Bruno Littlemore is a chimp, who narrates this novel. He is extremely intelligent, and the book is beautifully written. It is very dark, and is not for the faint of heart in the least -- there is much violence, sexual content, even a rape and beastiality.
Despite the wonderful language hidden within the novel, the book was easy to begin, but difficult to finish. Bruno is an interesting character that you empathize with, but as his life stretches far and wide, so do the boundaries of the reader's imagination, and not in a good way. It's hard to believe that Bruno would appear so human-like, that people would not know he is a chimp. By the end, the story moves into some difficult territory, and it became rather unbelievable, and hard to finish.
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50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
What Can a Chimp Teach Us About Ourselves?Jan. 24 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
The advance hype for "Bruno Littlemore" stretches all the way to last June, where it was the talk of the BookExpo America in New York. The hype is justified. Benjamin Hale has created one of the most distinctive and playful narrators in years in the form of Bruno Littlemore, a talking chimpanzee who dictates his story to an assistant. If you read the first three pages, you won't be able to stop. Trust me on this.
Bruno is intelligent, witty, and quite arrogant--a wonderfully glorious combination. Bruno's voice is in sharp contrast to "Room" by Emma Donoghue, a novel with a child's narrative voice that was well received by critics and audiences in 2010. However, like that book, "Bruno Littlemore" transcends the narrative trickery to provide the reader with an emotional experience that you will remember long after you've finished the final pages.
P.S. There is monkey/human sex and monkey/frog sex. The former is love, and the latter you've probably seen video of on YouTube.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
I am Bruno and LittlemoreFeb. 5 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Benjamin Hale's big debut novel is the story of a chimpanzee (an ape, not a monkey, as he says) named Bruno Littlemore. His name is half taken and half received: Bruno is his given name, Littlemore is the last name of his former caretaker, Lydia. Littlemore turns out to be a misnomer as Bruno is much more than a chimpanzee, he can speak.
The novel is told from Bruno's perspective in the form of a transcribed recording of his autobiography (see, Lolita). Bruno is selected at a young age from a zoo for research and is transferred to a lab in Chicago. A young researcher, Lydia Littlemore, takes a special interest in Bruno and Bruno shortly reveals his ability to speak, or to learn to speak, honed by (of all people) an autistic night janitor.
As Bruno says, "A being acquires language because it is curious, because it yearns to participate in the perpetual reincarnation of the world. It is not just a trick of agreement. It is not a process of painting symbols over the faces of the raw materials of the cosmos. A being acquires language to carve out its own consciousness, its own active and reactive existence. A being screams because it is in pain, and it acquires language to communicate."
This is when the novel really takes off. As Bruno "evolves," he takes on the better and worse qualities of humankind: vanity, self-consciousness, morality. Bruno becomes human in as many ways as an ape can, to his benefit and detriment: he loves, he is loved; he suffers, he makes others suffer. Through Bruno, the novel asks many questions about the nature of man and animal, about language, about morality, and about love.
"There are two kinds of awe," Bruno says to Clever Hands, a chimp who can sign, "One is an awe at nature, and the other is awe at the wild irrational beauty of the mind. Are these awes in opposition to one another? Or are they, in some terrifying, spooky way, somehow connected?"
There are a lot of great moments like this: Bruno's time at the zoo, Bruno with Lydia in Chicago, the underground performance of The Tempest, the final confrontation. The novel as a whole is excellent, filled with humor, heartbreak, and intelligence.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
incredibleFeb. 3 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time.
In response to the one negative review on here, Bruno is not supposed to be a likeable character. Yes, he's sarcastic, crass, self-contradictory (aren't we all?), but, above all, he is overwhelmingly truthful, and I can anticipate that some readers will squirm as he voices his (very loud) opinions. That is the beauty of this book. As "unlikeable" as he may be, there are some extremely tender moments where I felt myself feeling compassion and pity towards Bruno. THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE is an exploration of the human condition-- the good, the bad, and the ugly. And Bruno certainly doesn't spare us from the things we don't want to hear about ourselves.
Hale is an excellent writer and his talent shines through on every page. It's a hefty book, but it moves quickly with a vivid cast of characters that at times will have you laughing out loud. I couldn't put this book down. An excellent debut novel to say the least. I look forward to reading more of Hale's work in the future.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Maybe a five star, maybe a one star, definitely a struggle.April 10 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
I have been going back and forth in my head over this review for quite awhile. I mean, how can I possibly give this book a two star rating when the writing is just so wonderful? The author challenged my vocabulary; something that no book has done in quite awhile. The many literary and philosophical references served as delightful surprises to be unearthed in this story that was in turn shocking, tedious, inspiring, infuriating and thoughtful.
To say that this is not a book for everyone would be a gross understatement. I knew going into this novel that Bruno and his human companion develop a sexual relationship. Somehow I was still shocked when it occurred. I am puzzled that this relationship developed at a time in Bruno's evolution when even the scientists admitted that he had the language skills of a two year old child. The relationship between Lydia and Bruno occurs at a time when Lydia is a mother figure and he is still being charmed by Sesame Street. The speed at which this relationship changed from pseudo mother/child to lovers left me flabbergasted and dismayed. I have read books where people do unfathomable things, but usually the author makes some effort to bring us into the heads of their characters so that we may better understand their actions. I did not feel this at all with Lydia. I did not understand her feelings, her motivations, or her actions. Unfortunately, this killed a lot of this story for me.
There's no doubt that Bruno's evolution is a fascinating read. The first two hundred pages or so that involved language acquisition were interesting and made for compelling reading. Bruno's obsessive descriptions of things in his environment were made more palatable by the author's beautiful writing. It was only later in the story that Bruno himself becomes rather caught up in his own pretentiousness that I began to dislike him and really wanted him to be quiet for a while.
The writing is wonderful, and the story brings to life many questions on the nature of humanity. The author set off on an ambitious project here, and unfortunately I think he only marginally succeeded. Parts of this book were very enjoyable and interesting, and parts left a bad taste in my mouth. It was an intellectual and morally challenging read, but ultimately not a very entertaining one. Hopefully the next time around the author will have honed his storytelling skills to a level to match his superb writing skills. I have no wish to ever revisit this one again. Not a recommend.
79 of 103 people found the following review helpful
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore: What to Expect from this NovelFeb. 11 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Another reviewer remarked that you won't like Bruno, the chimpanzee narrator of this novel. While others have quipped that you're not supposed to, he was intended to be flawed, etc. etc., that doesn't make it any less true: Bruno is a completely unlikeable character, bordering on sociopathic. And not in the potentially entertaining, V for Vendetta, "Angry Man Blows Up Everything" kind of way. Bruno is just cowardly and narcissistic to the point that it's almost painful to read -- and this may be problematic for readers who like to sympathize with their protagonists.
A few other things to expect going in: If you're the slightest bit bothered by bestiality, you'll probably be offended by this book. (I personally am pretty mellow about such things, but it seems like a fair warning to others, as the human/chimp sex thing isn't just mentioned once or twice in passing -- it features prominently and continuously in the story.)
I also feel compelled to give a heads up on the writing style. It's very purple, with literally pages dedicated to describing things of only peripheral interest, like the apartment Bruno lived in. The narrator branches off onto preachy, semi-relevant philosophical musings at every possibly opportunity, and all of this is done in very long sentences -- usually involving a sequence of breathless, comma-separated descriptive fragments.
On a related note, the paragraphs are generally very long as well, often dragging on for a page or more for no clear reason. Chapter 44, in fact, is comprised of a single run-on paragraph. Whatever the literary merit of this book's chosen narrative style, I feel like anyone planning to buy it should at least be prepared for the unbroken walls of text it contains.
One final warning: despite the overblown verbosity of the novel, it seemed to completely gloss over the parts that had the potential to be most fascinating, and which I felt warranted the most description. The process whereby Bruno learned language is hardly explained at all, and we're not privy to any serious amount of conversation between the talking ape and his handler Lydia -- despite the fact that they are (we are repeatedly told) deeply and passionately in love.
As my one-star rating implies, I didn't much care for this book. Although the premise had potential, the execution fell far short of my expectations, largely for the reasons outlined above. Your mileage may vary, and you may end up really liking it -- but hopefully this review will at least help people know what to expect from this novel going in.