Although best known for Born Free, Joy Adamson came to animal tending in middle age, after years as an accomplished illustrator and observer of Africana. In such an active life, Elsa emerges as a single chapter; the rest, told with field-diary precision, is an engrossing, uninterrupted recitation of professional engagement and, to a lesser extent, personal involvements, with fragments of history, zoology, botany, anthropology, and bush lore for amplification. Born in Austrian Silesia in 1910, she had early adventures on a family estate, then flirted with several careers and tried two short marriages before game warden George Adamson introduced her to the beauty of animals and the complexities of their care. The Leakeys appear as do other illustrious colleagues; the question of children (three miscarriages) surfaces now and again, discussed discreetly. Crocodiles at the tent door and other travel highlights add to a narrative already crowded with one-of-a-kind sightings and regrettably vanishing tribal customs--the Turkana use thrown sandals to predict the future. Elsa is the first cat successfully returned to the wild, Pippa the cheetah another short-term tenant, Penny the leopard her current effort at rehabilitation. ""Tastes differ; only one thing is certain--people get out of life exactly what they put into it,"" she notes easily, and her intense, crowded life should engage Elsa's minions and other game spirits.