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I was just hoping for more about the actual elephants. Williams, the 'man' in the story was a pure hero. He lived a fascinating life and had a passion for the elephants. I think it was the storytelling itself that didn't fully engage me. Not bad, just not page-turning non-fic.

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View 1 comment. Feb 21, Alexa rated it did not like it Shelves: fab , summer This read, to me, as if Kipling had set out to write a biography. Individuals are allowed to make such statements of hyperbole, we excuse individuals their enthusiasm, but when a biographer states such things as fact, it is simply ridi This read, to me, as if Kipling had set out to write a biography.

And how do you quantify that? Which is kind of an impressive combination! It was so dry that even what should have been a harrowing tale of refugees was just a dull slog through a map. At one point he flags down a jeep, places two orphaned children into it, sends it off, and washes his hands of the whole thing, and yet this is presented as an act of brave selfless responsibility! In short, I hated it. Mar 05, Jenny Reading Envy rated it really liked it Shelves: read , location-burma , international-book-club , location-myanmar , around-the-world.


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This was the March selection for my in-person book club. I wasn't thrilled to read it based on the title and description, but both proved to be misleading. It chronicles Burmese jungle culture and how that conflicts with British colonialism, Jim's affinity with the elephants, This was the March selection for my in-person book club.

It chronicles Burmese jungle culture and how that conflicts with British colonialism, Jim's affinity with the elephants, how he meets his wife in the jungle, and provides more information about elephants than you ever probably thought you needed to know. I enjoyed reading it, and also came across the book written by Elephant Bill's wife, which I look forward to reading once it circulates through my book club!

Apr 13, Dick Reynolds rated it it was amazing. Looking for adventure and a change of scenery, he accepted a job with a British company in Burma known as Myanmar today that was harvesting teak from the jungles. Upon arrival, he was dispatched to an outlying camp and soon became intimately familiar with the native handlers called uzis and the elephants who were doing the serious work of hauling teak logs to dry creek beds where they would be washed downstream on arrival of the monsoon season.


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  • Williams soon picks up the native Burmese language to converse with his uzis and is also able to communicate well with his elephants, understanding all their sounds and movements. He gives them loving care and talks to them in Burmese, heals their wounds and massages their wrinkled hides. We learn many fascinating details about elephants and their physical makeup: how they can eat up to pounds of vegetation daily while foraging in the jungle at night, the location and function of various body parts, and how their intelligence allows them to accurately place logs while building a bridge.

    It all changes in when, at the age of 33, Williams meets a young British woman in one of the camps named Susan Rowland. Luckily for Williams, Susan loves the jungle and animals as much as he does and romance soon blossoms, followed by their marriage. In the late s, the coming war in Europe seems far removed from the Williams family but a real threat arrives when the Japanese invade Burma and bomb Rangoon on December 23, A map of wartime Burma is provided with extensive Notes and Index sections at the end.

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    Nov 22, Beth rated it it was amazing. I wish all the poachers could read this book NOW! I am aware that Billy Williams wrote five memoirs of his life with elephants in the 's. But now is the time that people need to realize how intelligent and empathetic these animals are and what a wonderful addition they are to our world. We are so lucky that William's son Treve, wife Susan and adopted daughter Lamorna have been caretakers of this elephant-lover's notes and photos of the life he was living in teak growing country in Burma now I wish all the poachers could read this book NOW!

    We are so lucky that William's son Treve, wife Susan and adopted daughter Lamorna have been caretakers of this elephant-lover's notes and photos of the life he was living in teak growing country in Burma now Myanmar. Also that author Vicki Croke has ferreted out added info and made the story so interesting and easy to read! This is non-fiction that reads like fiction. He was creative, daring, risking, caring, and the first elephant whisperer.

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    Other reviewers have detailed the story. Suffice it to say I now know a lot about elephants, teak logging, Burma elephant care, Colonialism, a large loveable elephant named Bandoola and a World War Ii trek of elephants up quickly incised steps into a mountain to reach India. Please read this book! Jul 13, Jessica Leight rated it it was ok. I'm surprised by the high reviews here and the positive critical reviews that this book received. I love elephants as well and did appreciate the interesting facts presented here about their unusual gifts - though it should be noted that this only amounts to a few pages - but I felt the other weaknesses of the book were much more salient.

    The author is oddly uncritical of both her subject and the broader colonial milieu in which he operates; in that respect, the book reminded me of Roald Dahl I'm surprised by the high reviews here and the positive critical reviews that this book received. The author is oddly uncritical of both her subject and the broader colonial milieu in which he operates; in that respect, the book reminded me of Roald Dahl in its vague glorification of British colonial personnel. She praises her subject so much, it's hard to feel that one actually learns anything about him, and she seems to make use of his family papers almost exclusively, rather than drawing on any other historical sources.

    The second half of the book, focusing on World War II, is even worse. Her description of action in Burma is vague and confusing, and I didn't feel there was enough evidence to support her assertions of the elephants' enormous contribution. It's an interesting story that merits a better narrative. Apr 15, Lisa rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , non-fiction , historical-stories , books-with-animals , 5-stars. I loved this book although I love books with animals and their relationships with people. This is an amazing real life story of an Englishman, Billy Williams, who went to Burma in the 's to work with elephants for a teak company.

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    By the time WWII came about he knew over elephants by name just by the sight of them. He then formed the first Elephant Company to make bridges and also save refugees by helping them flee Burma and into India. A truly fascinating man, life and story. Mar 19, Jean rated it it was amazing Shelves: history , world-war-1 , animal-stories , biography , world-war-ii , audio-book , non-fiction. This is a fascinating story.

    I can highly recommend this book. The special treat for me was the vast knowledge about the Indian Elephant that was provided. This is the story of J. Williams fought in WWI and like many men returning from the war he was restless. He ended up This is a fascinating story. He ended up spending his life work as a forest manager and responsible for the care of the company elephants.

    Williams developed a new method of training the elephants. He wrote a report to the head office showing it was costing more money to capture and break wild elephants than if they kept and trained the baby elephants born to the company elephants. He did not like the method used to train the wild elephants called Kheddaning which destroyed their spirit and left them with brutal scars that often got infected. Williams created a school which had the mother train the babies starting at age five. He also had twelve year old boys teamed up with the elephant to be trained as a Uris.

    The boy and elephant would spend the rest of their lives together working in the jungle. During WWII Williams and his elephants helped build bridges and created a path through virgin jungle as he led his elephants and refugees fleeing from the Japanese occupation to the safety of India. When he had his family safe in India, Williams returned to help the British Army fight the Japanese by building bridges and roads, at his peak he had over a elephants under his command.

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    I thought it was great that Williams met an English woman, Susan, in the jungle of Burma and she also had a special gift with animals, of course, they married and she lived and traveled with him in the jungle on his rounds as the forest manager. Williams had to learn the Burmese language not only to communicate with the workers but also with the elephants.

    The elephants apparently had quite an extensive list of Burmese words they knew. The book is well written. In spite of the title this book is really about the life and work of the elephant. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible.


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    I noted that the book was published by Recorded Books; they always put out a high quality book. It was so great to listen to the great Simon Prebble narrate the book. It has been some time since I have listen to him. Aug 27, Chrisl rated it it was amazing Shelves: s , india , ww2 , asia , animals. Cataloging CIP 1. Williams, James Howard 2.

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    Elephant Company Great Britain 4. Bandoola Elephant 5. Animals in logging--Burma--Historyth century 6. Asiatic elephants--Burma--Historyth century 7. Working elephants--Burma--Historyth century 8.

    Animals--War use--Historyth century 9. Burma--History--Japanese occupation, Dewey While reading this, I had urges to reread several books. Jul 26, Loretta rated it really liked it Shelves: audiobooks-owned , nonfiction , books-i-own , animal-nonfiction , , bees.