Elephant Moon sounded like a very intriguing story when I first read about it, but I had no idea how wonderful, & horrifying it would be. I adored this story even though it broke my heart & it’s definitely one of my favourite war stories.
Elephant Moon is an incredible story about a school teacher who moves heaven & earth to keep her students safe – when World War Two hits Burma, Grace Collins takes her 62 mixed-race students & sets off on a journey of a lifetime. But, when all hope is lost & Grace thinks they’re never going to get to safety, 53 elephants, a dog & their keepers arrive & well… I won’t ruin the book for you, but it’s an epic story & I really loved it.
Throughout my listen of this book I spent the whole time desperate for the story to be true – when the author’s note said that Grace & her students were a work of fiction I was devastated, but that didn’t take anything away from how much I loved the story. The area of the world that this story is based in is not one I know a lot about, & it’s also a part of the war that I don’t know anything about at all so, even though the characters were fiction, I was still able to learn a lot about how World War 2 affected India & it’s surrounding countries & I was very grateful for the lesson.
Grace’s character was a dream & even though she wasn’t real, I know there must have been people like her helping others during the war & that warms my heart. Grace fights so hard for everyone but herself during this book, & because of how the book ended, I don’t even know if she got a happy ending, which I’m crushed by. I also loved the students who played a strong part in the story & I really appreciated the type of children John Sweeney built into this story. Grace & her students meet a lot of people along their journey – one in particular made my blood boil & I wish I could’ve shot him myself, but almost everyone else acted in incredible & selfless ways, & so much of this book made me smile.
There are some horrific scenes in the book as well though; we get very deep into the head of a murdering rapist, which was a truly horrible experience & I know that a lot of people will struggle with this book because of those chapters. There’s also a lot of death, gun shooting & racism – which was also hard to stomach. The racism is very graphic, the N word is used more than once & sometimes I do think it (& the rape thoughts) went a bit too far – although I think I understand why John Sweeney went as far as he did. John was also brutal with which characters he killed off & there was one specific death that broke my heart.
Before I end this review, I must mention the elephants. They were wonderful. I love how much personality John Sweeney gave to the elephants & it felt like he did a lot of research into the behaviour & culture of elephants & their Oozies (carers), which meant a lot to me. The elephants brought a little bit of humour & lightheartedness to the story, & that made them very important. The elephants also brought hope. The elephants even took over the plot in some places too, & I really liked those moments.
Elephant Moon is an emotional read that I don’t think anyone could read without feeling something; I’d love to learn more about the true stories of elephants helping to save people during World War 2 so if you know any books – let me know! In the meantime, please get your hands on this story, because it’s wonderful.
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