Monday, July 19, 2010

An ape's world: a review

This isn't strictly speaking a "book blog," but in as much as I do read and have opinions, and for no other reason than because I'm looking for something to write about--I submit for you: a book review. Since I've moved here, the overwhelming majority of my reading has been done on public transport, which usually means getting through a 600 page tome like The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore would be a long process undertaken in 30 minute increments. However, in the case of this book, I found the pages turning themselves quite quickly both on and off the N train.

The book, by recent Iowa MFA graduate Benjamin Hale, chronicles the life experiences of a chimp who learns to speak and gradually gains many human life experiences through his ability to communicate--including how to both befriend and love humans (accounting for some of the book's....queasier sections). His memoirs are told in first person retrospect from a research facility where he is held for life for murdering a man. The conceit is one that easily could have gone either way, but because of Hale's deft use of language, Bruno's oddly pompous ruminations spin a fascinating and believable tale. In the process, through Bruno and the people and animals he enounters, the book examines what it means to be human.

When I first started the book, I was excited about recommending it to people because I found the idea so innovative and the writing so fresh. After I got a little further in, the number of people I would recommend it to dropped off slightly. It was still just as interesting a book, but the bluntness of language during some instances was mildly disturbing. If you can measure the strength of a book by how visceral your reaction or how long you remember certain images, then this book is a herculean one. That said, less than 30 pages in, after a certain scene involving a frog, I realized I could no longer, in good conscience, pass this one on to my mother's book club.

Overall, this was an extremely well-written story that I found both thought-provoking and enjoyable. Usually when I hear about a young, first-time novelist who inspires a bidding war or gets published by Twelve (the fairly recent publisher that only publishes one book a month, to great success), it fills me with jealously, increduilty, and bitterness (what can I say...that's who I am). This is especially true if the novelist is a psuedo celebrity of reality tv fame, but I digress. In this case, the praise, the accolades, and whatever the payout was were richly deserved.

(This review was written from a review copy from the publisher. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is to be released by Twelve in February 2011.)

1 comment:

  1. Great review! Even though this isn't a book blog, I'd love if you wrote more of them in the future. I was all ready to seek out this book the next time I visit B&N and was sad to see your note at the end that it won't be published until next year. Oh well, I already own too many books that I haven't read.