Bibliophile | Personal, political and romance intersect in ‘The Breaking’

The Breaking
by Irma Gold
Midnight Sun Publishing

Hannah Bird was sitting in the hostel lobby, “a shabby affair, ripe with the smell of mould”, fumbling with some touristy brochures and trying to act like she wasn’t panicking about what she was doing in Chaing Mai by herself. Sitting next to her, another Australian ex-pat Deven tells her to forget all that shit because the night markets are on and the two of them end up exploring the twilight streets together.

Like most people, Hannah thought she would see a few temples and ride an elephant on her visit to Thailand, but the passionate Deven enlightened her about the cruelty involved in making elephants tourist-friendly. Wanting some adventure, Hannah agrees to accompany Deven to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary where most of the elephants carry injuries from past mistreatment.

Irma Gold, who lives in Canberra, is Ambassador for Thailand’s Save Elephant Foundation and has worked with rescued elephants in Chiang Mai, Surin and Kanchanaburi. So she has had first-hand experience of seeing elephants being beaten into submission and left chained to posts. The accurate depiction of the plight of elephants in Thailand is shocking and it is difficult to understand how such a gentle culture could be capable of such cruelty.

Volunteering is hard work, with a bucket of cold water to wash in at the end of the day. Days fall into a rhythm of cleaning, feeding and bathing the elephants and in the afternoons, Deven teaches at the local school because she isn’t being supported by the bank of mum and dad.

The personal, the political, the romantic and the ethical all intersect as the young women try to navigate ways to help the elephants without risking their lives. They try to keep focused on the good they are doing otherwise they’d be consumed by the futility and constantly wondering why they were even bothering. “It was quick sand” and Hannah worried that Deven was up to her neck in it and about to go under.

Lezly Herbert

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