Elephant on Karlův Bridge”

11 August 2023

The Elephant on Karlův Bridge
by Thomas Trofimuk
Published by Thistledown Press
Review by Toby A. Welch
$24.95 ISBN 9781771872331

Holy cannoli – what did I just finish devouring?!! This amazing fiction read will be on my Top Three Books of 2023 list. 

Considering how much I loved The Elephant on Karlův Bridge, I am horrified to admit that I was skeptical at first. The premise seemed ridiculous. The novel is narrated by a bridge in Prague – what the heck? The story centres around an elephant named Sál that escapes from the Prague Zoo, detailing the people she encounters as she navigates her freedom. How can that be entertaining? But I jumped in as I have been a huge Trofimuk fan since 2002 when I read the award-winning The 52nd Poem, his first published novel. 

My life changed the moment I cracked The Elephant on Karlův Bridge open. That sounds dramatic but it’s true. This book will linger long in my consciousness. Under Trofimuk’s expert hand, the five-ton elephant took on human characteristics. Crazy, I know! Another bonus is the joy of being submerged into the beautiful and alive city of Prague; if readers close their eyes and focus, they can feel like they are actually there. 

As enthralling as Sál and the bridge are, the humans we meet along the way are enchanting as well. They come from diverse backgrounds and their age range spans decades, leading to a varied group of people. All of them had fascinating stories to share but my personal favourite was Šárka. I’ve always been captivated by people whose lives have a singular focus; how they feel and what they do once that one mission is accomplished intrigues me. (Like an Olympic athlete or the lady in Zero Dark Thirty whose sole goal for years was to track down Osama Bin Laden.) Šárka was living that reality as the end of her career as a dancer loomed close. As we know, everyone has a story – The Elephant on Karlův Bridge drilled that home in the best possible way. 

Another perk of this book is that I learned a lot about elephants that I previously had no idea about. (For example, male elephants go through a period of sexual madness called musth.) I laughed out loud at one of Trofimuk’s acknowledgements: “No real elephants were harmed, or abused, or insulted in the making of this book. Elephants were, however, visited.”

If you are a history buff, make sure you read the End Notes at the back of the book after the acknowledgements. You’ll find some true explanations about some of the figures, places, and things mentioned in the story – they are worth the read.

Run – don’t walk – to pick up a copy of The Elephant on Karlův Bridge the next time you are looking for a book that you cannot put down. I promise you won’t regret it!


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