Cover image for The elephant keepers' children
Title:
The elephant keepers' children
Author:
Høeg, Peter, 1957-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Elefantpassernes børn. English
Publication Information:
New York : Other Press, [2012]

©2012
Physical Description:
499 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Added Author:
ISBN:
9781590514900
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

From the author of Smilla's Sense of Snow , an epic novel about faith and the magic of everyday life.

Told from the precocious perspective of fourteen-year-old Peter, The Elephant Keepers' Children is about three siblings and how they deal with life alongside their eccentric parents. Peter's father is a vicar, his mother is an artisan, and both are equally and profoundly devout. The family lives on the (fictional) island of Finø, where people of all religious faiths coexist peacefully. Yet, nothing is at it seems. 
   When Peter's parents suddenly go missing, Peter and his siblings fear the worst--has their parents' relentless quest to boost church attendance finally put them in danger? Told with poignancy and humor, The Elephant Keepers' Children is a fascinating exploration of fundamentalism versus spiritual freedom, the vicissitudes of romantic and familial love, and the triumph of the human spirit.


Author Notes

Peter Hoeg, is a writer. He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1957.

Hoeg's first book, The History of Danish Dreams, was published in 1988. Another book, Smilla's Sense of Snow, received the Glass Key Award from the Crime Writers of Scandinavia in 1992. The book was made into a film in 1997 starring Julia Ormond, Gabriel Bryne, and Vanessa Redgrave.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Readers who expect another taut, chilling literary thriller by the author of Smilla's Sense of Snow are in for a surprise. A thriller of sorts this is, but it's more humorous than frightening, more of a caper than a mystery, and more of a coming-of-age story than a suspense yarn. Precocious 14-year-old Peter relates the mysterious events surrounding the disappearance of his parents in a shaggy dog tale full of digressions, adolescent humor, and philosophical musings. Peter's father is the vicar of the church on tiny Fino island, off the Danish coast; his mother is the church organist and a computer whiz advising the people who are planning a Grand Synod that will bring leaders of every religion, including the pope and the Dalai lama, to Copenhagen. Eccentric in the extreme, the parents have always been mysterious to their children, but when they go missing, Peter and his older siblings, Tilte and Hans, fear that they're involved in a plot to steal religious relics. The tone throughout is jauntily farcical, including characters Bodil Hippopotamus, Alexander Flounderblood, and Anaflabia Borderrud, whose nomenclature would make Dickens blush. The action is nonstop and zany. A corpse pops in and out of a wheelchair, a castle tunnel is oiled with soft soap, chases end in dead ends, and one dangerous confrontation follows another, all ending in general mayhem. Peter is an engaging narrator; irreverent, insistently confidential, he's prone to describing metaphysical states in which one can achieve spiritual peace. He calls his parents "elephant keepers" because "they want to know what God really is." It turns out that nearly all the characters are elephant keepers of one sort or another, in Peter's estimation. Under the madcap adventure story Hoeg poses serious issues about neglected children, venal church officials, and the paths to intellectual and spiritual freedom. (Oct. 23) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

This quirky, philosophical Danish tale concerns two children, 14-year-old Peter and his older and very mature sister, Tilte, who go on the run from the authorities and various other eccentric and fancifully named characters following their parents' mysterious disappearance. The parents work in their hometown church on a fictional island off the coast of Denmark, where miracles may have occurred during the father's sermons; lately, they have become involved with shady business dealings as well. Piecing together clues left behind, the children learn that a major religious conference is scheduled to take place in Copenhagen and that a theft of priceless religious artifacts may be in the works. Peter and Tilte have a precocious philosophical bent, evidently having spent countless hours researching mysticism and spiritual theology, notions of which are sprinkled liberally throughout young Peter's first-person narrative. -VERDICT This is an enjoyable and interesting novel, but the appeal may be limited, since it is densely written and requires an effort. Hoeg, the author of the brilliant Smilla's Sense of Snow, has adopted a comic voice, and one wonders at times how accurately the translation has preserved his original intentions. [See Prepub Alert, 6/15/12.]-Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

It's not like we have never seen my father cry before. When you're married to someone like my mother, who very often forgets everything around her, including her husband and her children and her dog, because she has become obsessed by the idea of making her own mechanical wristwatch and works twenty-four hours in one stretch to center the axles of the wheels while we children and our father go hungry--when you're married to a woman like that you will have need to weep on the shoulders of close friends at least once a fortnight, which Father almost certainly has done in the company of Bent Piglet or John the Savior.    But he has never done it at home. On such occasions as we have seen Father weep, it has always been in church and on account of him saying something especially beautiful that makes him cry because he is moved and grateful for the Lord having provided Finø with such a magnificent pastor as himself. Or else he cries at a funeral in sympathy with the bereaved, and one must reluctantly admit that Father's sympathy is almost as great as his satisfaction at putting it on display.    Though his complacency and sympathy both may be great, they have never been so great as what we now witness in the kitchen of our rectory home. What we see is something that has always been contained inside our father, but which only now is released, and to begin with we have no words for it. But Father leaves the kitchen and Mother goes after him, and Tilte and Hans and Basker and I remain behind and look at each other. We sit for a moment in silence, and then Tilte suddenly says: "They're elephant keepers. That's Mother's and Father's problem. They're elephant keepers without knowing." Excerpted from The Elephant Keepers' Children by Peter Hoeg All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.