Danish writer, Peter HØeg is well known for his book, “Miss Smilla’s Sense of Snow” which has also been made to a critically acclaimed film. I have read the book twice and could not wait for his new book to release. “The Elephant Keeper’s Children” is nothing like Miss Smilla’s Sense of Snow and that is what I loved about the writer when it came to this book. The book has everything – drama, humour, mystery, faith, odd-ball characters and coming-of-age plot as well.
Peter and Tilte are two kids who are trying to track down their parents, who are going to be a part of a big criminal activity. The problem is that their parents are already two criminals. They are the pastor and the organist of the only church on the tiny island of FinØ (fictional but of course). Their parents are known to fabricate miracles through science and engineering (ironical, isn’t it?), however this time the mischief is of a far greater scale. Their parents are a part of a huge conference to be taking place in Copenhagen – of which scientists and religious leaders are both a part. This is where the kids will find their parents. I will not give away the rest of the plot, as the title also is quite misleading and wraps itself towards the end of the book.
Amidst all the action are the secondary characters – that make up for most of the book and its excitement. There is an angry bishop, a deranged headmaster, two love-struck police officers, a deluded aristocrat, and many more along the way.
The book is eccentric, and not only when it comes to naming characters such as Svend Sewerman to Alexander Flounderblood, but also where the plot is concerned. There are so many twists and turns in the book that keep you hanging and wanting more, and that is what worked with me the most about the book.
The voice of Peter on the other hand is the star of the book. It reminded me of, “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha”. Peter’s voice takes into account his perspective when he is growing up and adjusting to the world around him and at the same time trying to understand adults and their behaviour.
Peter HØeg’s writing has it all. This of course I say from experience, considering that I have read one book written by him. It is funny and dramatic in parts. The kids’ character sketches are drawn masterfully. The book is serene and moves at its own pace, evoking and pulling the reader inside. There is magical realism as well. So all in all, this book has everything in it. It is indeed magical to the core. I will recommend this book to one and all. A great place to start reading HØeg.