Cover image for The white bone : a novel
Title:
The white bone : a novel
Author:
Gowdy, Barbara.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Metropolitan Books, 1999.

©1998
Physical Description:
xvi, 330 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780805060362
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

A thrilling journey into the minds of African elephants as they struggle to survive.

If, as many recent nonfiction bestsellers have revealed, animals possess emotions and awareness, they must also have stories. In The White Bone , a novel imagined entirely from the perspective of African elephants, Barbara Gowdy creates a world whole and separate that yet illuminates our own.

For years, young Mud and her family have roamed the high grasses, swamps, and deserts of the sub-Sahara. Now the earth is scorched by drought, and the mutilated bodies of family and friends lie scattered on the ground, shot down by ivory hunters. Nothing-not the once familiar terrain, or the age-old rhythms of life, or even memory itself-seems reliable anymore. Yet a slim prophecy of hope is passed on from water hole to water hole: the sacred white bone of legend will point the elephants toward the Safe Place. And so begins a quest through Africa's vast and perilous plains-until at last the survivors face a decisive trial of loyalty and courage.

In The White Bone, Barbara Gowdy performs a feat of imagination virtually unparalleled in modern fiction. Plunged into an alien landscape, we orient ourselves in elephant time, elephant space, elephant consciousness and begin to feel, as Gowdy puts it, "what it would be like to be that big and gentle, to be that imperiled, and to have that prodigious memory."


Author Notes

Barbara Gowdy was born in Windsor in 1950 but grew up in the Toronto suburb of Don Mills, after having moved there with her family in 1954. After graduating from high school in the late 1960s, she studied at York University and the Royal Conservatory of Music. In the early 1980s, Gowdy became an editor for the publisher Lester and Orpen Dennys. She has also taught creative writing at Ryerson and the University of Toronto and has worked as an interviewer for the TVOntario program, Imprint.

Gowdy has been a finalist for several prominent literary awards, including the Trillium Award for We So Seldom Look on Love and the Trillium Award, the Giller Prize, and the Governor General's Award for Mr. Sandman. The White Bone has also been nominated for the Giller Prize.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gowdy, the prodigiously talented Canadian author who caused a stir with Mister Sandman and We So Seldom Look on Love, writes with such immediacy and vigor that she can take a reader almost anywhere. In this novel, however, she has chosen to inhabit the minds of a series of elephants in African desert country, and despite her great skill and the colossal effort of imaginative empathy it must have entailed, her book is hard going. For a start, as in one of those vast generational sagas, there are endless family trees to sort out, and since the elephant families are whimsically named, always after the matriarchal leaders (the She-S's, the She-B's-And-B's, etc.), the relationships are difficult to come to grips with. The book is a series of quests, carried out against the fierce odds of a frightful drought and the occasional murderous intervention of ivory-seeking "hind-leggers." Little Mud, who has visions, is crippled and seeking her family; Date Bed, a "mind talker" shot in an ambush and given up for dead, is being sought by her family; all are seeking the Safe Place, a sort of elephant heaven that is located by throwing the iconic White Bone so that it points in the right direction. There is a great deal of interesting elephant lore, about the nature of their fabulous memory, their scenting and tracking skills, their eating, drinking and fornicating habits. Without being overly anthropomorphic, Gowdy manages to individualize a number of them as having human-scale emotions, even humor; and they have religious songs (lauding the She) that sound wonderfully like Victorian hymns. But despite her skillsÄperhaps even because of themÄthe reader is disappointed that so talented a writer could have exerted so much effort on so unpromising a subject. 50,000 first printing; BOMC selection; author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

The mysticism and majesty of the African elephant loses no honor in Gowdy's new novel. As Gowdy (Mister Sandman, LJ 4/1/97) tells of Mud, Tall-Time, and She-Swaggers and the trials their herd faces in their sub-Saharan home, she portrays an elephant culture replete with visionary matriarchs, where the elephants live with a deep, protective love for one another and a healthy respect for the life around them. The grasslands, swamps, and deserts have long been a safe home for the elephants, but years of drought and the deadly ivory trade have taken a devastating tollÄnine out of ten of the elephants are slaughtered for their tusks. The survivors disperse, struggling to make it from one water hole to the next and grasping at the prophetic hope of the "sacred white bone," which is supposed to direct them to safety. This masterfully crafted novel is highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/99; for another elephant novel, see Kim Echlin's Elephant Winter, reviewed p. 125.ÄEd.]ÄCarolyn Ellis Gonzalez, Univ. of Texas at San Antonio Libs. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.