Fabulous Fiction Firsts #41

Giraffe is the debut novel by Economist correspondent J.M.Ledgard that recounts the extermination of the world's largest captive herd of giraffes (49 of them) in a Czechoslovakian zoo in 1975.

The story spans the giraffes' capture in Africa to their deaths behind the Iron Curtain. We see them mainly through the eyes of three individuals whose lives were touched - a haemodynamicist (who studied blood flow in vertical creatures); a factory girl who visited them daily; and the sharpshooter ordered to bring them down one by one.

Ledgard unearthed the truth behind this little-known historic event while researching for the novel. The result is a "magnificent meditation on the quiet ways in which ordinary people become complicit in the crimes committed in their midst; … (and) a fairy tale about the power of other living creatures to enchant us into wakefulness”.

For wildlife enthusiasts, try also The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy. It’s a journey into the minds of African elephants as they struggle to survive years of drought and the deadly ivory trade.