Isabel Duncan is a scientist working with the Bonobo apes at the Great Ape Language Lab in Kansas. When the lab is blown up in a deliberate explosion, Isabel is injured and the apes are ‘liberated’….right into the hands of a ruthless programme maker who is determined that the apes shall be the stars of a new reality tv show. Reporter John Thigpen was originally supposed to be writing a piece about the work at the lab, but after the explosion the story turns into something else entirely…
I read Sara Gruen’s debut novel, Water for Elephants, almost three years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so in fact that I thought her follow-up was almost certainly going to be a let-down, but I am happy to say that I was wrong. I was hooked on this book from page one. The main characters – Isabel, her friend and co-worker Celia, John, and his wife Amanda were all skilfully drawn and well developed, and I felt as though I really knew these people. More than that, the apes themselves were such distinctive characters too.
The writing flowed well, and moved the story along. I was eager throughout to find out what was going to happen next. I cannot comment on the accuracy of the description of the Bonobos and their ability to communicate with humans and each other; however Gruen has clearly done her homework in this regard (indeed, most of the conversations with the apes in this story are based on the real conversations of Bonobos.
Overall, this was a lovely book – part satire, part love story to the beauty of great apes, with plenty of comedic moments, and lots of drama. Highly recommended.
(Author’s website can be found here.)