Francoise Malby-Anthony’s memoir An Elephant in my Kitchen is bewitchingly captivating.
Her writing style is entrancing and whimsical, humorous and heart-wrenching.
With this, Malby-Anthony takes on the issue of poaching in a deeply personal way.
She narrates her story, beginning in the 1980s when she met her late husband Lawrence and later moved from her native Paris to KwaZulu Natal to be with him.
In a touching scene, readers are given a glimpse into her first encounter with wild-life, you can’t help but gasp and chuckle as she describes how the sight of giraffe and rhino both scared and amused her.
The couple went on to purchase a game-farm and transform it into a conservation sanctuary called Thula Thula.
Located in rural KZN, bordering tribal land, Thula Thula now forms a part of the community; stimulating the rural economy by creating jobs, and housing orphaned wildlife.
The story focuses on Thula Thula’s rescued elephants, amongst other rescues including rhino.
Through the mesmerising rise and fall of her story and challenges with poaching, Malby-Anthony is able to foreground the need to protect South Africa’s wildlife.
This is done through her exhilarating encounters with elephants such as Nanna, the matriarch of Thula Thula’s herd, and Thabo the rhino brought to them as a naughty toddler, but also through her restless need to protect the sanctuary she created with her husband after he passes on.
The story describes the intense and emotionally rewarding experience of being a conservationist.
It details the trials and tribulations of these selfless individuals who go out of their way to protect our wildlife, with little to no help and often without recognition for their service.
In the context of rising ecological concerns internationally this narrative is important.
Detaching from the high language sometimes used in discussions of environmental justice, An Elephant In My Kitchen fantastically fills the void for the average person, unpacking these often dense issues at a very basic level and in language that is understandable and clear.
An Elephant in my Kitchen is universal in as much as it sets an unfamiliar scene for its audience.
The experiences of the animals and people who call Thula Thula home are emotionally captivating, and the impact of environmental degradation is persistently palpable.
Malby-Anthony introduces us to a world in which danger is a constant present and the majestic will of the natural world forms the scene of a battle for life and for love.