The Elephant of Belfast by S. Kirk Walsh
The story of a young woman in wartime Belfast going above and beyond in order to save a beloved elephant from destruction while trying to build a life for herself in trying circumstances.
Based on a true story this novel is a touching tale of dedication, soul-seeking and connection with nature. Hettie Quin is a young girl living in Belfast at the beginning of WWII. Abandoned by her father, suffering the loss of her older sister to death in childbirth and struggling through a distant relationship with her mother, she finds solace in taking a job at the Belfast Zoo.
When a young elephant is arrives at the docks, she makes it her purpose to become the attendant who will care for Violet, the new attraction. At first merely a part-time employee tasked with menial responsibilities, she persists in her ambition and is able to demonstrate her devotion to the zoo and to Violet. She is given the position of full-time keeper with the young pachyderm as her principal charge. A loving relationship grows between the young woman and the generally placid beast. It seems they have both found their places.
It’s a tale of relationships established, broken and rebuilt, and of hopes encouraged and disappointed. The author shows us how those in whom we place our trust can betray us, sometimes against their own wishes, but in whom we must still place our faith. A story full of heart with a large helping of courage all seasoned by kindness and consideration for others, the creatures of the wild no less than humans.
Written with straightforward economy, there are no florid flights of language or soaring depictions of landscape. The narrative contains a wealth of meaning and purpose. Simple, honest folk mostly doing the best they can to make the world a better place for themselves and others is the theme this reader took away, and plenty to suffice, in my opinion. It’s a relatively placid read with just enough danger and suspense to make it all interesting. High marks.