The Elephant Keepers’ Children by Peter Høeg
Danish author Peter Høeg rose to prominence with the release of his 1992 novel, Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, and has enjoyed an eclectic array of professions over the years – as a dancer, actor, sailor and mountaineer, a restless curiosity that is reflected in his writing style.
The Elephant Keepers Children explores the relationship between two evangelical parents who preside over a vicarage on the fictional island of Fino in Denmark, and their three children. Hans, the eldest of the siblings, is a dreamy sort, always falling love, Tilte is the strong-willed younger sister and 14 year old Peter the story’s inquisitive narrator.
When his parents go missing and are subsequently accused of bringing the Church in disrepute, Peter embarks on a mission to clear their names, in some ways coming to a better understanding of who they really are. The elephant of the title plays on the idea of the elephant in the room and Høeg explores this notion to great comic effect as the children traverse many outrageous obstacles in their search for the truth.
The novel is both wondrous and dreamlike in its depiction of the young siblings and a cast of colourful support characters brightens this tragi-comic tale. Whimsical storytelling at its best.
Michael Awosoga-Samuel is a bookseller and music specialist at Readings Carlton.