At some point in our lives, we have all been either affected or intrigued by war. Schools talk about the history of war so children can become educated about the history of their countries, historians and politicians alike analyse past ones as a means to prevent future ones, and most importantly authors like Michael Morpurgo write about how wars affect individuals in a poignant, heartfelt mannerism. We can certainly say about this in regards to Elephant in the Garden.
Set in modern day, yet with Second World War Era intertwined, Elizabeth or also known as Lizzie is an elderly living in a home, yet to simply state her as a mere elderly would be doing her injustice. A charismatic lady Elizabeth tells about the physical and emotional hardships which both she and her family faced during WWII Germany. Much more than a simple re-telling of events, Elizabeth tells us about the magic which occurred during moments of despondency and despair, of romance encountered in a time and place in which love was dying between nation, about staying together when everyone and everything was falling apart in an emotional battlefield all thanks to an elephant which had been saved from being shot.
The mannerism in which Morpurgo managed to shift between both light and dark, allowed us to know more about the characters in a rich, excellent mannerism , allowing the reader to comprehend the conflicts the characters were ruthlessly thrown into. What was even more mesmerising (and simply beautiful) to perceive was that as the war progressed , so did the character’s develop along the way. When Elizabeth commences to unravel her past, we initially perceive an easily irritable, slightly oblivious girl who would only think about “bicycles and boys”, which would remonstrate a little too much about what was occurring around her despite withholding no solution (like your stereotypical teenager). As the time passes, and the war advances, Elizabeth gradually moulds into a young, purposeful woman who learns to deals with life’s situation rationally, and if required without emotion.
I can personally state this inner growth which characters experienced, made them all realistic for me, except for Karl (Elizabeth’s younger sibling). The fact that we know so much about him, experience the pain which he experiences, feel the jubilation he feels, but never get to meet him in modern day era, not even know whether he’s dead or alive makes him almost mystical. The closest we’ll ever get to meeting Karli, is through Karl the nurse which cares for Elizabeth’s son,which in my opinion adds an aura of mystery within the book, one which will never and was never meant to be solved by you and I.
This was an elegantly written, beautiful story which I would recommend for both young and old alike. Here Morpurgo has mastered a story which shifts between the past and the present, showing to us that peace between two different nations, between animals and humans, peace with yourself when conflicts arouse is more than possible.