WOMAN IN THE MISTS: The Story of Dian Fossey and the Mountain Gorillas of Africa by Farley Mowat

WOMAN IN THE MISTS: The Story of Dian Fossey and the Mountain Gorillas of Africa

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An intriguing biography of African gorilla observer Dian Fossey by Canadian author and environmentalist Farley Mowat (The Dog Who Wouldn't Be, Never Cry Wolf, And No Birds Sang, etc.). In the mid-60's Dian Fossey left a nondescript career as an occupational therapist in the US to study and live among the mountain gorillas of Africa, eventually becoming a world authority on the subject and the center of heated controversy--as well as the victim of a brutal murder. Drawing on Fossey's letters and diary entries, Mowat recounts the curve of Fossey's unusual career, beginning with her early fascination with Africa a fortuitous meeting with Dr. Louis Leakey. The meeting with Leakey led to Fossey's first assignment as an observer of gorilla behavior, in the Virungas, Congo. Leakey's involvement with Fossey was crucial to the funding of her project, and due in no small degree, it turns out, to romantic intentions on Leakey's part. Although Fossey eventually outgrew her dependency on Leakey, she didn't overcome bad luck in her relationships: during the course of her work a number of colleagues, research assistants, and students prosed through with brief romantic interests--but they were invariably too old, too young, or too married to offer stability. Strong-willed, individualistic, and indisputably eccentric, Fossey had a knack for making enemies. And when she shifted bases from the Congo to her Karisoke camp in Rwanda, her detractors swelled in proportion to her admirers--particularly after she began organizing a team of armed guards to rout out poachers who became increasingly brazen in their attempts to steal away gorillas from her observation territory. Following a protracted, bitter power straggle for control of Karisoke from which Fossey emerged victorious, she was found murdered just before Christmas of 1985. The circumstances surrounding her death still remain hazy, and this is one area where more exploration on Mowat's part would have been welcome. On the whole, however, this is a surprisingly engaging, fluidly written, and judicious study of a remarkable woman.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1987
Publisher: Warner