June 06, 2014
Bad Elephant Far Stream by Samuel Hawley
Topsy was born Far Stream and at a very early age was captured and shipped across the seas to America where she was separated from what remaining family she had left and sold into the circus industry. Throughout her life she is passed around to different shows, either by selling or because the circus itself was sold and she encounters other elephants. Nothing remains constant in her life except the cruelty used to keep elephants in line when they don't behave and like most other elephants, Topsy grew tired of the constant abuse and started to turn "bad" and to what humans considered dangerous.
Topsy is a likable protagonist. You actually feel bad for her plight and the things she was forced to do. I'm sure more than a few people will be put off from the circus when they read this book even though it is hoped that more humane practices of animal care are followed today. Her connections to the other elephants were interesting, especially her sister Red Stream. And it shows that animals are capable of affection too, not just humans, and that they experience a range of emotions as well. The humans in this story I didn't really care for. Sure there were a few good ones, but that was just relative in terms of the bad ones. I found it hard to believe that there wasn't one person who didn't subscribe to treating the animals well no matter how they were behaving.
I've read other books about circus elephants and other books with the elephant as a protagonist, but never a book that combined the two. I think it was an interesting way to present the story. The pace flowed nicely and I found myself having a hard time putting down the book as I wanted to find out what would happen next. Topsy's story was just that engrossing. Since it is based on the real life Topsy there are a lot of true facts in this book as well, although the author admits that he borrowed from other elephant's stories to give Topsy a complete history. Which is why this is a fiction book, and not a history book. But it's still very informative on the subject.
This is a good book for animal lovers (although parts will make you sad) and very nicely written. I would definitely recommend this to people interesting in either the circus or elephants.
**This book was received as a Free Advanced Review Copy**
Bad Elephant Far Stream