January 2022 book of the month club - A Lion Called Christian

verna davies

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At the start of this book I had to keep reminding myself it was a true story. It didn't seem plausible or ethical that someone could buy a lion from a department store. How could two young men who worked in a shop afford to pay £3500 for a lion let alone be afford to feed and keep him especially as it would only be for about 6 months. I didn't feel entirely comfortable with Christian being domesticated as his life would quickly have to change once given to the park.

Whilst it was a happy ending for Christian, I couldn't help but feel the Australians bought him to amuse themselves primarily. However, they fully redeemed themselves in my eyes as I read more of the book by the efforts, determination and dedication they showed to enable Christian to get to Kora Rock which was to be his home. Thank goodness for people like Joy Adamson, Bill Travers and George Adamson as well as others.

I enjoyed reading how the integration was carried out between Christian and Boy, showing their bellies as a sign of submission, so typical of other animals. Nature can be cruel, the death of Katania and what a waste of life on the pointless murder of George Adamson but what a wonderful life he lead and the legacy he left behind.

I give this book a well deserved
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
 
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rubysmama

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I finished the book a week ago, but since I knew I’d forget things by discussion time, wrote my review right away and saved to Word, to have ready when it was time to post.

I first heard of Christian, when years ago I saw the infamous reunion video, on I guess, Youtube. I never researched the story though, so I knew almost nothing about Christian when I started this book. So I found it extremely enjoyable reading all the anecdotes of Christian when he was in the UK, and later in Africa.

Since it’s been over 50 years since the book originally was written, I had no expectations that Christian could still be alive. However, I was a bit saddened to learn that he'd been seen leaving Kora, never to return, leaving everyone unaware of what became of him. But maybe that was a good thing, so the people who loved him could optimistically hope he was living majestically somewhere with his own pride.

What a tragic ending for George, though, to have survived living with lions, only to be killed by humans.

And it was heart-breaking to hear of Katania’s disappearance, and Boy needing to be put down. Again, probably not knowing what happened with Christian, was for the best.

Was shocked, and a bit appalled to read the blurb about Joy Adamson having sofas upholstered with lion skin. I can't imagine how someone who loved lions, could be comfortable having that in their home, even if it was from “bad” lions.

I think my favourite chapter in the book was the one on the introductions of Christian to Boy and Katania. It reminded me of when cat parents here at TCS are trying to introduce a new cat to a resident one.

Loved all the pictures, of course, and this was one of my favourites.

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Glad I read the book. And I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars.
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gilmargl

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A true story – not literature but a simple honest account of how 2 young men came to purchase a lion cub, named Christian, keep him in Central London and eventually take him back to Africa and give him his freedom.

It is a story of love and to some extent luck! This book brings to life that mad period in swinging London, with the more gentle Mods (long hair, fashionable clothes such as flared trousers and scooters) and the rather wild Rockers (leather jackets, boots and motorbikes). You could buy anything you wanted at Harrods – including wild animals. I was only a few years younger than Ace and John, lived on the outskirts of London and could identify to some extent with the environment though never moved among or even saw high society!

Ace and John fell in love with a lion cub and had to own him. But the realisation that they would be unable to satisfy Christian’s needs as he developed into an adult lion, soon created new challenges for the young lads.

George Adamson (husband of Joy Adamson, of Born Free fame) admitted that Christian was the easiest young lion he had to introduce into the wild. I believe that Christian assumed that Ace and John, two fit young men and their friends, were simply other young lion cubs. With them he learnt to play, to love and to recognise limits. Just as kittens need siblings to help them learn the ropes, Christian needed lion cubs. Without even trying, Ace and John did precisely what was expected of young lion cubs – play, cuddle, and set the limits.

The reunion with Christan after he'd spent some months in Africa was so emotional and heart rending. In fact all the pictures in the book are amazing – one of my favourites being Christian playing wheelbarrows in the cemetery in London!

Life in Africa is not easy - not even for lions. There were more than enough examples of how things do not always turn out well for man or beast. We can only hope that Christian did manage to form his pride and that his offspring are still living free.

This is a true account, well-documented with photos, and a quick interesting read. I may not agree with the lack of animal protection laws 60 odd years ago, and the fact that 2 young men with more money than sense actually purchased a lion cub, but can't see any reason to take away a star just because the situation is at best unbelievable and, at worst, very sad, considering the fate of all the other wild animals kept on leashes until they became unfashionable or uncontrollable.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
 

Mamanyt1953

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I remember going to (I think) KMart as a child and seeing both lion cubs and ocelot kittens for sale. OH, how I wanted one! My father explained to me how cruel it is to keep wild animals as pets, and that if we really love them, we will enjoy seeing them in the wild, where they belong. This would have been in the earlier 60s. So the selling of wild cats as pets was not new, nor a shock, to me.

When I saw Christian's story for the first time. I was astounded that this cat, at least, had managed to land with two young men who did NOT view him as rich men view a Lamborghini...a reflection of wealth and power, but rather as a unique individual, worthy of respect. Most sold in those arenas did not find that. Most lived short, miserable lives.

But not Christian. He was given everything that was possible to help him grow, develop, and maintain a deep, loving relationship with his young guardians, and they did everything possible to see that he had a fulfilling kittenhood, and a successful return to the wild as a young adult. And those two young men, boys, really, looking back on it, did Christian and themselves proud.

I was dismayed by what happened to George. We lost someone so very worthy that horrible day. He was a true friend to lions.

Part of me wants to know what happened to Christian when he left, but another part of me knows. He lived well, he founded his pride, he fathers cubs, and today, his descendants still roam free. I insist on it. And it is quite a likely outcome, after all. Christian had adjusted well to living wild, and would not have left the area if he was not comfortable doing so. He was ready.

I am so very glad that I was reminded of this remarkable story with this month's read.

Five stars.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
 

verna davies

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rubysmama rubysmama , they are the videos I saw, its remarkable that he remembered the two young men so quickly, they obviously made a big impact in his life.

gilmargl gilmargl , your right, it was a mad time in London in the 60's, almost anything was acceptable. I was a mod in those days, spent weekends in London, visited Harrods but dont remember seeing any animals, thankfully. It must have been frightening for them having people peering at them and the constant noise.

Mamanyt1953 Mamanyt1953 , Christian was given everything he needed, he was one lucky lion. What a unique experience for those young men as you said, they did not view him as a toy of a rich man.
 
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rubysmama

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V verna davies : Thought it was interesting that we both picked up on the introduction process between Christian and Boy. That reminded me so much of some of the introduction threads here at TCS. I also forgot to mention how cool it was that Christian learned to use a lion-sized litter box.

gilmargl gilmargl : wonderful review! So neat that you lived in the area around the same time. Crazy to think you could buy wild animals at Harrods. Here's the pic of Christian playing wheel barrows, btw.
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Mamanyt1953 Mamanyt1953 : Surprised to see you saw lion cubs and ocelot kittens for sale in a store when you were a kid. Guess it was more common than we thought. I too want to believe Christian founded a pride, and that his descendants are still roaming free to this day.
 

pearl99

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I finished reading yesterday, was able to get the book on Friday and read most of it that day (benefit of being retired) then finished the last bit Saturday.

In elementary school I read the Born Free books and devoured them and was so enamored with Elsa and the story. And also with the Adamsons for what they did for and with lions. I looked both Adamsons up with this book and was very sad to read they were both murdered in Africa. Also read how Joy was kind of a nasty person. And yes I was also very surprised at the lion skin sofas. I read Joy and George never really wanted to divorce. But I was taken aback that Joy refused to help George fund his work at some point at Kora. (I think that was it.)

I do remember reading bits in the past of how George was in Africa a long long time dedicating his life to the rehabbing of lions to the wild and was happy to read that.

I had such mixed feelings about Ace and John. With purchasing a lion cub on a whim kind of. I knew that was not unusual in that time period, but a department store??!! But I kept reminding myself that they were aware of what they had done and had some scruples about what life they wanted for Christian when he got too big. And wanted him to go to a preserve of some kind. What luck they heard of George!!! Luck for Christian and the boys. Then all the arrangements, the waiting, the time it took. They stuck right with him and then even stayed in Africa for some months. They certainly lived up to their responsibility and were honest in the book.
I had to laugh at the lion-sized litterbox!! And they did play with, love, walk, feed, not lock up Christian. They really seemed to love him. How lucky that Christian was a mellow cub.

So it's me too who was thinking of all the cat intros, including my own, on TCS and how similar with George introducing Boy and Christian. Haha! And Boy's gradual acceptance and such similar behaviors. Except for the roaring :). Cats will be cats, big or small!

I know it's nature, and there were wild lions around, but very sad about the deaths, Boy and the confrontation where he was just being a lion. And Katania.
Sad that there is no evidence of what ever happened to Christian. With his size and all he learned I think he found a place and a pride.

I'll definitely look up the Youtube videos, I'd never heard of this story before and loved reading it.
 

verna davies

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I felt the same as you at the beginning of the book pearl99 pearl99 . Upset and annoyed that the boys has bought Christian but they totally redeemed themselves with their actions and the thought they put into making his life good and fulfilled as a cub and also the dedication to his freedom.

I used to watch the Born Free series on television as a child and loved it, can still sing the theme tune, but I'll spare you that.
 

Boris Diamond

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This is quite an amazing story. I think many would like to have a giant feline friend like Christian to hug! But I think many of us felt some outrage that lion cubs and other animals could be bought for pets at that time. Perhaps these two young men had as motivation doing the best thing for Christian. But I had the impression that they were somewhat overwhelmed by this noble and beautiful animal and wanted him to be a part of their lives. I am sure they gave him a better future than many other wild animals in similar situations might have had, and I give them kudos for that!

I enjoyed reading about what a great kitty (!) Christian was and how well he treated people. African lions are social creatures and Christian accepted Ace and John (and others) as his family. And Christian's family felt a commitment to do the best thing for him. What a happy blessing it was that they met the two actors from Born Free. I know it was painful to let Christian go. I was not surprised when Christian recognized Anthony and John in the reunion that took place a year after they had left Africa. Cats are smart creatures!

Sad what happened with Boy, Katania and George. Why George would have someone who disrespected Boy working there is difficult to understand. Perhaps it was difficult to get any one to work there at all. It certainly led to disaster.

It was a fast read because I wanted to know how things would work out! Also it was a simple retelling of facts which made it move fast. Especially for animal lovers and most especially for cat lovers! The pictures were great!

I watched a few of the videos about this. In the book I read that the TV special was not completely factual as what was said was not quite what was in the book. They said they never let Christian chase them as they did not want to be seen as prey. But they did let him chase them so that the videographers would have an exciting shot for the TV special. Experience has taught me that what you see on TV or the news is not always the true story. Many movie makers and newsmen are willing to sacrifice accuracy in the interest of making the story more relatable or exciting.

I felt anxious while I was reading this book. Keeping a lion in London had so many pitfalls, I thought something must go wrong! It was a bad situation for many of the wild animals sold as pets at that time. I'm very happy that Christian at least had a chance in Africa.

It was a good read with as happy an ending as possible, but because of how uncomfortable I felt reading this book I am going to give it only Four Stars. 💮💮💮💮
 
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rubysmama

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In elementary school I read the Born Free books and devoured them and was so enamored with Elsa and the story.
I've heard of the Born Free books, but never read them. Must see if my library has them.

With his size and all he learned I think he found a place and a pride.
I want to believe that too. And maybe he actually came back looking for his humans after George was murdered, and no one was there to see him.

I used to watch the Born Free series on television as a child and loved it, can still sing the theme tune, but I'll spare you that.
There was a tv series too? Somehow I also missed that. I have to Google it, if nothing else to hear the theme song. ;)

I enjoyed reading about what a great kitty (!) Christian was and how well he treated people. African lions are social creatures and Christian accepted Ace and John (and others) as his family.
That was something I found interesting that lions are the only cats that form prides, aka families.
 

laureen227

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The biggest problem I had with the book was how severely they 'anthropomorphized' Christian's behavior and attitude. We're all cat people, and we know we tend to do this - but they referred to his actions and behaviors as if they thought he was aware of his effect on his surroundings...and we know that cats are actually supremely aware of their superiority and really couldn't care much less for their human's 'rules'. Anyway, just didn't really 'ring true' with me.
But I really enjoyed the pictures, and was glad he was able to relocate to Africa.
 
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rubysmama

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laureen227 laureen227 : Interesting thoughts on the book. You mention how the authors wrote as though they believed Christian was "aware of his effect on his surroundings". Cats are so smart that they just might know how they affect their humans. But, you also may be right that they don't care about our rules. Who knows, though. That's why so many times here on the site, I say I wish cats could talk. :lol:

Anyway, glad you joined in and read with us this month. Hopefully there'll be other books you'll be interested in, and that you'll join us again another month.
 

Mia6

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BRAVO!

I didn't think I would like Ace and John because I feel people buying exotic animals just for fun is so wrong. I did like
reading about his London antics, what a site that must've been!!!! I loved the reunion.....so swee!!!

I think cats do know how they accept us, at least mine did.

I loved this book and it will be one my re-reads

*****
 

pearl99

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I used to watch the Born Free series on television as a child and loved it, can still sing the theme tune, but I'll spare you that.
I didn't realize it was a TV series, so I looked it up. It was in 1974 and I was in college so no wonder I didn't know, I didn't watch much TV in those years!
Maybe we could do a duet on the theme tune...
 
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