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Book 18

  1. Amis, Martin — London Fields (471 pages)
  2. Morpurgo, Michael — War Horse (182 pages)
  3. Winterson, Jeanette — Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (177 pages)
  4. Robinson, Bruce — Paranoia in the Launderette (43 pages)
  5. Carter, Angela — Heroes and Villains (152 pages)
  6. Burroughs, Edgar Rice — A Princess of Mars (209 pages)
  7. Hill, Susan — The Woman in Black (152 pages)
  8. Fowler, Karen Joy — Sarah Canary (293 pages)
  9. Rennison, Nick — 100 Must-Read Prize Winning Novels (174 pages)
  10. Beresford, David — Ten Men Dead (426 pages)
  11. Freedland, Jonathan — Bring Home the Revolution: The Case for a British Republic (245 pages)
  12. Kierkegaard, Søren — Fear and Trembling (150 pages)
  13. Nothomb, Amélie — Fear and Trembling (132 pages)
  14. Delany, Samuel R. — Babel-17 (194 pages)
  15. Raine, Craig — History: The Home Movie (335 pages)
  16. du Maurier, Daphne — Jamaica Inn (312 pages)
  17. Kurlansky, Mark — The Basque History of the World (361 pages)
  18. Allin, Michael — Zarafa (204 pages)
Page count

Had I read Zarafa before my trip to the southwest of France rather than shortly afterwards, I would have insisted on a short detour from Bordeaux to see the museum where the giraffe's remains are kept.

In 1826, the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt sent a giraffe as a gift to Charles X of France. It was the first giraffe seen in Europe in almost 350 years and caused a sensation. Allin attempts to reconstruct the journey from its beginnings in the Sudan to its arrival in Paris. (Alas, the African leg of the journey is not well documented, so a lot of it had to be inferred.)

It's a fascinating voyage, but I felt something was lacking in the telling. I wanted more of the giraffe, which may really be an unreasonable demand given the historical record. Instead, I learned a lot about the political situation surrounding Egypt at that time and how it switched hands between various groups, eventually ending up with the British. And I learned about the budding sciences in France and the rest of Europe and the birth of Egyptology. And more, all of it tangentially related to the giraffe's story. I just wanted moe about the actual giraffe and the actual journey.

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