NCharles is a man in his fifties, married to Simone with a regular job and his only child, Jack, is the apple of his eye. Then one day the Police come to their door with terrible news - Jack has killed himself by jumping off the roof.
From the very first page, Linthout draws us into the difficult processes that await Charles as he lurches between loneliness, grief, incomprehension and love, often losing sight of the difference between reality and fiction. In its eight chapters Linthout describes the various tragic, beautiful, emotional events that Charles experiences as he passes through his mourning. Told in unpolished pencil drawings this deliberate stylistic choice has made this comic an exceedingly personal document, which it is.
The story is autobiographical and the main character is, in fact, Linthout himself. In 2004 his only child, 21 year-old Sam, decided to end his life and Years of the Elephant is based on this tragic occurrence. The book was initially intended as self therapy to help Linthout deal with the loss of his son however, the originally modest project unleashed a flood of reactions and therapists now use the book as a recognised aid for coping with grief.