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Publisher's Summary

This is a glittering adventure set in India at the height of the British Raj. The New York Times compared this book to Kipling's Kim and called it "a gorgeous entertainment". Of this early work, published when he was in his early twenties, Patrick O'Brian writes in a foreword: "In the writing of the book I learnt the rudiments of my calling: but more than that, it opened a well of joy that has not yet run dry."

The story is about a young mahout, or elephant handler, his childhood and life in India, and his relationship and adventures with elephants. As a boy, Hussein falls in love with a beautiful and elusive girl, Sashiya, and arranges for another of her suitors to be murdered with a fakir's curse. The dead man's relatives vow vengeance. Hussein escapes and his adventures begin: snake-charming, sword-fighting, spying, stealing a fortune, and returning triumphantly to claim his bride. All of this is set against an evocatively exotic India, full of bazaars, temples, and beautiful women, despite the fact that O'Brian had never been to the East when he wrote the story.

©1938 Patrick O'Brian; (P)2001 Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A gorgeous entertainment." (The New York Times)
"Readable and gripping." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Here fully thirty years before Master and Commander...is the unmistakable texture of O'Brian's fiction:...the immersion in another world, full of local color, the delight in a specialized vocabulary, the relish of male camaraderie, travel, treasure, and fighting." (The Evening Standard)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

Full of wonder!

The story is entertaining and filled with interesting facts and anecdotes about elephants and the mahouts who handle them. It perhaps foreshadows O'Brian's later writing, but the similarity ends there. It's a long, involved, whopping good tale. The wonder is that it was one of his earliest books, the first fiction published by the centuries old Oxford Press, and the fact that he never set foot in India before he wrote the book. Read it for the story, it's worth it. Read it also for a glimpse into the early development of the craft of a writer.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

a great yarn

This is a tale--in the true storyteller's tradition. It is full of adventure, coincidence,
fierce passion, strange and wonderful beasts,
narrow escapes and clever tricks.

The narration is what one always gets from John Lee, superb voicing and perfect diction.

This book is a lot of fun to listen to, and
reminiscent of an earlier time, when novels were meant to be sheer entertainment.

  • Overall

Delightful Story

This is a delightful story about a young boy growing up in India. When the story opens, he is just a child learning how to handle elephants. He soon falls in love with a beautiful young lady, and his passion for her sends him on a great adventure through India.

This is story telling at it's best and the narration is perfect. It will keep you engaged throughout and sometimes make you gasp. I am sure anyone would enjoy this tale.