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Elefant by Martin Suter. Book review

May 27, 2018

Book Cover of Elefant. The words elegant are arranged vertically above an image of a small pink elephant

Down and out, Schoch, wakes up in his hideaway by the river to find a tiny, pink, glowing elephant “flapping its ears and lifting its trunk into an S-shape”. After initially thinking he is hungover he realises the tiny animal is really there and needs someone to take care of it.

Elefant is one of those stories where the science in it is not a completely outrageous leap of fiction and that one day a tiny, pink elephant might actually be possible. Put it this way I became so taken up in the story I was quite happy to go along with this line of reasoning. I certainly learned a great deal about elephants while reading it, particularly rearing baby elephants.

I adored the little elephant, Sabu, and became as attached to her as her human carers. She is the innocent who has the world thrust on her in a most brutal way.

Schoch appears to be someone for whom an active role in society is a thing of the past and an early death through alcoholism or hypothermia looks highly possible. But as he takes on the care of the elephant he begins to gather people around him for whom Sabu becomes the centre of their world.

But there are also the unscrupulous who wish to possess Sabu for less than ethical reasons, steering the story into something quite nail-biting as Sabu’s safety and wellbeing becomes an issue.

Elefant is no James Bond thriller, but it is just as big a rollercoaster ride of emotion and tension as Schoch and his allies attempt to outwit someone who is much better equipped than them when it comes to physical violence and subterfuge.

This is a story about greed, relationships, unconditional love, and redemption. It’s the kind of book that makes you think about your place on the planet and what you might be doing to it through your own actions. Yet it is done in a way which tells a very engaging story without preaching to you.

The ending is told well and rewards the reader for following the story through to its conclusion.

I read the English translation is by Jamie Bulloch, who has done a great job in retaining a sense of Suter’s descriptive, literary style and thriller-style pacing.

Elefant was courtesy of Fourth Estate, via NetGalley.


From → Book Review, Thriller

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