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BEYOND INNOCENCE by Jane Goodall Kirkus Star


An Autobiography in Letters: The Later Years

by Jane Goodall & edited by Dale Peterson

Pub Date: July 12th, 2001
ISBN: 0-618-12520-5
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

The second of a two-volume autobiography (Reason for Hope, 1999) in letters that allows readers to enter the daily life of famed primatologist Goodall.

To label Goodall a primatologist feels particularly limiting after reading these letters, for they reveal her as an astute behaviorist of many creatures (including her husbands), a wonderful mother, someone deeply moved by (and moved to act on) the cruelty inflicted on humans and animals, a reveler in life, and a survivor. Editorial notes from Peterson set the stage, and allow for an understanding of Goodall’s more elliptical remarks. The correspondence ushers us into Goodall’s everyday world—sometimes in Europe and America, but often in the field, where her love of her son Grub melds with her love of such places as Arusha, in Tanzania: “Grub and I have spent our nights at the ‘Golden Grass Den.’ In the evening the setting sun gives every dried blade a gleam of gold, brilliant as metal.” Although chimpanzees have been the focus of her lifelong work, Goodall’s interests are vast (“We have been doing a number of tests on Egyptian Vultures in Ngorongoro Crater with reference to their stone throwing behavior”), and her reflections are broad-ranging and wide. Although she speaks of her husbands with considerable reserve (it was during this period in her life that she divorced Hugo van Lawick and lost Derek Bryceson to cancer), her descriptions of animals are vibrant and arresting—speaking of one of her chimps who was captured for medical research, she observes, “The easiest and most common way to acquire a baby chimpanzee in Africa is to shoot the mother and then pull off the clinging infant.”

Further evidence, if any were needed by now, of Goodall’s stunning intellectual acuity, broad curiosity, courage, decency, and goodness.