The Elephant Man by Christine Sparks
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: March 31, 2016
Review Source: Purchased copy
The Elephant Man is a well-written and touching story based on the life of John Merrick. With some brief research it appears as though Sparks was well researched and included many major events of Merrick’s life surrounding the time he was in the care of Frederick Treves and the London Hospital. Some details (like his knowledge of his mother) may have been fictionalized, but ultimately I enjoyed the book enough to research more and I consider it to be successful for that reason.
This story takes into consideration the society and social treatment Merrick was subjected to as an “incurable” suffering from a condition that was unknown to doctors at the time–and even to this day research is inconclusive as to what syndrome he had. The reader is introduced to many characters who treat Merrick like an animal, but there are those who show compassion. Albeit, those who treat Merrick with even a glimmer of decency are few and far between, so on many occasions events were incredibly heart-wrenching. Sparks’ fictionalization, however, likes to emphasize the compassion exuded to Merrick, and so the scum are there to highlight the importance of the few caring individuals.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. The read is not too dense or over-loaded with symbols and tropes making it a quick read, but the content is not always necessarily nice or enjoyable to imagine and so the book is one I did take my time to digest. My dad gave me this book to read in my teens, and although I may not have appreciated it as much at 16 I wish I hadn’t taken eight years to get around to it!