If one doesn’t get what this book is about from the title, the sub-title won’t leave much doubt. “The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever” packs quite a lot into a subtitle. Unfortunately the “Amazing True Story” part is said without irony. Within the first dozen pages, the first ‘elephant in the room’ one encounters is a deeply personal loss experienced by the author and his family and because of that I had trouble dealing with this book AND its subtitle. The loss was treated as a big problem to solve, somewhat as an obstacle to deal with while trying to buy and re-establish a zoo. Now, I’m familiar with the British propensity for showing a stiff upper lip and all, but this is too much. The author’s priorities, to be generous, appear confused. I also took exception to his description of deeply personal bodily functions, and here my generosity ends, as he reveals this activity about a person that has no say about his disclosure of it. I know that real life has a habit of getting in the way of dreams and plans but somehow this baring of intimate details is tasteless and annoying. If the point of the book had been about the loved one in question, I might feel differently, but it wasn’t. The parts of the book that dealt with finding out about the zoo, trying to buy it, finding the funding and then working to get it ready for the public was very interesting but the tragic and graphic details were difficult to ignore and the suspicion that the author callously used these events to pump up his story was too great a distraction for me.
The author had a film crew following him around during this whole zoo process and the end result was a documentary that aired on BBC. I wonder if the day-in, day-out filming caused Benjamin Mee to lose some portion of human perspective. I hope not.