Ledgard, J.M. 1968-
Ledgard, J.M. 1968-
Born 1968, on the Shetland Islands, Scotland.
Agent—Gillon Aitken, Gillon Aitken Associates, 18-21 Cavaye Pl., London SW10 9PT, England.
Economist, London, England, foreign correspondent, 1995.
Giraffe (novel), Penguin Press (New York, NY), 2006.
The debut novel of British journalist J.M. Ledgard was inspired by actual events. Giraffe opens with the birth of Snehurka, or Snow White, a giraffe with an unusual white underbelly, who explains the process as she travels through the birth canal to the waiting world. She becomes the leader of a herd of giraffes that is captured, taken to a Czech zoo, and slaughtered when it is claimed that they have a contagious disease that could spread to other animals. The largest captive giraffe herd in history is managed by a Communist zookeeper who plans to breed a new giraffe subspecies. Adam Kirsch commented in a review for the New York Sun Online, "This megalomaniacal ambition, which flies in the face of biology, geography, and common sense, is clearly meant to remind the reader of the communist dream of a ‘new man,’ whose very nature would be remade by social engineering. But what the state creates, Mr. Ledgard reminds us, the state can destroy at will." The story of this horrific killing of forty-nine animals, twenty-three of them pregnant, is told through narrators Emil Freyman, a haemodynamicist who is charged with accompanying the giraffes from Africa to Czechoslovakia in 1973, and Amina Dvorakova, a factory worker who paints Christmas ornaments, and who is hired to stun the animals with a flashlight in preparation for their deaths in 1975 by a sharpshooter Ledgard names Jiri.
Library Journal reviewer Barbara Hoffert wrote: "In the novel, the sensitive young Amina signals her distress with ‘the Communist moment’ by literally stumbling about as a sleepwalker, suggesting both the despair of a people who had lost their collective memory to Soviet dominance and our need generally, given the numbing effect of the modern condition, simply to wake up." Giraffes do not sleep, instead resting with their eyes open.
New York Observer Online contributor Christopher Bray commented that Ledgard "has fashioned from this bizarre, still unexplained incident a political parable that verges on the Kafkaesque. Stunned and ethereal, Giraffe begins like a dream but ends like a nightmare." Elsbeth Lindner wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle Online that Giraffe "is a bravura debut, a rich composition with suggestions of steelier Scottish organizational rigor below its mazy surface. As in an archaeological operation, the author uses brushstrokes to lay bare a mood, a state of mind that in its era was all-consuming and now—like the vodniks, doomed Czech water spirits of the Elbe—though faded into folklore still evokes an enduring measure of terror."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July 1, 2006, Debi Lewis, review of Giraffe, p. 30.
Canberra Times, May 27, 2006, Mark Thomas, review of Giraffe.
Interview, August, 2006, Brendan Lemon, author interview.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of Giraffe, p. 487.
Library Journal, August 1, 2006, Barbara Hoffert, review of Giraffe, p. 71; September 1, 2006, Barbara Hoffert, review of Giraffe, p. 34.
New Statesman, April 3, 2006, Alex Gibbons, review of Giraffe, p. 57.
Publishers Weekly, May 22, 2006, review of Giraffe, p. 29.
Boston Globe Online,http://www.boston.com/ (September 3, 2006), Barbara Fisher, review of Giraffe.
Guardian Unlimited,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (March 4, 2006), James Flint, review of Giraffe.
New York Observer Online,http://www.observer.com/ (August 21, 2006), Christopher Bray, review of Giraffe.
New York Sun Online,http://www.nysun.com/ (August 16, 2006), Adam Kirsch, review of Giraffe.