- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (June 24, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0142002887
- ISBN-13: 978-0142002889
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 96 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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When the Elephants Dance Paperback – June 24, 2003
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Tess Uriza Holthe writes with a mixture of metaphor and fact, a combination of the supernatural and the all-too-real. When the Elephants Dance opens, in fact, with an apposite metaphor for a horrible reality: "Papa explains the war like this: 'When the elephants dance, the chickens must be careful.'" The elephants in question are the Americans and the Japanese, fighting for possession of the Philippines. The chickens are, of course, the ordinary Filipinos. Three of these "chickens" by turns tell us the story of the Japanese occupation as a small neighborhood near Manila literally goes underground, hiding in the cellar and swapping stories. Holthe takes her onus as a seminal Filipino voice seriously; she sometimes seems determined to cram every bit of tradition, history, and myth into her novel, to the detriment of the plot's propulsion. But readers who stay with her will be rewarded with an extraordinary display of historical color, and will certainly root for her three narrators. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
"Papa explains the war like this," narrates 13-year-old Alejandro as he heads through a series of Japanese barricades and check points. " `When the elephants dance, the chickens must be careful.' The great beasts, as they circle one another, shaking the trees and trumpeting loudly, are the Amerikanos and the Japanese as they fight. And our Philippine Islands? We are the small chickens." Inspired by her father, who grew up in the Philippines under the Japanese occupation during WWII, first-time novelist Holthe writes about the experience from a variety of civilian perspectives. Set in Manila during the final week of the Japanese-American battle for control of the islands, the novel centers on a small, mismatched group of families and neighbors who huddle in a cellar while Japanese occupiers terrorize and pillage above. Because food and water are scarce, some of the refugees must leave the shelter to forage for sustenance. In simple, strong language, Holthe conveys the terrifying experience of darting bullets and machetes above ground and the equally horrendous experience of waiting for loved ones to return. Grounded in Philippine myth and culture, the novel is filled with beautiful, allegorical stories told by the story's elders, who try to share wisdom and inspire their captive audience in the midst of gruesome violence. Primarily narrated by Alejandro; his older, headstrong sister, Isabelle; and Domingo, a guerrilla commander living a double life one with his family in the cellar, the other with his true love and adopted son in his rebel army this beautiful, harsh war story is no epic. Rather, Holthe presents personal, pointed fragments that clearly demonstrate history's cultural and personal fallout. (Jan.)Forecast: A promotional blitz an eight-city author tour, targeted marketing to Asian organizations, and radio and print advertising campaigns should alert readers who appreciate simple, moving storytelling to this powerful debut.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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While hiding, the family and neighbors share stories of their past lives, as lessons to others in the group. The stories add a huge measure of interest to the book.
The Japanese atrocities and guerrilla retributions are horrific, but the truth of those times needs to be widely known.
Dominic, in the end loses what he loved best, but does not regret his role as a guerrilla leader to free his country.
The book is exceptionally well written and deserves its win as a NY Times Best seller.
The storyline follows some Filipino neighbors who hide in a basement during the final days of the war, venturing out only to find food. These trips are dangerous and capture means torture or death, but still they venture out. There's a 12-year-old boy, his 17-year-old sister as well as a young man who has chosen to be a guerilla. We get to know each of them well, as well as their families and identify with their fear, hunger and courage. But Ms. Holthe has added a second element to the story. While they are trapped in that basement, and later when they are prisoners in Manila, the elders tell stories laced with magic realism, which not only keeps their minds off the war around them, but also introduces the reader to some of the history, myths and legends of the people. This structure added depth and texture as the life lessons they taught affected the hard choices made by the characters.
I loved the voice, the tone, the interweaving of past and present. And I loved learning about the Philippine culture. I could almost taste the food, smell the ripe foliage, feel the heat. I learned about the hard years of Spanish rule, the role of the church, and the poverty of the lower classes. There are lessons in everyday living. And some moving love stories. This book has everything. The author, however, has been criticized for getting distances between places confused and for misspelling Tagalog words. As an American, however, I was not aware of these small details. I was totally caught up in the story and found myself thinking about the characters long after I put the book down for the day. This is a simply wonderful book and I highly recommend it.
The story revolves around a diverse group of people hiding from the Japanese in the basement of a village home. Time is passed when members of the group tell the stories of their lives. Each story is unique and lends a different perspective on Philippine culture. I was impressed with the way the author was able to put so much material in a book without the book reading choppy. Lest you think this is just a book of folklore and life stories, it isn't. In between stories there is plenty of action for the residents of the basement with the search for food, Japanese brutality and the disagreements of many people stuffed in a small area. The book offers the varying viewpoints regarding the war of the different ethnic and socio-economic classes.