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.