikely to see Assam myself, I was happy to travel for a time with Hall on the back of an elephant, even though the picture he paints of that part of the world is a sad one. We need to know these things.

(For the sensitive: I am a vegetarian animal advocate, and so was initially reluctant to read a book about a man executing a rogue elephant. I'm glad to report that the killing is handled with dignity and regret. The elephant is mourned. What I do have trouble with is Hall's uncritical-- and incomplete -- telling of how wild elephants were traditionally caught and "tamed". It is a horribly cruel business, involving chaining the animal to a stump and withholding food and water to "break" him. To go into this more would be to spoil the arc of the story, but suffice it to say from my perspective the mahout-elephant relationship is tainted. Hall takes a different view.

There is one photo in the book that I found extremly disturbing. It shows the hunting group posing -- with their tame elephants-- behind the dead rogue. One of the tame elephants is reaching its trunk over to investigate the head of its dead bretheren. It says something about Hall that this is not mentioned in the caption.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hunting an Indian Elephant, August 12, 2012
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This review is from: To the Elephant Graveyard (Paperback)
I love stories about elephants, but for some reason held off from buying this book for a long time. Well when I started reading, I could not put it down, as I followed this tightly strung tale about the hunt for a murderous rogue elephant in Assam. The author, a well travelled British journalist, offers a refreshing perspective. There's little complaining about India and its attendant ills, a narrative path that many writers unfailingly venture down. Instead we go into the Brahmaputra valley , the jungles of north east India , and the world of Elephants and knowledgable "Elephant Men" - Choudhury the hunter, Churchill the mahout and many others whose lives are intertwined with that of the Indian elephant..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another great book by Hall, April 24, 2011
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This review is from: To the Elephant Graveyard (Paperback)
I'm a little surprised by the person who thought this book condescending towards the Assamese; I found it anything but. I think Hall did an excellent job of melding what is essentially an action tale - the hunting of a rogue-elephant in Assam in northeast India - with an awareness of the tragic consequences of overpopulation and the Indian government's lack of a coherent conservation program for the elephants. The portraits of the people of this area were spot-on, I've lived there and can vouch for that. I also enjoyed very much Hall's depiction of the mixture of religion and superstition in the area. If you want a Disney-channel tale of cute animals, don't read this book. If you want an engaging travelogue/adventure story played out against the background of the elephants struggling to hold on to what little natural environment they have left, and the ongoing tragedy of their loss of habitat, plus the extraordinary efforts of the local game wardens and elephant mahouts to protect these animals, then by all means read this book!
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If elephants weep, it may be because of this book..., November 17, 2006
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This review is from: To the Elephant Graveyard (Paperback)
Let me say first of all that I'm really fond of elephants, India and travel writing, separately or together, and quite frankly this book is an affront to all three. It's one of the worst books I've read recently, both for style as well as content.

Mr. Hall's narrative suffers from "Dr. Watson Syndrome." No matter how trivial or well-known a piece of information is ("Yes, elephants can swim"), he responds with the stunned equivalent of "Holmes, you astound me!" Upon catching sight of the rogue elephant and seeing a broken chain still on one of its legs, he is absolutely stumped for any explanation at all until his companion tells him the animal obviously used to be captive. ("Holmes...!)

On the other hand, he swallows whole the most blatant bunk: "I can turn myself into a tiger (for 800 rupees)!" "Sure, there's an elephant graveyard! I'll take you there right now!" "Yes, I saw the elephant run away from my house carrying a whole case of my Scotch!" In one passage, Mr. Hall reports that the footprint of the rogue elephant, measured right in front of him, is over four feet in diameter! That would make the poor animal about the size of a Seismosaurus! (Perhaps he misunderstood his informant, who might have been referring to length of stride.) I got the distinct impression, though, that many of his companions on this journey were having some fun with him at his expense, as when a mahout encouraged him to come climb aboard a kneeling trained elephant. During the process, the elephant mysteriously stands up, leaving the author dangling from its side with both hands painfully snarled in the rope harness. I suspect the mahout -and possibly the elephant - worked that one out beforehand. And I don't blame them.

I say that because Mr. Hall's "gee whiz" style is not the only problem here. For the most part, he shows contempt for most of the Indians he meets. "Plump Punjabi aunties with flabby midriffs bulging from their polyester saris gobbled down ...chicken as their undisciplined children chased each other..." They're filthy, their food is disgusting. One of them, born with the wrong number of toes on one foot, is "hideously deformed." And one of the most egregious passages in the book: "I guessed that he was a Marawari, a term used to describe businessmen...who are said to own half of India. ...Indians despise them as a class for their ...materialism and legendary stinginess. They are...the Jews of India."

I did enjoy some examples of his prose style because they were unintentionally comical: "An old mahout...was preparing an herbal mixture for the wounded elephant in the pot over the fire." How do you suppose they got the elephant into that little pot?

In short, if you love elephants and books about elephants, please do not choose this one. Mr. Hall's motivation may have been of the very best (his Author's Note, on the last two pages, is the only worthwhile part of the book), but it's poorly written and fairly offensive, plus it insults your intelligence. There are many beautifully written, informative books, such as "When Elephants Weep," by Masson and McCarthy, and "Elephant Memories" by Cynthia Moss. Please enjoy them!
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To the Elephant Graveyard
To the Elephant Graveyard by Tarquin Hall (Paperback - September 2, 2001)
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