Monday, June 20, 2011
Gruen knows how to move a story along at a nice pace but she’s not a great writer. This story, of a family of bonobos and their researcher/caretaker Isabel, held my interest and kept me entertained, but only because I like bonobos. I didn’t like Isabel nearly as much, or really any of the human characters. They were predictable types from central casting – give me one serious female scientist who doesn’t know how beautiful she is, give me an intrepid male journalist in pursuit of a story, give me an evil corporate villain who will stop at nothing to make a buck, etc. etc. I also didn’t think much of the plot which was part bonobo documentary, part animal rights terrorist thriller, part romance, and part sitcom. Gruen just tries to do way too much with only mixed success.
But the bonobos! Gruen does seem to get this part right, at least as far as I can tell. She has clearly done a lot of research and her portrayal of the individual bonobos is measured and nuanced. I loved reading about their language development and their relationships with Isabel and among each other.
I would call this a good beach read, not a category I usually give much credence to. (Any good book is a good beach read, no?) But if you want something to keep you entertained and you aren’t feeling very picky, this might be just the thing.
(Book 17, 2011)