First off, a massive thank you to Ellie from Musings of a Bookshop Girl for being wonderful enough to send this to me for Christmas because she loved it herself (her review is here). She also sent me the Pride and Prejudice DVD (the proper one, with Colin Firth) so that’s my Christmas Day all sorted! Anyway, gushing thank yous aside, I really can’t recommend Ape House highly enough.
Even without the drama, Ape House is fascinating. Ms Gruen has obviously put a lot of effort and time into researching the methods of communication between humans and apes. Basic American Sign Language is taught to the bonobos which they can then use to communicate with each other and with their human carers. They’re even intelligent enough to order products online with a simplified computer program. It just blew me away. Plus, it’s hardly just scientific babble – the facts and concepts are inserted so subtly into the storyline that you have no idea you’re being taught. I had no idea about any of this and I’ve already wishlist-ed the books the author recommended.
It’s a very intelligent book, but it’s very emotional and domestic at the same time. John and Isabel’s personal lives and problems are a major part of the book, and the thought of the actions of various characters actually kept me awake last night.
Long story short, it’s a wonderful, moving, compelling story with likeable characters and tangible issues. I’m dying to read Water for Elephants, but I don’t see how it can really improve on Ape House.