Monday, December 17, 2012

Fiction: The Elephant Keepers' Children by Peter Hoeg

Publisher: Other Press
Translator: Martin Aitken
Date: 2010 (trans. October 2012)
Format: hardback
Source: GoodReads First Look
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)
Pages: 500
Reading time: five days

From GoodReads: 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.

My review: I loved, loved, loved Hoeg's writing style. Quirky, ironic, hilarious - all the things that can combine to make an immensely enjoyable read. The plot was slow and meandering, but the writing made the pages fly by fast, still feeling fun. The characters were great, too, each one unique and interesting. It was difficult to predict what crazy plan or twist they would come up with next!

Though this was a fun read, I felt like the deeper ideas didn't come through. There's a lot about religion, especially mysticism, intertwined in this otherwise very mystery-like novel, but it seemed like the author only touched on the surface of the subject. The ideas on religious universality and skepticism at which he hinted were fascinating, yet Hoeg never completely delved into them. It was a rather unsatisfactory aspect of an otherwise extremely enjoyable and engrossing read.

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