The Elephant of Belfast

S. Kirk Walsh. Counterpoint, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64009-400-0
Walsh fictionalizes in her charming debut a little-known true story from WWII, that of a female Irish zookeeper and a 3,000-pound young elephant. The year is 1940 when 20-year-old Hettie Quin, a part-time zookeeper, waits at the Belfast docks for the arrival of Bellevue Zoo’s latest attraction—a three-year-old elephant named Violet. It’s hardly love at first sight, as Violet nearly pulverizes Hettie. But Hettie, whose older sister, Anne, recently died during childbirth, sees something special in Violet and asks to be made the elephant’s full-time keeper. In a city gripped by fear of sectarian violence, Belfast is also the target of several German air raids. During one, Hettie rushes to the zoo to see if Violet has survived. She has, but the local constabulary orders the destruction of all dangerous animals. Hettie bravely defies them by running off with Violet and stashing her with an order of nuns, assisted by her brother-in-law, a member of the IRA. Hettie’s devotion to Violet forms the emotional core of this novel, which does an excellent job of recreating daily life in Belfast during WWII. Hettie and Violet’s bond is one to treasure. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/12/2021
Release date: 04/01/2021
Genre: Fiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-6650-3223-0
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