Monday, November 8, 2010

Ape House

Several years ago I read Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen. I liked it, but didn't rave about it nearly as much as some of my friends. I have thought on various occasions that I should go back and re-read this one, since so many people loved it. What did I miss?
Gruen's latest book, Ape House, was one I was intrigued by from the start. As a child I had read a book by Norma Klein, Honey of a Chimp, where a family adopts a chimp, raising it as a child in their family. I read and re-read that book numerous times, wishing for this for my family. Any novel about apes seems to attract my attention, even in adulthood.
Ape House is a fictional story about Isabel Duncan, researcher, who is working in at a university research center when the building is bombed, critically injuring her. While she is recovering from her injuries, the apes - which are the closest thing to a family that she has- are sold to be the stars of a reality television show. Her fiancee, Peter, proves to be a disappointing match and their relationship ends as well. The one person Isabel feels some bond with is a reporter, John Thigpen, who has recently visited her at the lab. John's marriage and professional problems provide an entertaining subplot. Although this story didn't go where I anticipated, Gruen's latest work is one that I read quickly, happily devouring it.
While reviews are mixed on this one, Ape House gets a thumbs up from me.


Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Glad u liked this one Tina. I thought it was pretty good as well.

Fourth Musketeer said...

I was disappointed in this book.
Since you're interested in our great ape cousins, I can't recommend highly enough Bonobo Handshake by Vanessa Woods, also released this year. Check out her website too:
Like you I am fascinated by the great apes, and Vanessa's memoir of her own real experiences working with bonobos at a sanctuary in the Congo was so much more compelling and riveting than Sara Gruen's book that Gruen's book just paled by comparison. By the way Vanessa Woods' book is definitely adult only--in addition to lots of discussion of bonobos' unique love-making habits, there's lots of discussion about atrocities committed in the Congo. I think it was partly the contrast between the peaceful bonobos and the horrible Congo rebels and what they were doing to their countrymen that made Woods' book so compelling.

I also just finished Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, a YA novel. In this new book a teenage boy's family takes in an infant chimp to raise as a human baby in order to study language acquisition, set in 1973. It's heartbreaking, since you know there's not going to be a happy ending, but also couldn't put that one down.

I think I was also disturbed by the reality TV angle in Gruen's book--just didn't work for me.