Joy Adamson Gerald Durrell - Essay

Gerald Durrell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

There have been many books written by people who have hand-reared wild animals, and then kept them around the house in a state of semi-domestication. But, interesting though these accounts often are, one gets the feeling that there is something lacking. The animal is neither truly domestic nor is it truly wild. Therefore, any observations on its behavior become automatically suspect. The ideal is, of course, to live on intimate terms with a truly wild animal, so that one can observe its behavior without disturbing it in any way. Joy Adamson has achieved the nearest possible approach to this, and has produced a fascinating and remarkable book ["Born Free"]….

Mercifully resisting the impulse to give us just another account of the difficulties of keeping a full-grown lion around the house, Joy Adamson has concentrated instead on giving us a carefully observed and well written account of the animal's life, from the moment she was obtained as a cub a few days old, to the moment, four years later, when she was returned to the wild. It is a moving and incredible story…. (p. 28)

By far the most absorbing part of the book deals with the Adamson's efforts to return Elsa to the wilds; the difficulties of getting rid of a lion are, it appears, almost as great as keeping one…. This must surely be one of the most remarkable cases on record of human association with a wild animal.

Joy Adamson writes well, without excess sentimentality, and with a nice dry humor. (pp. 28-9)

One can only hope that this association continues to prosper, and that in the not too distant future Mrs. Adamson will give us a further account of Elsa as a mother. I am sure that it will be considerably more enjoyable than the average sequel we are treated to these days. (p. 29)

Gerald Durrell, "Living with a Lioness," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1960 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 22, 1960, pp. 28-9.