I’m going to be real, I gave up on this book after dragging myself through 11 hours of the 14 hour long audiobook. My breaking point came when – shocker! – the millionth animal struggling to survive under Daphne’s care, or trying to survive in the wild after leaving her care, dies.
I love animals, and I want to love people’s heart-warming stories of living with animals. I like the idea of these stories. I like my own life, lived with two cats. I worked at the Humane Society and fell under the spell of fluffy unfortunates on the daily. But here’s the deal: I can’t get through these books. The quirky Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte, the kitschily titled book about the PTSD dude with a dog, this dame’s adventures interfering with wildlife after her people (she greatly regrets) fail to colonize Africa. I find these books sweet and mildly irritating and vaguely un-notable. I think Daphne’s descriptions and view of the jungle as enchanting and full of delight is beautifully expressed, and I’d love for her to write a fiction novel that focuses more on people and events in that sort of rare environment – I’d find that intriguing.
I also do find a bit of her cultural belief system the elephant (ha! obvious pun there) in the room. At one point she talks of how she fears a one vote per one person system for an independent Kenya, stating this would give Africans a majority vote over whites. The concept of someone publicly believing Africans should receive less of a vote than white settlers based on skin color is so offensive/racist it made me question if I should have purchased the book at all. On a more debatable thought level than every human being equal to one vote, her husband devotes himself to ending poaching in their area only to be confronted with ideas of overpopulation and arguments for culling. I wonder if this “we know best” attitude of cultural interference is healthy for anyone – the wildlife they have decided needs saving, the indigenous people whose ways of life they have decided to interfere with, etc.
Interestingly enough, when I posted my review of this book on Goodreads and read the other reviews I discovered another reviewer had taken these non-discussed issues, as well as his personal relationship with Daphne Sheldrick, and written a book called, aptly enough, The Elephants in the Room: An Excavation. It was written by Martin Rowe, is launching in September from Lantern Books, and I’m sure it will be an interesting read.
As a final note, this is another book I listened to on audio, and it was read by the author. This rarely works and always disappoints me. Daphne Sheldrick is now an older woman, telling the stories of a younger one. It was harder for me to get over the older voice – like I was being told a bedtime story of a yesteryear, the bygone days that I’m sure Sheldrick pines for. I think a younger narrator may have suited the story better.