"The Elephant Keepers’ Children” by Peter Hoeg. Translated from Danish by Martin Aitken. Other Press, 512 pages, $27.95.
On the island of Fino, Denmark, Peter, 14, has an older brother, Hans, and an older sister, Tilte. Their father is a vicar and their mother a musician in the church. Their parents are very devout. One day when Peter and Tilte are visiting Hans at school, they are taken into protective custody. Their parents have disappeared.
Their parents have been expecting a “Grand Synod” that would bring leaders of every religion to Copenhagen. The children are afraid that their parents are involved in a plot to steal religious artifacts.
The elephants are not physical elephants. They are “elephants” that some people have inside that they need to have keepers for.
This is multi-layered and at times humorous, but Hoeg writes a lot of digressions and philosophical musings. This is his sixth novel. His most famous was “Smilia’s Sense of Snow,” published in 1992.
“My Last Empress” by Da Chen, Crown, 288 pages, $25.
Samuel Pickens, a New England lawyer, is obsessed with Annabelle, who dies. He accepts a job overseas and becomes a tutor to a member of the Chinese court.
The butterfly spirit of Annabelle guides him. He becomes the Emperior’s right hand man and falls in love with the Empress Q.
This is an unusual novel of love and madness. Samuel is mentally disturbed. It is erotic and has some humor, but overall I didn’t like it.