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 Opting for a leaner, meaner approach than in his earlier work, Boyd here demonstrates he is capable of a serious, tightly controlled narrative as well as the comic-satiric exuberance of A Good Man in Africa (1982) and The New Confessions (1988). Hope Clearwater is a member of the Grosso Arvore Research Project in Africa, an ongoing study into the behavior of primates. Led by Eugene Mallabar, an international scholar with a sever dose of hubris, and staffed by a familiar breed of academic toads and careerists, Grosso Arvore becomes as much a study of human nature for Hope as the local chimpanzee observation group. When not noting some peculiar goings-on among the local chimps, Hopeconvincing, stiff-necked, proud in her own waytracks the subtle hierarchy of Mallabar's realm: doting wife Ginga, henchman Hauser, the hapless adulterer Ian Vail. Mallabar, who has established worldwide fame on the strength of chimpanzee studies with titles like The Peaceful Primate, refuses to accept Hope's claim that a local chimpanzee population is showing signs of extreme violence. Mallabar's defensiveness, and a ham-fisted accident that destroys Hope's research journal, fire her ambition to prove him wrongand a bitter struggle is underway. Intercut with episodes from Hope's disastrous marriage and an ongoing African civil war, Boyd's latest invokes hit-you-with-a-two-by- four parallels between primate and human aggressiona clichÇ to be sure. But the familiar message here is more than made up for by unromanticized characterization and narrative economy. In the end, Boyd offers up a compelling tale of egos at warand further proof of an emerging, major talent.

Pub Date: June 14th, 1991
ISBN: 0-688-10363-4
Page count: 356pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991


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