Feature

Novel of the week: The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is narrated by a talking chimpanzee who falls in love with his teacher, a primatologist named Lydia Littlemore.

(Twelve, $26)

The narrator of Benjamin Hale’s ambitious first novel “is much more than a talking chimpanzee,” said Thomas J. Walsh in the Houston Chronicle. The first nonhuman primate to acquire the ability to speak, Bruno Littlemore is also “a philosopher, a lover, an autodidact.” Exceeding the expectations of even primatologist Lydia Littlemore, his teacher, Bruno becomes first her friend and later her lover. The ick factor isn’t as high as you might expect, said Dan Cryer in Newsday. Hale uses the story’s cross-species affair in the service of a larger point, namely that we “are far more like apes than different.” More interesting to ponder, since the entire tale is presented as Bruno’s prison memoir, is whether it is Bruno’s chimp or human side that leads him to commit murder. As a storyteller, Bruno “reminds me of no writer so much as Saul Bellow,” thus exceeding readers’ expectations again. “Adventure tale, love story, science fiction, novel of ideas—this one has it all.”

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