“Papa explains the war like this: ‘When the elephants dance, the chickens must be careful.’ The great beasts, as they circle one another, shaking the trees and trumpeting loudly, are the Amerikanos and the Japanese as they fight. And our Philippine Islands? We are the small chickens. I think of baby chicks I can hold in the palm of my hand, flapping wings that are not yet grown, and I am frightened.”
When the Elephants Dance is a perfect blend of two topics I really enjoy: first, it is a novel set during World War II, and second, it takes the reader to a different country, with a completely different cultural feel than our own.
The author created this story based on war stories her father and other contemporaries of that generation related to her. Those experiences of helplessness and desperation come alive as Holthe weaves a tale from the perspective of the Filipino. Throughout much of the novel, the main characters are hiding in a cellar, in order to escape the carnage that is being waged above them. At various times, some must venture out in order to search for food, and when those brave souls do not return, others go out in search of them. During the long wait, some of the older refugees share stories of the past and the present, much of it steeped in mysticism and all of it rich in the culture they share. It is a fascinating look into the history of this nation and the people who live there.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2002