Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Modoc: The True Story.....

Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived, by Ralph Helfer, 1997 (325 pages)

I read this book while I was on vacation, and it actually took me the entire two and a half weeks to get through it. I don't think that had anything to do with the book...I just tend not to read much while I'm traveling. That being said, I read it for a new book club I'm hoping to start attending. The meeting about this book actually met last night, and I ended up not going. The friend who invited me wasn't going to be able to go, and honestly, a night just sitting at home sounded really good yesterday.

As you can see by the title, this book claims to be a true story. I'm not 100% convinced that it's entirely true, but it's definitely an amazing story if it is. (Anyone know if it's honestly a true story?) It is written by Ralph Helfer, who is an exotic animal trainer, and this is supposed to be the back story of an elephant he eventually acquired.

The book tells the story of Modoc, the elephant, and Bram Gunterstein. Bram's father was the elephant trainer for a circus in Germany, and Modoc and Bram were born on the same day. Because of this, Bram was literally raised around Modoc. When Bram was a teenager, the circus was sold to an American, and Bram stowed away on the ship that was taking the animals to the U.S. so that he could stay with Modoc. As the book progresses, the journey of Bram and Modoc is an amazing one. Together, they manage to survive shipwreck, thieves, murders, and civil war.

I did like this book, but it wasn't my favorite. I think I would've liked it better if I'd read it faster, instead of breaking it up into small sections like I did (and spread out over more than two weeks). I felt that the author didn't do a very good job of allowing the reader to get a sense of the time that was passing. For example, in one part of the book, Bram and Modoc are living in a village in India. It feels like they're only there a few weeks, but the author casually mentions at one point that they'd been there for over five years. The author has the same problem with Bram aging. For most of the book, Bram seemed to be portrayed as a teenager. Then there seems to be an abrupt shift in his personality, and it was then that I realized that he was probably decades older than I was picturing.

This would have been an interesting book to discuss with a book club, as I would be interested to hear what others thought of it. I'd also like to know if others had the same issues with the author's style that I did.
Number of books read in 2009: 27
Number of pages read in 2009: 9878

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