An Elephant in My Kitchen by Françoise Malby-Anthony, Review

An Elephant in My Kitchen by Francoise Malby-Anthony is a very worthwhile read about the power of individuals to make a positive and lasting impact. Read my full review.

An Elephant in My Kitchen Francoise Malby-Anthony Katja WillemsenAn Elephant in My Kitchen Book Synopsis

What the Herd Taught Me About Love, Courage and Survival

Françoise Malby-Anthony never expected to find herself responsible for a herd of elephants with a troubled past. A chic Parisienne, her life changed forever when she fell in love with South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony. Together they founded a game reserve but after Lawrence’s death, Françoise faced the daunting responsibility of running Thula Thula without him. Poachers attacked their rhinos, their security team wouldn’t take orders from a woman and the authorities were threatening to cull their beloved elephant family. On top of that, the herd’s feisty new matriarch Frankie didn’t like her.

In this heart-warming and moving book, Françoise describes how she fought to protect the herd and to make her dream of building a wildlife rescue centre a reality. She found herself caring for a lost baby elephant who turned up at her house, and offering refuge to traumatized orphaned rhinos, and a hippo called Charlie who was scared of water. As she learned to trust herself, she discovered she’d had Frankie wrong all along . . .

Filled with extraordinary animals and the humans who dedicate their lives to saving them, An Elephant in My Kitchen by Françoise Malby-Anthony (with Katja Willemsen) is a captivating and gripping read.

(Pan Macmillan, 2018)

Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Drama, Action-Adventure

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An Elephant in My Kitchen is described as a sequel to the international bestseller The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony. In it Francoise Malby-Anthony recounts events covered in her husband’s books from her perspective (including their fateful meeting in Paris and her move to South Africa) along with her heartache and struggles to keep their conservation dreams alive since his passing in 2012.

In simple, conversational prose Francoise describes their reserve’s neverending battle to protect their animals from poachers. The war-like footing, equipment and sheer manpower involved, along with the trauma poachers inflict on the animals is confronting.

‘Rhinos,’ he said, ‘have a particularly plaintive cry which once heard, is never forgotten. The screams of agony from rhinos that have had their horns chopped off while still alive should reach into the hearts of all of us.’

But in this context, it makes the wins, especially Francoise’s dedicated team’s care for orphan baby rhinos, elephants and even a hippo, even more heartwarming. I also found the elephant family herd structure and observed behaviours fascinating.

We can learn so much from the sweet acceptance that animals of different species have for one another. Here were two animal orphans who had never seen anything like the other before, but it didn’t matter. They were delighted to be roommates and helped each other adjust to a scary and unfamiliar environment.

It would be hard not to find this personal quest to save these majestic species compelling. Francoise is candid in sharing her personal struggles with the responsibility, bureaucracy and politics involved, along with her views on the spiritual connection between humans and animals. However, there was scope to tighten-up the narrative structure and elevate the prose (particularly the transitions). I think doing so would have enhanced reader suspense and impact.

Francoise Malby-Anthony’s An Elephant in My Kitchen is a very worthwhile read about the power and passion of the many individuals involved and their positive and lasting impact.

BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 / 5 ; The Writing 3 / 5  — Overall 3.25

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Related Reads: Tales of an African Vet by Roy Aronson |  Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey  |  Dogs with Jobs by Laura Greaves

This review counts toward my participation in the Nonfiction Reader Challenge 2020.

About the Author, Francoise Malby-Anthony

Francoise Malby-Anthony is a French conservationist who, along with her late husband, Lawrence Anthony, known as ‘the elephant whisperer’, set up the Thula Thula Game Reserve in South Africa to care for troubled elephants in 1999. Following her husband’s death in 2012, Francoise took over as the Matriarch of Thula Thula, helping to care for the injured elephants, and working to create a rescue centre for orphaned rhinos, and expanded the famous elephant reserve to include a baby hippo. Her life and struggle to keep Thula Thula alive and thriving is detailed in her book, An Elephant in My Kitchen.