Although called "Primates", this is really about the (other) great apes*, and three women who were inspired by Louis Leakey to study them: Jane Goodall (chimpanzees), Dian Fossey (gorillas), and Birute Galdikas (orangutans). Having read books by each of these women, this overview rings largely true, although it is obviously not a very deep look at its subjects.
Reading this book you will get an introduction to Louis Leakey, the famed fossil hunter of east Africa. Unconventional and an outsider to the anthropological community, he was long disregarded and looked down on from their ivory towers. Between some spectacular discoveries, his flair as a showman, and the world stage offered him by the National Geographic Society, he became the public face of paleoanthropology. This led to great public interest in the topic, but probably also led to Leakey being overvalued by the public as the key figure in the area.
Leakey understood that to understand people and our ancestry we also needed to understand our closest relatives. Thus he recruited or sponsored Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas. Each made breakthroughs in our understanding of their respective apes, but this book is more about their stories than their discoveries. Some key discoveries are mentioned, but I would have liked this book to offer a little larger window into our relatives.
These women's stories are interesting and inspiring. Until I read them juxtaposed in this book it hadn't occurred to me how the personality of each somewhat mirrored the ape she studied. Goodall seems the best able to move from the field into the public eye, and she studied the very social chimpanzees. Fossey, who became a fierce protector of gorillas, eventually being killed in her quest to save them, most likely by someone her efforts had caused problems for, studied gorillas, who live in small groups which fiercely protect their own. Galdikas, who has stayed more out of the limelight, choose the reclusive orangutans.
This is a quick to read, nicely illustrated introduction to three remarkable women and "their" apes. With luck, it will inspire some readers to read the books they, themselves, wrote. "Primates" should be accessible to a young teen, while still being interesting to an adult.
I was provided a copy for review by the publisher, but have purchased a copy of the final version for a niece.
* Bonobos used to be viewed as a subspecies of chimpanzees, but are now considered a separate, but closely related, species, so we now recognize four other species of great apes.