Author: Zelie Bullen with Freda Marnie Nicholls
Allen & Unwin RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan 

“All of the love that you put into your animals has come out on screen, on my screen and it will be there forever.”  —Steven Spielberg

Love, Sweat and TearsDespite the adage ‘never work with children and animals’, Australian woman Zelie Bullen has made a career of working with animals. She always intended to be a veterinarian, but a series of life experiences led her to what she describes as her “true calling” – training animals for a living. To someone who doesn’t know her, her life looks extraordinary – first travelling around Australia and the world as a stuntwoman and later training animals for films including The Legend of Zorro and the Stephen Speilberg’s epic film Warhorse. The truth, as the reader finds in Love, Sweat & Tears, is that Bullen has not had it easy. She’s faced more personal tragedy than many of us see in a lifetime, followed by depression so intense she considered taking her life to escape crushing grief.

Bullen’s reaction after being told her career was over following a trick riding accident sums up her attitude to adversity aptly. Her talus bone was broken and she’d been told there was about a five per cent chance of her ankle functioning again; she cast aside her doubts and focused her mind on getting her strength and movement back, using a variety of techniques to assist her healing. This example, which appears relatively late in her memoir Love, Sweat & Tears: The Zelie Bullen Story, is one of many that highlights Bullen’s remarkable strength of character in light of difficulty.

Throughout this memoir, the reader is taken on a journey with Bullen as she recalls the events and experiences that shaped the woman she is today. From working with A-list actors and directors to meeting her own personal heroes and learning from them, from loving people (and animals) and losing them tragically to becoming a mother for the first time, readers will step inside her world for a few hours and leave it feeling thoughtful and inspired.

Bullen worked on this memoir with her sister, Freda Marnie Nicholls. As readers will empathise, it was a cathartic experience for both. In her Q&A with me a few months ago, Bullen said they “tackled the hardest, more emotional events” first. “We cried a lot and yet again had an opportunity to express heartfelt emotion surrounding these events.” The simple honesty of the book’s tone reflects Nicholls’ journalistic background, but it also exudes real warmth that is testimony to the bond the sisters hold.

If you love animals, or want to work with animals Love, Sweat & Tears is a worthwhile starting point. Likewise, if you enjoy reading remarkable stories of overcoming challenges, you can’t go past this.

Available from good bookstores and Allen & Unwin. This copy was courtesy of Allen & Unwin.




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