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Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds

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There have been many accounts of the return to the wild of tame animals, but since its original publication in 1960, when The New York Times hailed it as a "fascinating and remarkable book," Born Free has stood alone in its power to move us. Joy Adamson's story of a lion cub in transition between the captivity in which she is raised and the fearsome wild to which she is ret There have been many accounts of the return to the wild of tame animals, but since its original publication in 1960, when The New York Times hailed it as a "fascinating and remarkable book," Born Free has stood alone in its power to move us. Joy Adamson's story of a lion cub in transition between the captivity in which she is raised and the fearsome wild to which she is returned captures the abilities of both humans and animals to cross the seemingly unbridgeable gap between their radically different worlds. Especially now, at a time when the sanctity of the wild and its inhabitants is increasingly threatened by human development and natural disaster, Adamson's remarkable tale is an idyll, and a model, to return to again and again. Illustrated with the same beautiful, evocative photographs that first enchanted the world forty years ago and updated with a new introduction by George Page, former host and executive editor of the PBS series Nature and author of Inside the Animal Mind, this anniversary edition introduces to a new generation one of the most heartwarming associations between man and animal.


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There have been many accounts of the return to the wild of tame animals, but since its original publication in 1960, when The New York Times hailed it as a "fascinating and remarkable book," Born Free has stood alone in its power to move us. Joy Adamson's story of a lion cub in transition between the captivity in which she is raised and the fearsome wild to which she is ret There have been many accounts of the return to the wild of tame animals, but since its original publication in 1960, when The New York Times hailed it as a "fascinating and remarkable book," Born Free has stood alone in its power to move us. Joy Adamson's story of a lion cub in transition between the captivity in which she is raised and the fearsome wild to which she is returned captures the abilities of both humans and animals to cross the seemingly unbridgeable gap between their radically different worlds. Especially now, at a time when the sanctity of the wild and its inhabitants is increasingly threatened by human development and natural disaster, Adamson's remarkable tale is an idyll, and a model, to return to again and again. Illustrated with the same beautiful, evocative photographs that first enchanted the world forty years ago and updated with a new introduction by George Page, former host and executive editor of the PBS series Nature and author of Inside the Animal Mind, this anniversary edition introduces to a new generation one of the most heartwarming associations between man and animal.

30 review for Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds

  1. 4 out of 5

    Shirley Revill

    I read this book ages ago and I really enjoyed reading it. I also loved the film where her love for animals came shining through. Truly exceptional story.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Summer Lane

    This is one of the best animal stories of all time. Why? Because it isn't just about a lion named Elsa, it is about a companion, a friend and a loving creature who shared in the lives of Joy and George Adamson when they lived in Kenya. Originally penned in 1960, it is the touching tale of how they raised an orphaned lion cub named Elsa and she grew to be their nearest and dearest friend - she was family. I have rarely read a book so heartwarming. Elsa was really very magical and unique, and afte This is one of the best animal stories of all time. Why? Because it isn't just about a lion named Elsa, it is about a companion, a friend and a loving creature who shared in the lives of Joy and George Adamson when they lived in Kenya. Originally penned in 1960, it is the touching tale of how they raised an orphaned lion cub named Elsa and she grew to be their nearest and dearest friend - she was family. I have rarely read a book so heartwarming. Elsa was really very magical and unique, and after reading this book, having a lion around suddenly begins to sound much more enjoyable than a dog. The movie, Born Free, is of course based on this book, and it is one of my favorite movies of all time. The book encloses a lot more detailed information about Elsa, her habits and her charismatic personality. How lucky we are to be able to read about Elsa and appreciate a little slice of the African animal population through the eyes of two people who sincerely loved and understood these creatures better than most people could ever hope to. Everybody should read this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jami

    While I loved Elsa's story and enjoyed most of the pictures in the book, this was not the heartwarming story I remember from my childhood. I love Elsa, but I really didn't like the Adamsons. It may be because I keep comparing them to Lawrence Anthony, another conservationist, and I find that Mr. Anthony seemed to have more respect for the animals' right to exist in their environment. I couldn't lose sight of the fact that Elsa was orphaned because he killed her mother thinking she was a male lio While I loved Elsa's story and enjoyed most of the pictures in the book, this was not the heartwarming story I remember from my childhood. I love Elsa, but I really didn't like the Adamsons. It may be because I keep comparing them to Lawrence Anthony, another conservationist, and I find that Mr. Anthony seemed to have more respect for the animals' right to exist in their environment. I couldn't lose sight of the fact that Elsa was orphaned because he killed her mother thinking she was a male lion, leaving the three cubs without a mother. I was confused at her reference to "beating" Elsa when she tracked a donkey, which was a purely natural instinct, and not three pages later, said that they never used force with her. In my opinion, a beating counts as force, but maybe that's just me. Finally, I can't help but think how cruel it was to Elsa to keep sneaking off and leaving her when she was sleeping. They keep reappearing and disappearing - I'm not sure that helped her adapt to the wild or simply increased her confusion about where she belonged. She didn't know why the people she loved kept abandoning her and then returning and then repeating the process. One thing I got a chuckle out of was when they returned to Elsa for a three day period several times, and when she got to know the signs they were preparing to leave, she turned her face away from them. My 16 yr old shih-tzu does the same thing when I leave for work! She'll give me kisses whenever I ask, as she is a kisser. But, when I'm off to work, she knows - when I go to kiss her, she whips her face away and refuses to kiss me. When I come home after work, well, that's a different story!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Moyer

    I saw the movie Born Free as a child and loved it. I probably read the book along the way too but as usual don't remember. The story of Elsa and the Adamsons is still an amazing one of love and devotion between a wild animal and her 'pride', George and Joy Adamson. The descriptions of where and how they lived is really interesting as it's a way of life not many will ever experience

  5. 4 out of 5

    Noran Miss Pumkin

    You saw the movie, you sang the song, you begged mother for the vinyl, and she bought you the book as a surprise. Elsa had all our hearts back then, and her was amazing and truly free in the end. It was the Feel Good story of the decade. so, I think it might be time to bring it back once again for the new generation. What better message to save the Earth?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    This is the book the film was based upon, the story of Elsa the lioness, hand raised by a Senior Game Warden and his wife, Joy Adamson, and later released into the wild. This would be rated five stars except that I really try to be stingy with those. The book didn't make me cry, laugh-out-loud or change my thinking, and Adamson, while she writes well and fluently, doesn't have the impressive, lyrical prose of Beryl Markham and Isak Dinesen, two other European women who wrote celebrated memoirs a This is the book the film was based upon, the story of Elsa the lioness, hand raised by a Senior Game Warden and his wife, Joy Adamson, and later released into the wild. This would be rated five stars except that I really try to be stingy with those. The book didn't make me cry, laugh-out-loud or change my thinking, and Adamson, while she writes well and fluently, doesn't have the impressive, lyrical prose of Beryl Markham and Isak Dinesen, two other European women who wrote celebrated memoirs about their time in Kenya. But what this book does offer is what a friend of mine called a "lost art:" The ability to write about an animal without treacly sentimentality but rather with sharp and insightful observations that make their personality evident (and in this case lovable) without a narcissistic focus on the writer and without an evident heavy-handed political agenda. Not that it hasn't had such a political effect. A Foreword by George Page quoting Faith McNulty claimed Born Free "may have done for the cause of wildlife what Uncle Tom's Cabin did for the antislavery crusade." Not only did the book gain support for the protection of habitat and endangered animals, but the Adamsons helped pioneer the technique of reintroducing animals raised in captivity back into the wild. Not that Elsa could ever be called a captive lion. That's what made her happy ending possible. She was never confined, never treated with brutality in an attempt to dominate. Even after successfully released into the wild, when the Adamsons came to visit her she'd recognize and greet them with affection. As Joy Adamson put it, their relationship continued "to be one of absolute equality quite different from that between a dog and his master." This is a short book you can read in a few hours and filled with a multitude of photographs of Elsa. It was a pleasure to read and I highly recommend it--especially for lovers of animals and nature.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Reindert Van Zwaal

    The story was remarkable and I really enjoyed the bonding between a newly born lion and humans. However, the storytelling wasn't that good. It was merely a enumeration of events instead of a tale that is being told. I planned to read all three installments, but I will leave it at the first one, for I cannot get myself up to reading two more books of enumerations.

  8. 4 out of 5

    LibraryCin

    I love animals, and it would be a dream come true to bond with a wild animal like Joy and her husband George did. It was an easy read, and there were lots of wonderful photos. What a fabulous lion Elsa was - she learned to live with other wild lions, but at the same time, she was gentle and always careful around her human caretakers, who she seemed to love just as much as they loved her.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carlissa

    I read this when I was a child and remember loving it. Would love to read it again someday.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    This is the inspiration, true story Elsa, a lioness, who is raised by the author Joy Adamson, and her husband George. When George must go on safari after a man-eating lion, his hunting party is attacked by a vicious lioness. She is shot in self-defense, but they realize later with remorse that she had been trying to protect her young, three cubs who George brings back to camp. Though Elsa’s sisters are sent to a zoo when they are still cubs, Elsa remains in Kenya with the intent of joining her s This is the inspiration, true story Elsa, a lioness, who is raised by the author Joy Adamson, and her husband George. When George must go on safari after a man-eating lion, his hunting party is attacked by a vicious lioness. She is shot in self-defense, but they realize later with remorse that she had been trying to protect her young, three cubs who George brings back to camp. Though Elsa’s sisters are sent to a zoo when they are still cubs, Elsa remains in Kenya with the intent of joining her sisters later. When she is nearly a full grown lioness, George & Joy no longer have the heart to place Elsa in captivity; not when she has grown up in her native environment. They begin the painful process of reintroducing her to the wild. Can a domesticated lioness survive in the wild? Will she still be accepted by her own kind? Read and find out. ;) This book is filled with rather adorable photographs. It is written from the point of view of a crazy cat lady/cat lover who truly loves her kitty.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kiara

    I'll start with what I liked about this book: the pictures. Now, I don't know what you're looking for in a book. But to warn you, this book is mildly racist, scatterbrained, and boring at some parts. One paragraph she'll be telling this one story and then she'll get off track and tell a different story without summing up the first one or giving the second relevance or importance. Some areas I zoomed through reading and others I practically fell asleep at. I thought it would be interesting because I'll start with what I liked about this book: the pictures. Now, I don't know what you're looking for in a book. But to warn you, this book is mildly racist, scatterbrained, and boring at some parts. One paragraph she'll be telling this one story and then she'll get off track and tell a different story without summing up the first one or giving the second relevance or importance. Some areas I zoomed through reading and others I practically fell asleep at. I thought it would be interesting because it was about a lion... I guess lions can be boring, too. My last issue with this book is when she beat Elsa for mauling the donkey and when she would say she "didn't like to kill animals." Whenever she said she didn't like killing animals, she would follow it up with some story of why they 'had' to kill an animal. Her husband would randomly kill animals and she would talk about how it was 'necessary.'

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty Noah-whitlock

    Bit of a hard one to review. I love Elsas story but not entirely agreeable with Joy and George, just because of some of the animals they killed for no reason to be honest. At times I felt like giving up on the book for this reason but I'm going to continue the trilogy and try reading Living Free to see how Elsas journey continues. I may even get a liking for Joy and Else you never know, watch this space xx

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amalie

    Before this Elsa: AND That adorable Kiara: There was THIS Elsa. An orphaned lion cub, the weakest of the litter that grew up into a beautiful lioness named Elsa, who got involved in many adventures with her foster parents. Oh, my goodness, how did I forget this one!!!

  14. 4 out of 5

    L.K. Simonds

    Long before Hemingway, Dinesen, and Markham shared their Africa with me, I knew Elsa's Africa. This was a memoir I read in my youth, perhaps the first, and it remains with me to this day. Joy Adamson's story of returning an orphaned lion who had been raised as a pet to the wild is heartbreaking, heartwarming, and hopeful. It's also a peek at East Africa in the 1950s. All around, a good and emotional read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Macall

    3.5? I did love learning so much about the african wilderness and these Lions. I struggled with the mentality that the Adamsons had. Pretty ok to just shoot any wildlife if it was in there way... but I try to understand maybe that was just more the times then... Anyway, pretty good read, pretty good story...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chloe Playle

    I read this when I was young, and made me cry my eyes out. I still think of this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robin Reynolds / October Woman

    The author’s husband, in his duties as a game warden, was forced to shoot a lioness as she attacked. He then found her three young cubs (and felt great remorse at having killed their mother) and took them home. Two of the cubs were eventually sent to a zoo, but the smallest, Elsa, stayed on as a member of the household. The bond between Elsa and the Adamsons is incredible. While raising Elsa as a pet, they rarely kept her penned up or chained and gave her a lot of freedom to still act like a lio The author’s husband, in his duties as a game warden, was forced to shoot a lioness as she attacked. He then found her three young cubs (and felt great remorse at having killed their mother) and took them home. Two of the cubs were eventually sent to a zoo, but the smallest, Elsa, stayed on as a member of the household. The bond between Elsa and the Adamsons is incredible. While raising Elsa as a pet, they rarely kept her penned up or chained and gave her a lot of freedom to still act like a lion. She was very loving and affectionate to them, and to other people who came into contact with her. You can almost feel the love that Joy and Elsa shared, and Elsa’s personality comes through very clearly. The descriptions of her playful antics are amusing, and it’s an interesting peek also at life in the bush. When the time inevitably came, Joy and George made the hard decision to release Elsa into the wild. After finding a suitable location, they spent a lot of time teaching Elsa to hunt for herself. They would make camp, spend time with Elsa, and then leave her on her own for a day, then a couple of days, then a week at a time. She was always happy to see them on their return, while at the same time growing more and more self-sufficient. Even after being in the wild on her own for several months, Elsa would still get very excited when George and Joy visited her, showing them much affection and wanting to play with them. But she also grew more independent, and began to show signs of wanting them to leave her alone, and her transition from family pet to wild lioness was successful. A heartwarming and well written story, with lots of pictures (in my edition of the book anyway), and now I want to watch the movie again.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lesle

    A story of Elsa a lion cub raised and loved by Joy and George. A telling of the hardship for both Elsa and her human family. It seemed at times to be unattainable and a failure. The life for Elsa was torn between that of being a pet or living a free life in the wild as she was meant to have. The steps in her life are told in many fun and hard adventures. Elsa finally is her own lioness but she never forgets her human family. Elsa's story started the wild animal rights to live wild and free and e A story of Elsa a lion cub raised and loved by Joy and George. A telling of the hardship for both Elsa and her human family. It seemed at times to be unattainable and a failure. The life for Elsa was torn between that of being a pet or living a free life in the wild as she was meant to have. The steps in her life are told in many fun and hard adventures. Elsa finally is her own lioness but she never forgets her human family. Elsa's story started the wild animal rights to live wild and free and ends in a very real legacy left by both Elsa and the Adamson's. Adamson's writing flows like a conversation between friends. The adventures with Elsa touch you in a very special way that true stories usually do. I had moments of laughter and smiles as well as tears. Side note: This was not their first and only encounter with lions. George brought the lion and Africa back into the life of Christian A Lion Called Christian: The True Story of the Remarkable Bond Between Two Friends and a Lion born in a pen and displayed at Harrod's until two men rescued Christian as a cub, kept him till he was too big and finally also returned him to live the life of freedom with the help of George Adamson's capable hands.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Iskreads

    Born Free By Joy Adamson Review by Graham W Born Free is an amazing story, that is also true and is unlikely to happen to just anyone. One of the people lucky enough to experience this was Joy Adamson, the author of the book. Just being in a Safari car on a bumpy road is all worth it, even in tall grass never knowing what is coming around the corner. But as long as the truck is moving you can never take even a half decent picture, and when searching for lions, its just part of the adventure. But Jo Born Free By Joy Adamson Review by Graham W Born Free is an amazing story, that is also true and is unlikely to happen to just anyone. One of the people lucky enough to experience this was Joy Adamson, the author of the book. Just being in a Safari car on a bumpy road is all worth it, even in tall grass never knowing what is coming around the corner. But as long as the truck is moving you can never take even a half decent picture, and when searching for lions, its just part of the adventure. But Joy Adamson never had to do that she could almost always walk out onto her porch and let her pet lion Elsa suck her thumb. This incredible story is of a lioness that starts with the very beginning of its life. I have lived in Africa for about 3 years and have never heard anything like it until reading this awe-inspiring book. Although she originally had three lions she gave the bigger two out into a zoo in London after they were old enough to care for themselves. The smaller one, Elsa, was too reliant on people for food so they kept her. When she was around two years old, they tried to release her gradually but failed. Could they do it and release her with ease? Read “Born Free” to find out. Graham W.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    I cannot remember how many times I reread this book; it was many. I also enjoyed Living Free and Forever Free although not quite as much, but it would have been impossible for me to not read those sequels as I would have been painfully curious about how the story continues. I’ve cried a lot each time I’ve read it because the book is so emotionally moving. The story of Elsa the lioness and her humans and Kenya was completely engrossing. I read it first when I was about 12 and it got me interested I cannot remember how many times I reread this book; it was many. I also enjoyed Living Free and Forever Free although not quite as much, but it would have been impossible for me to not read those sequels as I would have been painfully curious about how the story continues. I’ve cried a lot each time I’ve read it because the book is so emotionally moving. The story of Elsa the lioness and her humans and Kenya was completely engrossing. I read it first when I was about 12 and it got me interested in Africa and conservation. And lions. Adamson does a terrific job of telling a very personal story and also educating about the bigger picture. A captivating read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    g-na

    This is the 40th anniversary edition of this classic book, and it contains a new forward. I remember seeing this movie as a child, and it had a very sad ending that made me cry. This book, however, did not end on a sad note; now I think the movie may have included part of the storyline from the book's sequels. Born Free is a cute, bittersweet story of a couple in Kenya and their lioness, raised from a cub and successfully returned to the wild. It took place in the late 50s and retains a tiny bit This is the 40th anniversary edition of this classic book, and it contains a new forward. I remember seeing this movie as a child, and it had a very sad ending that made me cry. This book, however, did not end on a sad note; now I think the movie may have included part of the storyline from the book's sequels. Born Free is a cute, bittersweet story of a couple in Kenya and their lioness, raised from a cub and successfully returned to the wild. It took place in the late 50s and retains a tiny bit of the cultural attitude that was prevalent at the time. Nevertheless it is highly recommended for anyone who likes animals.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    This was a nice read. I enjoyed the story and the pictures of Elsa. The author starts the book off when she and her husband first find the lion cubs. She talks about their playfulness, shyness, and intelligence. I thought it was amazing how intelligent Elsa was. In many ways she was smarter than the typical canine. Elsa must learn how to hunt and survive on her own with only her human parents to teach her. There were many skills that she picked up from instinct alone. Again great book! This is w This was a nice read. I enjoyed the story and the pictures of Elsa. The author starts the book off when she and her husband first find the lion cubs. She talks about their playfulness, shyness, and intelligence. I thought it was amazing how intelligent Elsa was. In many ways she was smarter than the typical canine. Elsa must learn how to hunt and survive on her own with only her human parents to teach her. There were many skills that she picked up from instinct alone. Again great book! This is what "Born Free" the movie is based on.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    The mastercheese for lion lovers. Grab the hankies. Freedom! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53KwUm...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    This may be the most moving and inspiring "animal story" I've ever read. Evocative and compelling, Born Free is the remarkable true story of Elsa, an orphaned lion cub raised by Joy Adamson and her husband, George. At its core, Born Free is a love story. With great sensitivity and precision, Adamson chronicles the mutual affection and bond between a magnificent lioness and the humans who loved her enough to release her to the Kenyan wilds where she was free born. Joy Adamson wrote three books abo This may be the most moving and inspiring "animal story" I've ever read. Evocative and compelling, Born Free is the remarkable true story of Elsa, an orphaned lion cub raised by Joy Adamson and her husband, George. At its core, Born Free is a love story. With great sensitivity and precision, Adamson chronicles the mutual affection and bond between a magnificent lioness and the humans who loved her enough to release her to the Kenyan wilds where she was free born. Joy Adamson wrote three books about African lions: Born Free, Living Free, and Forever Free. I read them all. Born Free is my favorite. I first read Born Free in 1969, nine years after it was first published. I was in the fifth grade. Entranced, I read it over and over. There’s something timeless and transcendent about the story that’s difficult to put into words. Lavishly illustrated with black and white photographs, Elsa’s story is still an unforgettable one. So is Adamson’s prodigious writing talent. Her breezy, bucolic style recalls another formidable literary talent who writes so evocatively about her life in Kenya: Isak Dinesen. Like Dinesen, Adamson’s descriptions of her life as the wife of a senior game warden in East Africa have a luminous quality that is almost melodic. Delighted to locate a copy of Born Free at the library recently, I read it cover to cover in one sitting. Here’s a key line, from page 109: “Her (Elsa’s) good-natured temperament was certainly due in part to her character, but part too may have come from the fact that neither force nor frustration was ever used to adapt her to our way of life. For we tried by kindness alone to help her to overcome the differences that lie between our two worlds.” The Adamsons and Elsa succeed beyond all expectations. Re-reading the last chapter, The Final Test, the same intense sense of sadness and loss these pages evoked kin me five decades ago bubbled up again from some deep internal well. It was as if Elsa and her human pride had never left, patiently waiting 50 years for my return to their story. Recording Elsa’s success in finding her own wild pride and mate, Adamson writes, “We returned to camp alone, and very sad. Should we leave her now, and so close a very important chapter of our lives?” The Adamsons decide to wait “a few more days” to make sure Elsa has been accepted by the pride. In the final elegiac paragraph, Adamson returns to her “studio” by the river to continue writing the story of Elsa, “who had been with us until this morning.” Sad to be alone, the author writes that she tries to make herself happy “by imagining that at this very moment Elsa was rubbing her soft skin against another lion’s skin and resting with him in the shade, as she had often rested here with me.” I cried. Again. And that, friends, is the mark of a true classic.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Izzy

    This story was super fascinating, as I had never before heard of Elsa and the incredible relationship she had with humans, while remaining/becoming an ultimately free African lion. It's definitely a testimony thats speaks to the relationships that humans and animals can form, and acts against the common belief that humans are the only species that feel emotions or seek out connections. -- My qualm with the novel however, is the racism that clearly permeates the beliefs/words of the author. She of This story was super fascinating, as I had never before heard of Elsa and the incredible relationship she had with humans, while remaining/becoming an ultimately free African lion. It's definitely a testimony thats speaks to the relationships that humans and animals can form, and acts against the common belief that humans are the only species that feel emotions or seek out connections. -- My qualm with the novel however, is the racism that clearly permeates the beliefs/words of the author. She often speaks of how Elsa felt comfortable with "Europeans" but distrusted the Africans she met. The author presents this belief she sees in Elsa's behavior based on the skin of a person as if its just the way it is but I believe it's more likely this belief could be attributed to the's author distrusting Africans on the basis of skin color and projecting this on Elsa's behavior. Something which isn't hard to believe based on the fact that A)this is a white woman with a white husband in a position of power (Game Warden) in a country of Africa (and from which she often makes downward-looking comments of the Native African people) and B)the author randomly includes photos of African people in this novel, while all other photos pertain to Elsa. The author does not even mention these people or the reason as to why the photos of the African people are included, which creates this unstated comment like African people are there for her to post photos of or use in her book, just as Elsa is. I can only hope that people who read this book in the future, do so recognizing the parts of this story which unreasonably paint Europeans as the saviors and the great African researchers, while the Africans act merely as second-hand characters to their lives. Additionally, there are many scientific inaccuracies in the way that Adamson presents Elsa. She often anthropomorphisizes Elsa, and puts her own human views of the world onto the lion. For one thing, she often describes a "disgusted" face that Elsa pulled after "smelling things she didn't like or found gross," when in reality this face is believed to open up the nasal passages of lions and is actually just them working to better take in a smell. For example, this can be seen when a male lion smells the pee of a female, because through taking a deep smell of this he can see if she is in heat. There was also many moments in the book where Adamson says their relationship with Elsa was most wonderful because it was one of equality and trust, and they never had to use force on her, and yet she mentions multiple times having to chain and beat her for her "education."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Neve

    Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds  By Joy Adamson  Review by Neve Lions have never been at my peak of interest, but the story of Joy Adamson and Elsa the lioness certainly did when I first came across this book. It retells the experience Joy and her husband George as they raised Elsa for three years. Throughout the story they travel on safaris and introduce Elsa to the natural world. Joy and Elsa develop a mother-daughter like relationship that lasts a lifetime.   I was not a fan of this story beca Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds  By Joy Adamson  Review by Neve Lions have never been at my peak of interest, but the story of Joy Adamson and Elsa the lioness certainly did when I first came across this book. It retells the experience Joy and her husband George as they raised Elsa for three years. Throughout the story they travel on safaris and introduce Elsa to the natural world. Joy and Elsa develop a mother-daughter like relationship that lasts a lifetime.   I was not a fan of this story because it did not seem coherently written and if it was published now, it would look more like someone's blog rather than a story. Joy is both the author and one of the main characters, and she goes off on tangents about loosely relevant topics, such as a safari she once went on with (Pati the rock hyrax) before she found Elsa. The plot of the book seemed all over the place at times; it would just jump to an only slightly relevant topic. Additionally, often entire chapters seemed pointless and not relevant to the story. The most prominent example of this is the third chapter "Elsa Goes to the Indian Ocean" where Joy and George took Elsa to the beach when she turned a year old. This chapter adds nothing to the story except for a plot point that is quickly resolved in the next chapter and the fact that Elsa was playful with the other animals, which was already shown in the second chapter. I was not impressed.  Despite the unfortunate writing style, Born Free echoes the theme of an unbreakable mother-daughter bond, which is displayed through the relationship between Joy and Elsa. This was highlighted when they were temporarily separated at various points throughout the story. Elsa cried when she missed Joy. Whereas, Joy couldn't keep Elsa and the safety of her well-being out of her thoughts. This theme is woven throughout the story and it's incredibly heartwarming to hear Joy and Elsa care for each other in their times of need.   Joy was not the worst narrator, but she frequently showed obvious bias throughout the story. Since she narrated with the perspective of herself as a main character, she constantly portrays herself and Elsa as perfect and omniscient and incapable of doing anything wrong, which can get slightly annoying. The only fault of Elsa that Joy recognizes is Elsa's lack of independence, but Joy would rather Elsa not be independent, and stay with her forever.   Finally, something I really liked and appreciated about this book was the abundance of pictures. They help clear things up in the story when Joy got distracted on a tangent. However, the pictures were not evenly distributed and a chapter could be six pages of no pictures, and then five pages where three and a half of the pages were pictures. This was only slightly bothersome as it is understandable for the pictures to be formatted this was as they were taken over fifty years ago. The pictures also made the book seem a lot shorter because half of every chapter is pictures and the book is only 220 pages in total.   Despite some annoyances in the writing, this book was still ok. The pictures of Elsa were very cute and the book wasn't too long to read.       

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Ives

    (1st ed, 7th imp) Although I remembered not liking the film much at all, and knowing that the book would be without the Matt Monro music which was the best thing about the film, I hoped that somehow the book would be better than the film, as is often the case with adaptations. Alas, it was not to be. I expected a film/book about lions to be fairly red in tooth and claw, but basically this is a gruesome chronicle of shooting every kind of unfortunate gazelle, zebra, warthog, crocodile, guinea fowl (1st ed, 7th imp) Although I remembered not liking the film much at all, and knowing that the book would be without the Matt Monro music which was the best thing about the film, I hoped that somehow the book would be better than the film, as is often the case with adaptations. Alas, it was not to be. I expected a film/book about lions to be fairly red in tooth and claw, but basically this is a gruesome chronicle of shooting every kind of unfortunate gazelle, zebra, warthog, crocodile, guinea fowl, antelope, fish, buffalo that crosses the Adamsons' path. As well as taking sheep for a stroll with Elsa the lion 'for dinner later', having a pop at a rhino and hunting other 'trouble-making' lions (including Elsa's mother), the locals' traditions of spearing elephants, slitting buffalo throats and the lions themselves hunting the odd camel, person, monkey, cow and donkey adds to the unpleasantness. Coupled with plenty of unappealing b&w, not-particularly-well-taken photos (a few with the wrong captions) of corpses and carcasses being dismembered, I felt like some kind of butcher reading this and frequently came close to giving up. It's quite worrying to think this is about the 1950s not the 1750s. On the plus side, it's short and Joy's writing style is quite old-fashioned and matter-of-fact. The manuscript could benefit from some proofreading as she often spells 'carcass' and 'carcase' differently on the same page and the punctuation is rather sparse. The map on p42 looks lost there and might just as well be at the front somewhere where the reader can find it more easily. Most of all, I don't like how this is almost portrayed as a scientific experiment - not dissimilar to Project Nim - to see how lions adapt to being half-wild and half-tame, and the 'surprise' finding that lions have some intelligence. Of course they do! After reading this book, Elsa and the hyrax are the only ones who come out of it with respect, having done no wrong at all. The humans' behaviour is somewhere between stupid and disgusting. Leave the animals alone!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lora Shouse

    Surely you remember the movie “Born Free”? Ok, maybe not. But you must have heard the theme song from that movie, also titled “Born Free.” I think it’s become one of those pop-culture classics, of the kind that they actually teach elementary school children. Well, anyway, this is the book about the lioness, Elsa, who inspired both the movie and the song, and her human family. George Adamson, senior game warden of the Northern Frontier Province of Kenya, along with another game warden, was hunting Surely you remember the movie “Born Free”? Ok, maybe not. But you must have heard the theme song from that movie, also titled “Born Free.” I think it’s become one of those pop-culture classics, of the kind that they actually teach elementary school children. Well, anyway, this is the book about the lioness, Elsa, who inspired both the movie and the song, and her human family. George Adamson, senior game warden of the Northern Frontier Province of Kenya, along with another game warden, was hunting for a reported man-eating lion when the other warden was attacked by a lioness. It wasn’t until after they had killed the lioness that they realized she was protecting a litter of cubs. George took the three cubs home to his wife, Joy, and they proceeded to raise them as pets. The smallest of the cubs they named Elsa (because she reminded Joy of someone she had known of that name). After about 5 months they had to get rid of the two larger cubs, so they sent them to a zoo in the Netherlands. But they kept Elsa with them. The book is largely a recounting of Elsa’s adventures as she traveled all over the Northern Frontier Province and met other wild animals. There are also lots and lots of pictures of Elsa and some of the other wild animals she encountered. Eventually the Adamsons came to the conclusion that the best thing for Elsa in the long run would be to release her back into the wild. They had to train her to hunt for herself – that was the easy part. They also had to train her to get along without them. And to train themselves to get along without her. That part was not so easy. Even after they had released her and she was living independently, the Adamsons came back periodically to visit Elsa, and she almost always came in to see them. But eventually she found a mate and had cubs of her own. This was a library book

  29. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    This is another book about a relationship between an animal and humans. In this case, it was between an orphaned lion cub and a couple in Africa. The man was a wildlife ranger in northern Kenya, originally from England, I believe. The mother of 3 cubs had been harming people and had to be hunted and shot. Two of the cubs were sent to zoos in Rotterdam. The third one was the runt, who would have been killed or abandoned by the mother in the wild. The couple fell in love with her and named her Els This is another book about a relationship between an animal and humans. In this case, it was between an orphaned lion cub and a couple in Africa. The man was a wildlife ranger in northern Kenya, originally from England, I believe. The mother of 3 cubs had been harming people and had to be hunted and shot. Two of the cubs were sent to zoos in Rotterdam. The third one was the runt, who would have been killed or abandoned by the mother in the wild. The couple fell in love with her and named her Elsa. They hand raised her with bottles and gradually taught her to eat meat. When Elsa was 2 years old, the couple knew they couldn’t keep her, but they did not want to put her into a zoo, since she’d had a relatively free life living with them. They decided they would gradually teach her to hunt her own food and learn to socialize with other lions, so she could eventually be set free. Elsa is the only lion to have been “tamed” by humans and then been able to return to the wild to live. The ranger’s wife is the author and she write about her relationship with Elsa, how Elsa went on trips with them, slept with them, learned to trust them completely, and their experiences trying to train Elsa to live in the wild. The stories are heartwarming and touching. This was a wonderful book to read after reading The Elephant Whisperer. I loved it. The movie about the book is outstanding too, but of course the book was better.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    A case of truth is stranger than fiction, this is the real life story of the couple who raised a lioness and then successfully reintroduced her to the wild. George and Joy Adamson lived in Kenya; George was an African game warden responsible for balancing the needs of the wild animals with the safety of the humans who lived and worked among them. When he mistook a nursing lioness for a nuisance, he rectified his mistake by saving her 3 cubs. 2 went off to live in a zoo, but Elsa remained with Ge A case of truth is stranger than fiction, this is the real life story of the couple who raised a lioness and then successfully reintroduced her to the wild. George and Joy Adamson lived in Kenya; George was an African game warden responsible for balancing the needs of the wild animals with the safety of the humans who lived and worked among them. When he mistook a nursing lioness for a nuisance, he rectified his mistake by saving her 3 cubs. 2 went off to live in a zoo, but Elsa remained with George and Joy and learned to coexist with humans and animals that would usually become her prey. When the couple realized they would have to let her go, they chose the way that made the most sense to them: teach her to survive on her own. As a child I adored this book; it's an exciting tale and having a pet lion seemed like a brilliant idea. As an adult, I have more reservations - this rereading has been affected, of course, by time and place and the fear born of growing up. Should anyone stand that close and trusting next to a lion? After the stories that we've heard in the past few decades of tamed wild animals mauling their keepers, I'm less inclined to think the answer is yes. Still, it is a fascinating story. Adamson gives us a truly in-depth look at the journey that she and Elsa took together. The selection of pictures remind the reader periodically that this is a true story, and skillfully illustrate some of the stories the author tells.

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