Saturday, January 24, 2015

Elephant Company, February Book

Talk About Books meets at the Guilford Free Library every 3rd Wednesday of the month. On Wednesday, February 18 at 6:30, we will be discussing Elephant Company by Vicki Constantine Croke. This is "the inspiring story of an unlikely hero and the animals who helped him save lives in World War II. Copies are available at the library.

Our “unlikely hero” is Lt. Col. James Howard Williams, a dashing, athletic man with a deep attachment to animals of all kinds, and an uncanny ability to communicate with them. Shortly after Williams returned from World War I, a chance meeting and the mere mention of elephants were all it took for the animal lover to apply for a job as an elephant wallah with the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation.

On arriving at camp, he was shown a row of elephants and told, “Those four on the right are yours, and God help you if you can’t look after them.” Williams had no idea what that entailed, but his uncanny rapport with the elephants transformed him from a carefree young man into the charismatic war hero known as Elephant Bill. Impressed with their intelligence, courage, kindness, and humor, he believed that just living with the elephants made him a better man. He worked to cure their ills and he fought for their humane care.

This work of nonfiction is the result of Croke's detailed research.  Though rich in information, Sara Gruen (author of Water for Elephants) writes in the NY Times Sunday Book Review, "it is about far more than just the war, or even elephants. This is the story of friendship, loyalty and breathtaking bravery that transcends species." Part biography, part war epic, and part wildlife adventure, Elephant Company is an inspirational narrative that illuminates a little-known chapter in the annals of wartime heroism.

What more can I say? Come get a copy and join us on February 18th. Meantime, go to for a fascinating browse.

Leah Gessner

1 comment:

  1. Reading about this area, we hummed on the road to Mandalay "only to discover that they came from a poem by rudyard Kipling.