A Training School for Elephants

A Training School for Elephants


'A modern-day Freya Stark' - Tatler
'Roberts' writing is beguiling' - The i
'Roberts is a wonderfully lyrical writer' - Observer

From the acclaimed author of The Lost Pianos of Siberia, comes a new journey tracing a colonial-era African expedition.

In 1879, King Leopold II of Belgium launched an ambitious plan to plunder Africa’s resources. The key to cracking open the continent, or so he thought, was its elephants — if only he could train them. And so he commissioned the charismatic Irish adventurer Frederick Carter to ship four tamed Asian elephants from India to the East African coast, where they were marched inland towards Congo. The ultimate aim was to establish a training school for African elephants.

Following in the footsteps of the four elephants, Roberts pieces together the story of this long-forgotten expedition, in travels that take her to Belgium, Iraq, India, Tanzania and Congo. The storytelling brings to life a compelling cast of historic characters and modern voices, from ivory dealers to Catholic nuns, set against rich descriptions of the landscapes travelled. She digs deep into historic records to reckon with our broken relationship with animals, revealing an extraordinary — and enduring — story of colonial greed, ineptitude, hypocrisy and folly.
Praise for The Lost Pianos of Siberia

· An extraordinary encounter with a wildly fascinating and astonishingly ill-known region... This is a wonderful book. - Sunday Times

· The ultimate quest for the oddest objects - pianos - in the most unlikely place - Siberia. But Roberts makes it much more than that, an elegant and nuanced journey through literature, through history, through music, murder and incarceration and revolution, through snow and ice and remoteness, to discover the human face of Siberia. I loved this book. - Paul Theroux

· An impressive exploration of Siberia's terrifying past. - Guardian

· An exuberant, eccentric journey through Russian vastness, European history and Russian culture, The Lost Pianos of Siberia is a quixotic quest, a picaresque travel adventure and a strange forgotten story, all wrapped into one fascinating book. - Simon Sebag-Montefiore

· What shines through in this book is Roberts' genuine, humane affection for and fascination with the people she meets in Siberia. - Literary Review

About the author

Sophy Roberts

Sophy Roberts is a British writer whose work focuses on the wild places from Papua New Guinea to the Congo. She began her career assisting the writer Jessica Mitford, and trained in journalism at Columbia University in New York. She regularly contributes to the Financial Times and the US edition of Condé Nast Traveler, among others.
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