Book Beginnings

Whistling for the Elephants by Sandi Toksvig, first published in1999 is my book group’s choice for July. It begins:

There are two basic types of creature in Nature’s kingdom. The first, like frogs and turtles, produce many offspring and simply hope that some will survive. The second, like elephants and people, produce one or two, at long intervals, and make great efforts to rear them. My mother belonged in a class of her own. She produced two at short intervals and made no effort to rear them whatsoever. Some people agonize over these things but I thank God. A hint more attention from my own family and things might never have turned out the way they did. (page 11)

This is Sandi Toksvig’s first novel and I haven’t read much more than the first few pages. I’m expecting it to be an amusing book, if not laugh-out-loud humour, from seeing Sandi Toksvig on programmes like QI. She is a Danish born comedian, broadcaster and author, who studied law, archaeology, and anthropology at Girton College, Cambridge, where she was a member of the Footlights at the same time as Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery, and Emma Thompson. As well as Whistling for the Elephants she has also written books for children and Flying Under Bridges, The Travels of Lady ‘Bulldog’Burton, and Gladys Reunited: A Personal American Journey (none of which I’ve read).

From the back cover I gleaned that Whistling for the Elephants is a novel about Dorothy, aged ten, living with her English parents in Sassapaneck, New York in 1968. She comes across a small faded zoo and gets to know an eccentric group of women and ‘begins to discover a world way beyond the one she has glimpsed so far.’

Book Beginnings is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages, where you can leave a link to your own post on the opening lines of a book you’re currently reading.

13 thoughts on “Book Beginnings

  1. Margaret – That sounds like a very interesting book beginning – thanks for sharing it. I like the wit in it quite a lot.


  2. Wow. I am already enthralled. Happy that her mother made no attempt at raising her. Hmmm, I wonder why?

    My book beginning is part of my book review for the wonderful historical novel: Between Shades of Gray.


  3. That beginning is quite insightful, and I never would have guessed that the author is a comedian.

    🙂 Thanks for participating in Book Beginnings!


  4. Hi Margaret,

    Despite the fact that I am not a great Sandi Toksvig fan, this looks like a great, easy read, fun story, perhaps with some deeper thoughts and emotions going on under the surface.

    The first few lines definitely had me intrigued enough to take a closer look, so I guess this will go down as a maybe on my list.

    It has received some good reviews and I look forward to reading your thoughts about it,


    1. I’m not a great Toksvig fan either, in fact I wouldn’t have bought this book if it wasn’t my book group’s choice. Some of the other members have finished reading it and most of them think it’s really funny and enjoyed it. I haven’t read much yet, so I’ll have to see. 🙂


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