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The Elephant of Belfast

List Price: $27.00

ON SALE: April 6, 2021 | Hardcover | 336 pages | ISBN 9781640094000
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Inspired by true events, this vivid and moving story of a young woman zookeeper and the elephant she’s compelled to protect through the German blitz of Belfast during WWll speaks to not only the tragedy of the times, but also to the ongoing sectarian tensions that still exist in Northern Ireland today–perfect for readers of historical and literary fiction alike.

In October 1940, twenty-year-old zookeeper Hettie Quin meets Violet, a three-year-old elephant arriving at the Belfast docks from Ceylon. Soon, she becomes Violet’s dedicated zookeeper at the Bellevue Zoo. While she is mourning for the recent loss of her sister and the abandonment of her father, she finds contentment in her relationships with Violet and her fellow zookeepers.

Six months later, in April 1941, Belfast is attacked. One evening, over five hours, 674 bombs are dropped and almost a thousand civilians killed. During the bombings, Hettie Quin fights to save her elephant and survive the destruction and escalating sectarian unrest of the city.

Inspired by the life of Denise Austin, S. Kirk Walsh deftly renders the changing relationship between Hettie and her young charge, and their growing dependence on each other for survival and solace. The Elephant of Belfast is a complicated portrait of love, loss, grief, and resilience.

About S. Kirk Walsh

S. Kirk Walsh is a writer living in Austin, Texas. Her work has been widely published in The New York Times Book Review, Longreads, StoryQuarterly, and Electric Literature, among other publications. Over the years, she has been a resident at Ucross, Yaddo, Ragdale, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Walsh is the founder of Austin Bat Cave, a writing and tutoring center that provides free writing workshops for young writers throughout Austin.

Walsh delivers a turbulent portrait of life in a divided city . . . A unique perspective of a country at war and the lengths people will go for those they love. --Kirkus Reviews

Sensitively rendered and finely drawn, this remarkable story, based on true events, is both uplifting and heartbreaking. --Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and The Exiles

The Elephant of Belfast knocked me flat and picked me up, not just once but many times over the course of S. Kirk Walsh's deeply satisfying telling. There's so much life in these pages, life as well as death--we're in wartime Belfast, dear reader, and the Luftwaffe is dropping bombs--that I couldn't help but feel changed by the end, experienced. Only the best novels do that, and the very fine Elephant of Belfast belongs in that rank. --Ben Fountain author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

The Elephant of Belfast boasts not one but two dauntless heroines: Hettie, a young Irish zookeeper and Violet, a young Indian elephant. From their first meeting, Hettie is determined to protect Violet and as dangers mount, we cannot help cheering on her devotion and her resourcefulness. Walsh has written a novel of deep affection and knife-edge suspense. A brilliant debut. --Margot Livesey, author of The Boy in The Field

The Elephant of Belfast is a lovely book about a fascinating piece of history, and its two heroines--animal and human--are enthralling and beautifully drawn. S. Kirk Walsh writes wonderfully about heartbreak both personal and historic. --Elizabeth McCracken, author of Bowlaway

An elephant, a young zookeeper, the city of Belfast, bombings, and an IRA member are the improbable characters in this captivating and intimately felt novel that tells the story of a young woman's uncommon devotion and courage under fire. --Lily Tuck, author of Sisters and The Double Life of Liliane

A zoo in wartime Belfast and a young woman's fierce love for the elephant in her care come vividly to life in this beautiful, beguiling, and atmospheric debut novel. --Dominic Smith, author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

Cinematic in scope and brimming with emotion, The Elephant of Belfast imagines the life of a young woman zookeeper who, in the wake of family tragedy, develops a strong bond with an Asian elephant under her care. S. Kirk Walsh delivers a powerful depiction of the devastations of the Belfast Blitz, even as she poignantly renders her heroine's coming of age and sexual awakening. With a tender portrait of one woman's persistence at its heart, this is a soaring work of historical imagination. --Karen Olsson, author of The Weil Conjectures and All the Houses

In S. Kirk Walsh's hands, the city of Belfast, its zoo, and the creatures who resided there during the Belfast Blitz, come vividly and brilliantly alive. The Elephant of Belfast is impeccably researched and thrillingly suspenseful. I churned through the pages, anxious to know what became of Hettie Quin and Violet, the elephant in her charge: a heartbreaking animal heroine to rival Tarka the otter and the rabbits of Watership Down. --Louisa Hall, author of Trinity & Speak

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