An eccentric cast of characters, human and animal, features in this first novel for adults by comic actress Toksvig. When eleven-year-old tomboy Dorothy Kane moves with her upper-class English parents to the small town of Sassaspaneck, New York, the result is bewilderment on every side. The Kanes are a family of "partial communicators", physically remote and emotionally vague: "I suppose a lot of people have never seen their father naked; I had never seen mine without a tie." Confronted with a 1960s America shaken by a war in Vietnam, by campaigns for civil rights and women's liberation, Dorothy's parents retreat into crisis, leaving her to pick her own, troubled way through the last, crucial summer of her childhood.
Whistling for the Elephants is a gently comic novel about transformation and the getting of wisdom; about finding the ways to make being a girl "just fine"; and about relearning from the animal kingdom those lessons of love and fidelity that human beings