The Elephant of Belfast

A Novel

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.

Buy this Book on

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 06 Apr 2021 | Archive Date 06 Apr 2021

Talking about this book? Use #TheElephantofBelfast #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


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.
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...

Advance Praise

Kirkus, 1 of 10 Fiction Books to Look for This Year 


"Inspired by the true story of the 'elephant angel' of Belfast, Walsh's debut is a stirring tale of grief, loss, and survival against the chaotic backdrop of the war and the IRA's actions. The unique setting of Belfast during WWII makes this book stand out . . . Overall, fans of WWII fiction and historical fiction will enjoy this fresh take on the era." —Booklist


"Walsh fictionalizes in her charming debut a little-known true story from WWII, that of a female Irish zookeeper and a 3,000-pound young elephant. The year is 1940 when 20-year-old Hettie Quin, a part-time zookeeper, waits at the Belfast docks for the arrival of Bellevue Zoo’s latest attraction—a three-year-old elephant named Violet . . . Hettie’s devotion to Violet forms the emotional core of this novel, which does an excellent job of recreating daily life in Belfast during WWII. Hettie and Violet’s bond is one to treasure." —Publishers Weekly


“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 is a story of hope and survival against the odds, and the power of love to heal in the midst of heartbreak. S. Kirk Walsh has written an unforgettable portrait of war and endurance in a novel about courage, persistence, and the essence of what makes us human. Walsh’s tale unearths a world and moment in history that few of us know about and with her astonishing craftsmanship, takes readers deep into Belfast during World War II. This is a marvelous debut. Tender and compelling, you inhabit the world of Hettie and her relationship with Violet the elephant completely. This is historical fiction at its finest—as readers we are transported to the past, yet the themes are timeless. I was drawn in and moved by the lives of Walsh’s characters, which she has rendered with empathy and ingenuity. The ultimate triumph of unlikely love and friendship stayed with me long after I finished reading.” —Nina McConigley, author of Cowboys and East Indians, winner of the PEN Open Book Award 

"The Elephant of Belfast boasts not one but two dauntless heroines: Hetty, 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 Mercury: A Novel

"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     

"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 Half-Time Walk

“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

"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

Kirkus, 1 of 10 Fiction Books to Look for This Year 


"Inspired by the true story of the 'elephant angel' of Belfast, Walsh's debut is a stirring tale of grief, loss, and survival against the chaotic...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781640094000
PRICE $27.00 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (PDF)
Send to Kindle (PDF)
Download (PDF)

Average rating from 42 members

Featured Reviews

‘The Elephant of Belfast’ by S. Kirk Walsh to be published April 6, 2021, is a captivating and heartbreaking story based on a true account. Set in Belfast during the Blitz in April 1941, it’s the tale of a young female zookeeper’s courage and devotion to saving an Indian elephant in her care.

From the moment Violet, a 3-year-old and 3411-pound orphan arrives at the Harland and Wolfe Shipyards in Belfast, Hettie Quin is determined to become her caregiver. In an effort to cope with pain and loss, Hettie has asked for full-time work from her boss, Mr. Christie, at the Bellevue Zoo. Willing to take a chance on a female zookeeper after many of his male employees leave for war, Mr. Christie watches the growing dependence between Hettie and Violet as they rely on each other for survival and solace. One night in April 1941, 674 bombs are dropped on Belfast over a 5-hour period and Hettie is desperate to do whatever she can to save Violet.

This is more than just a story about a girl and an elephant. It’s about life in Belfast during the Blitz and a young girl’s coming of age, intertwined with a complicated story about love, loss, grief and resilience. As you’d expect from any story set in Belfast at this time, there’s IRA involvement showcasing the desire to unite Ireland. I was born in Belfast and loved reading about street names and places I know about, in addition to the Irish expressions I’d grown up using. This is a well-researched book based on the life of Denise Austin brought to remembrance and celebrated for the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Zoo.

Thanks to S. Kirk Walsh, Counterpoint Press and Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Was this review helpful?

For anyone who has a special connection with animals, this is a book for you.

Hettie is the only female zookeeper at the Belfast zoo in 1940. As Europe braces for war, the zoo prepares for the arrival of its newest animal, Violet, a three year old elephant. Hettie and Violet soon build a bond, one that joins them as family when Hettie loses her own family. When the bombs start falling, keeping Violet safe is all that matters to Hettie. In many ways they are able save each other.

As an animal person, I immediately identified with Hettie. Some people just have a better rapport with animals than they do people and there’s nothing like the unconditional love from an animal. This book is quite emotional and there were parts that I definitely teared up at but i also admire Hettie’s strength, bravery and compassion.

Thank you NetGalley and s Kirk Walsh for the arc. I loved everything about this Page turner.

Was this review helpful?

Inspired by true story of Denise Weston Austin. So called the “elephant angel.”

Belfast, N Ireland, 1940. An orphaned elephant leaves an island of Ceylon to make a new home at Bellevue Zoo. At the docks, Hettie Quin, zookeeper, meets a three-year-old elephant named Violet. Violet becomes Hattie’s favorite charge. They bond. Hattie cares for Violet. And Violet trusts Hettie. When bombs fall on Belfast and the city becomes an inferno, people rush to shelters and Hettie runs to the zoo where animals are scared and agitated. Hattie calms Violet.

What is special about this story is the warmness created from the very first pages between Hattie and Violet. But there is much more to the story. I’d say majority of the story is character development of Hettie, her family, friends and others. It makes the story very dynamic. And it is a very interesting story.

I warmed up to the main character right away. After losing her sister and the abandonment of her father, she finds solace in caring for the young elephant. She feels more comfortable with the animals than people. She works hard to be the first female zookeeper.

It was very interesting to get a glimpse at people’s minds. How some Irelanders viewed Nazi. They wanted to be rid of Brits for good from Northern Ireland, thus they’d welcome Germans with open arms. Also, the rationing of food affecting not only humans, but also the animals at the zoo. And how that further affected some decisions in handling the animals at the zoo.

When the city is bombed, you can see the massive destruction as buildings are turned to rubble. You can feel the helplessness, when trying to find someone who is missing. And the heart-wrenching effects on animals at the zoo. The rescue efforts of Violet kept me on edge.

Richly imagined and vividly presented. There is so much deepness and liveliness in descriptions. Thus, resulting in a very vibrant story with characters you deeply care for and prose you greatly enjoy.

P.S. This brief article gives an inspiration behind many stories and a movie:

Was this review helpful?

The Elephant of Belfast is a historical fiction novel, set in Northern Ireland and inspired by the life of Denise Austin. The book begins in October, 1940 where a young woman, Hettie, is working hard to be taken seriously as a full-time zookeeper at the Bellevue Zoo in Belfast, in a world where these positions were typically awarded to young men. She is tasked with caring for a young elephant, Violet, with whom she forms a special bond. Six months later, bombs fall on Belfast and the city is ravaged by war. Hattie fights to keep Violet safe while her own safety is threatened as her city is destroyed beyond recognition.

It was fascinating to read about life in Belfast during this period of time. We learn of political tensions with the IRA, as well as between Protestants and Catholics. Meanwhile, Hettie is trying to navigate her own world, as she has recently suffered the loss of her sister, and the absence of her father. There are several young men, whom she entertains romantic feelings for, and I found it difficult to predict which direction her affections were going to take her. I loved the vivid descriptions of the zoo and the animals. The lengths that Hettie and the zoo employees went to care for the animals during the bombings and the aftermath was heartbreaking.

This was a compelling story, and readers who love historical fiction will be drawn to this unique book about a courageous and resilient young woman and an Indian elephant.

Thank you to Netgalley and Counterpoint Press for an ARC copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

I received an ARC of this novel through Net Galley. The opinions expressed are my own.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel set during WWII in Belfast. The main character, Hettie, has experienced tremendous loss and chosen to throw herself into her work at the zoo, hoping to distract herself from her sister's death, her father's abandonment, and her mother's detachment.

When baby elephant Violet arrives, Hettie sees her opportunity to heal. As she and Violet form a bond, Hettie begins to heal. She finds friendship and love, right along with the pain that love can bring. Through it all, Violet is there, and the two thrive.

When the German blitz intensifies, the people of Belfast fear that the zoo animals will escape, leading to a scene so horrific that I was sobbing. But Hettie and Violet persevere.

Hettie's character is loosely based on Denise Austin, who saved a young elephant during the war by bringing it to her home each night before the bombing began.

In The Elephant of Belfast, S. Kirk Walsh has created a beautiful story of resilience and hope during a dark chapter of the past.

Was this review helpful?

The Elephant of Belfast is a debut novel for S Kirk Walsh based on true events in Belfast during the Second World War.
This story was touching to say the least. I found Hettie's love for animals truly moving, and her relationship with her elephant Violet is beautiful.
I tend to really enjoy novels when I know they are based on true events. I'm not sure why, but as soon as I know there's some truth in there, I am so much more interested. The harsh realities of WWII and the IRA in Belfast were so tragic to read about. I feel like I've learned a lot.
As much as I enjoy the story, there were some entire passages I had to skip over. I'm way too much of an animal lover to read anything sad about them, and some scenes were downright disturbing. I get why these scenes have to exist, but it was too much for me.

Was this review helpful?

The Elephant of Belfast by S. Kirk Walsh is an excellent WWII historical fiction that has it all: HF, narrative inspired by true events, wonderfully drawn-out characters, action, suspense, romance, and amazing human/animal bonds that will bring tears to any eye. Such an amazing read.

This book takes place in Belfast, Northern Ireland during WWII. The instability there was palpable despite the country’s attempts at trying to stay out of the crossfire. The external and internal conflicts taking over the region were well documented and weaved wonderfully within the book. It was fascinating to see how the country’s position and actions were during this war, as well as the overall citizens’ feelings on not only the war itself, but also their take on the Nazis and British forces as well. It really drew me in to see a different opinion on such matters.

The main character, Hettie Quin, is a wonderfully depicted young woman. As the first female zookeeper at Bellevue Zoo, she has responsibilities that are far beyond her young years. Despite the personal losses in regards to her family, she has such love, devotion, and care to give. The bond she forms with the young elephant, Violet, who becomes her charge at the zoo is stunning, instant, and immediately heartwarming. The selflessness that she exhibits in regards to Violet’s survival as well as other members of the zoo is so brave and fearless. The relationship that Violet and Hettie demonstrate will warm even the frostiest of hearts.

There were some difficult passages in regards to some of the difficult decisions and atrocities that occurred to the people of Belfast, the zoo, and the animals within were difficult and crushing to read. The heroes that emerged from within the rubble are inspirational.

I think the part I loved the most (other then the stunning bond between Hettie and Violet), is that the narrative is inspired by true events and people. This book has already encouraged me to find out even more about Denise Weston Austin. I love it when I enjoy a book but also find out that it is based on true people and events. That is what historical fiction should be.

5/5 stars

Thank you NetGalley and Counterpoint Press for this stunning arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR, Instagram, and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 4/6/21.

Was this review helpful?

Taking place in Northern Ireland, during the WWII bombings, young female zookeeper, Hettie, cares for a new elephant at the zoo, Violet. Hettie throws all of her attention and focus into caring for Violet, to distract herself from the loss she has recently experienced in her own life. She rescues Violet from a horrible fate, and feels as though she had been saved as well.

I enjoyed this book very much, I felt that it was a pretty quick read and it held alot of historical information I found fascinating in bringing this story to life. The characters were interesting, although I wish some were in the story more, like Eliza.

Thank you Netgalley and Counterpoint Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to NetGalley, Catapult, Counterpoint Press, and Soft Skull Press for this advance copy. My unbiased review is freely given.

The Elephant of Belfast tells of a scary time for Belfast during WWII. A young elephant, Violet, takes center stage with her young handler, Hettie, which is inspired by a true story which makes this quite special. The story of Hattie’s devotion to Violet, and her persistence and empathy to care for her and keep her safe is amazing. It’s a moving story intertwining life, love and loss from a perspective not often considered in the ravages of WWII.

This book has an emotional pull presented with a sensitive and tender touch. Some parts are disturbing and dark, but there’s no denying it was a dark time in history. The story is perfectly tuned into the overwhelming feeling of the time, and will give the reader much to think about after finishing. A remarkable debut effort.

Was this review helpful?

“And I say, how lucky I was. I was only buried alive a few hours, you know.”
— Eithne O’Connor, Belfast Blitz survivor

I was so moved by THE ELEPHANT OF BELFAST! What a thrilling narrative and a totally different twist on WWII novels of late. Young zookeeper Hettie takes charge of Violet’s care when the elephant arrives from Ceylon to the Belfast docks. Each needs the other, with Hettie already suffering family loss and Violet needing comfort far from home. As the war nears, precautions are taken by the city, but none are enough when the Nazis blitz Belfast and its zoo on Easter Tuesday 1941.

Nearly 675 bombs were unleashed, killing 1,000 residents and leaving half the city homeless. Oh my heart! As bombs fell, Hettie ran to the zoo to check on Violet. What she heard was an unnerving din of terrified creatures:

“The calls of the animals soared into a vortex of cries and screams while the Germans continued to bomb Belfast. All of it was breaking upon Hettie—the horror, the sadness, the loss—at once.”

A tale both heartbreaking and inspiring, THE ELEPHANT OF BELFAST is based on the true story of the “Elephant Angel,” Belfast’s zookeeper Denise Austin, who hid Sheila the pachyderm at her home during the bombing raids. What courage, what friendship, and what a stellar read!

5 of 5 Stars

Pub Date 06 Apr 2021
#TheElephantofBelfast #NetGalley

Thanks to the author, Counterpoint Press, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Oh, my heart! If you enjoy emotional historical fiction stories, this is the book for you! Full of interesting historical information tied together with the perfect fictional elements, I couldn't put this book down!

Thank you so very much to NetGalley and the publisher for this digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

I was lucky enough to win an electronic ARC of THE ELEPHANT OF BELFAST in a Shelf Awareness giveaway. Thank you for the opportunity! Stay safe!

Was this review helpful?

Books about zoos in war torn areas are sort of a niche subject but I love to read them, so I was super excited to see this one on Netgalley!

The Elephant of Belfast succeeds where others, like The Zookeeper's Wife and Father of Lions, fail and that is in demonstrating the love between keeper and animal. It's apparent that Hettie needs Violet just as much as Violet needs Hettie. Her compassion and fear and desperation bleeds from the pages of this book weaving a realistic and heartbreaking perspective of the effects of war.

This one stands out too in that I have never encountered a book about the Germans attacking Ireland, I didn't even realize that they had done so!

Was this review helpful?

A novel inspired by actual events. The novel differs quite a bit from the story of "our elephant angel" posted on the Belfast Zoo website, see or specifically
It both cases the elephant followed the only female zookeeper employed at the Belfast Zoo home in the evening. The elephant slept in the backyard during WWII bombings by the Nazis.

Over the years and with the current "work from home" lifestyle thanks to the covid virus, I've brought home my share of work ... but never an elephant!

The characters in the The Elephant of Belfast book were well developed. I really felt a deep connection with them that just grew as I read the book. I really fell in love with many/most of the characters. A really great book!

Thank you NetGalley, the publisher (Counterpoint Press) and the author/S. Kirk Walsh for the opportunity to read the advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Publication date is 06 April 2021.

Filing on best of 2021 bookshelf.

Was this review helpful?

Animals have a healing power for people that is unmistakable. There is nothing like being greeted by a pet who has anxiously awaited your arrival. Based upon the true story of Denise Weston Austin nicknamed the "elephant angel", this work of historical fiction describes an unbreakable bond between a female zookeeper and a three year old orphaned elephant from Ceylon during the time of the Belfast Blitz by the Luftwaffe during WWII.

"Within the mere space of a year, the size of [Hettie Quin's] family had dwindled from four to two". Her father had abandoned the family. Anna, her older sister married a political activist. Anna died in childbirth. Hettie's mother refused to visit her granddaughter, three month old Maeve, who lived in a Catholic neighborhood with Liam, Maeve's father. Hettie tried to distance herself from her mother's suffocating sadness. "Things hadn't always been this way...Despite the rationing, Hettie's mother had put considerable effort into making delicious stews and soups. Rose used to be the house was largely silent...".

Hettie, twenty years old, had secured a job as part-time zookeeper at the Bellevue Zoo. A three year old orphaned elephant named Violet arrived at the Belfast dock. Hettie was dispatched with other zookeepers to receive her. While walking with Violet, Hettie heard some bystanders engage in political debate. "Was England's difficulty Ireland's opportunity...[to] get rid of the Brits and unite Ireland?" Some thought so. Approaching the zoo, Hettie was informed that Violet would live alone, up to one year, to adjust to her new life. "[Hettie's] fictional conversations with young men always went better when she mentioned her responsibilities for and care of her animal charges...she would become known as the zookeeper at Bellevue...".

"...[Hettie] knew that she was enchanted by Violet just as much as she was frightened of her". Yet, she asked the head zookeeper to make her a full-time zookeeper and take care of Violet. When Violet's current zookeeper enlisted, Hettie got her wish. Violet, familiar with the sound of Hettie's voice, started to expect her visits and treats. Hettie seemed to prefer animals to people. Animals were happy to see her, grateful to be fed and given attention.

Would the Luftwaffe bomb Belfast? "Hettie couldn't stop herself from imagining what an aerial invasion of her city might look like...deafening explosions, spontaneous fires...lost lives". Her uncommon devotion to her charge, and their growing dependence upon each other, helped them weather the actual Luftwaffe bombings and the Ministry of Public Security's orders that dangerous animals be killed because they might escape during air raids. She was bound and determined to keep Violet calm during the air raids and protected from the Constabulary.

"The Elephant of Belfast" by S. Kirk Walsh is a historical novel depicting a special bond between an orphaned elephant and her young zookeeper during a time of sectarian unrest coupled with the German Blitz in April 1941. By writing in beautifully descriptive prose, this reader was able to visualize the difficult, painstaking attempts to unload Violet from the steamer and the challenging walk to the Bellevue Zoo. Descriptions of the Blitz and its repercussions were heartbreaking. This debut novel is an incredible, inspirational story of the power of love and resilience at a time of grief and the destruction and havoc created by war. Highly recommended.

Thank you Counterpoint Press and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

During WWII, Belfast was devastated by German bombers. This is the story of Hettie Quin who took her job as elephant handler so seriously that she took the pachyderm to her home in order to protect the animal. Based upon the real Denise Austin, the book details the woman’s attempts to save Violet, the elephant, from the bombings.

Hettie has recently lost her sister and her father had abandoned the family earlier, leaving her and her mother lonely and despondent. Hettie’s mother rarely gets out of bed and adds a further burden on Hettie. Getting the job as a zookeeper brings meaning to her life. But it’s the chance to take care of Violet that really gives her purpose. This is an Ireland that is beset by Protestant/Catholic antagonisms that create further unrest but Hettie just wants to keep Violet safe.

Though the facts of an elephant in the backyard of a Belfast home were known, the identity of the zookeeper was only recently discovered. Walsh has instilled a touching fictional scenario to the story of the real elephant keeper.

Was this review helpful?

Last night I finished reading The Elephant of Belfast by @skirkwalsh and what a great story! Although this book is a historical fiction novel, it was based on true events. Hettie is excited to finally become the first full time zookeeper of the Bellevue Zoo. When she is charged with being the caretaker of Violet, the zoo's newest elephant, the two quickly form an inseperable bond. However, as the war gets closer and the German bombs start falling around Belfast, can the two unexpected friends save each other? If you love animals and love historical fiction then this book is absolutely perfect for you! I loved getting to know all the zoo animals and the bond that Violet and Hettie shared. Although heartbreaking in parts, this book is a remarkable tale of how the best of friends can sometimes be found in the most unlikely of places. The Elephant of Belfast comes out on April 6th. Thanks @netgalley and Counterpoint Press for the advance copy!

Was this review helpful?

Inspired by the life of Denise Austin, this debut brings a fascinating piece of Belfast’s history to life. It’s the story of Violet, a young elephant and Hettie, a young zookeeper who came together and saved each other during the devastating bombings of Belfast in 1941. A story of courage, grief, loss, love and hope, Walsh weaves together a beguiling story that left me wanting more! Looking forward to what Walsh has up her sleeve next.

Was this review helpful?

Animal lovers and tender hearted readers should know that there are scenes in this admittedly based in fact novel that are extremely distressing. Set in Belfast in 1939-1940, it's the story of Hettie, a young zookeeper, and Violet, the small elephant she rescues from both German bombing and the local constabulary. Hettie's sister Anna died six months ago and her mother disappeared in her grief but Hettie has found hope in the Bellevue Zoo and in Violet,. The nicest parts are the interaction between Hettie and the elephant; less so are her interactions with Samuel and Liam. I don't know how to describe this without spoilers (I wasn't familiar with the story) but I do think readers should be prepared that not all of it is sweet. There's trauma, there's assault, there's grim scenes, and so on. I have nothing but admiration for Demise Austin. Thanks to netgalley for the ARC.

Was this review helpful?

Wow! What a beautiful, moving historical fiction! I am honestly getting so tired of WWII storylines, and I get SO excited where there is a wonderful new view to get me reinvigorated to read about the time period! THIS book is one of those stories!

Learning about how a woman hid an elephant to keep it safe during air raids was amazing. I loved the relationship between the two, and the emotion that was so beautifully conveyed through the pages!

I highly recommend it for historical fiction fans!

Was this review helpful?

This is a beautiful book. The connection between Hettie and Violet really made me invested in the storyline. This is one of my new favourite historical fictions. Thank you to the Author, Publihser, and NetGalley, for the e-ARC. I have recently re-read a library loaned copy and the final result is awesome. I look forward to purchasing the hard copy for my own personal collection. A beautifully display cover art too.

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: