As surprised as Adrian Rookwhistle is to learn that an uncle he’s met only once has left him £500 and an alcoholic named Rosy, he’s even more astonished to discover that Rosy is an elephant. Initially horrified, he swiftly comes to see in this odd bequest the chance to have the adventure he’s always dreamed of. So he sets out to walk with Rosy to the south coast and offload her onto the first circus he can find. Fortunately Rosy is a good-natured creature who adores Adrian almost as much as she does booze, but she has a lamentable tendency to terrify the wits out of horses. Whether they’re pulling hansom cabs or riding in the Monkspepper Hunt, the result of their meeting Rosy is invariably disastrous, and it soon becomes clear that escorting an elephant through the countryside is not a job for those of an anxious disposition - which Adrian is.
After fleeing the ruins of Lord Fenneltree’s party Adrian and Rosy hide out at the Unicorn and Harp with the Filigrees - Peregrine, who’s had as many past lives as he has hot dinners, and his efficient daughter Samantha, who takes a dim view of Adrian’s plan to sell what amounts to his only living relative. With the law on their heels they make for Isle of Scallop and embark on a short but spectacular (for all the wrong reasons) theatrical career which lands Adrian in court. Only a diminutive, cherry brandy-loving lawyer and a permanently confused judge stand between Adrian and the elephant - and the girl - he’s come to love.
I have to say I’ve always preferred my animals small and furry, but Rosy is simply adorable. Even when she’s leaving ballrooms and theatre stages in ruins you can’t help loving her. The destruction isn’t intentional - she’s just overenthusiastic in her love of performing and of people (and of picking people up and dancing with them ... which not everyone appreciates). And the human characters are just as endearingly odd as a drink-swilling pachyderm. Samantha is the only truly normal one among them; and I don’t think any words of mine could do them justice. I loved them all, especially Lady Fenneltree (who had “eyes like those of a particularly maladjusted python”) and the doddery old judge who kept getting sidetracked from the case into such thorny questions as whether elephants can slide on parquet. Answer: They can, and that is an image which will stay with for a considerable time.
The story is filled with memorable moments, and memorable characters. You know that wherever Rosy goes disaster will follow, but you still hope Adrian will change his mind and keep her. Certainly there’d be no shortage of adventure with her around! No lack of laughs, either - this is another of those books to avoid reading in public unless you want to make a spectacle of yourself howling with laughter. From the oddball names to the madcap antics, it’s pure comedic chaos from beginning to end.