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Book Group: Oct Bonus Book - We AACB Ourselves discussion thread

21 watchers
Feb 2015
6:35pm, 2 Feb 2015
5994 posts
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... but you may have read quite a bit of psychology incidental to all the other stuff you've done?
Feb 2015
7:22pm, 2 Feb 2015
6506 posts
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Well yes, I guess so.
Feb 2015
10:16pm, 3 Feb 2015
5998 posts
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There you are, then.
Feb 2015
10:54am, 27 Feb 2015
8814 posts
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OK, late to the party, and I listened to the eAudio book of this as opposed to reading either a physical or electronic text which, as I said in the Book Group thread, I found had its limitations. I will limit use of this medium to instances where I just want to be familiar with the work, rather than for books I want to savour and discuss.

In the end, I enjoyed the book, which I didn't think was going to be the case at the start. I was interested in Rose but disliked Harlow and the tricksy, look-at-me, ain't-I-cute? narrative style. I was glad the reveal came when it did because if she'd kept us waiting until nearer the end then I would have been extremely pissed off.

I only really started enjoying it from part 4 onwards where she has the drunken drug-fuelled night and Lowell turns up. That's when it started getting interesting for me. I enjoyed the unreliable narrator/unreliable memory device. It was interesting that the truth, when it finally emerged (and if it was the truth) was less interesting than the fictions created to fill in the gaps. Isn't that always the case?

I enjoyed the background on all the different chimp experiments, (from chimpan-a to chimpan-zee) the details of the psychological and behavioural studies, and the accounts of animal cruelty in name of farming, science, and product testing. That took me back to my teens when I became a vegetarian, which was totally down to my views on cruelty to animals. At the time I was at the University of Bradford, mixing with Environmental Science and Peace Studies students, a cohort that contained a large number of vegans, vegetarians and animal rights activists. In another part of the university was an infamous floor which had 24 hour security and very limited access. This was where the animal experiments were conducted, research projects funded by industry which brought in vital funds and prestige. There were campaigns to get these experiments closed down, but they never stood a hope in hell.

But then, after part 5, it seemed to slow down again, and take too long to come to a conclusion. I liked the ending, especially the way Rosie's mother came to the fore. All through the book she was portrayed as weak, the person who had been most damaged and unable to cope with Fern's exile, but we learnt that her reticence was for her human daughter's sake, and she proved to be the most caring and resourceful of all her family, better than her sullen, drunken husband or her foul-mouthed, irresponsible, hot-headed son. Lowell suffered the most from Fern's disappearance, effectively ruining the rest of his life. When he tells Rosie to tell his parents he misses them and wishes he could come home, he is truly a little-boy lost.

Talking about being lost, When the young Rosemary goes walkabout from her grandparent's house and knocks on the door of a stranger, she sees a woman trussed up on a bed. The woman winks at her and, as far as we know, Rosie never tells anyone else about this. What do you think the point of this was? Was this when she learnt to keep quiet about things? Was this telling us that men constrain and imprison women, as they do animals. Was the woman's wink telling us that she enjoyed being tied up, or was is just to say "everything's alright here" to reassure R? It's seems to be an echo that once a being becomes used to living in captivity, freedom is frightening? Finally, is it suggesting that every loving relationship is also a prison, one whose bars become as much of a comfort as a childhood toy?

One last comment, I don't buy the idea that Fern was a sister and a daughter. She was a chimpanzee. I can't believe a serious scientists would ever think in that way, let alone use those terms and allow his children to think in that way.
Feb 2015
11:02am, 27 Feb 2015
19820 posts
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Lady Fleecy of Mudshire
Hmm, I disagree on the last point, Dio. Think about how some people behave towards their dogs, anthropomorphising them. And Fern could communicate and looked more human than a dog, with the clothes and living in their home. I think it would be exceptionally easy to have blurred lines there, no matter how objective and scientific someone tried to be.
Feb 2015
12:47pm, 27 Feb 2015
4303 posts
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THanks for the detailed review, Dio.

I was interested in reading about the actual chimpazee-living-in-a-family experiments to see whether people really thought about them as they did about their human offspring (but I haven't yet).

I like the ideas about the woman trussed up scene, which I hadn't really thought about.
Feb 2015
12:43am, 28 Feb 2015
6162 posts
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That scene puzzled me. I still don't know what to make of it. I think I assumed at the time that the wink was a wink of reassurance.
Mar 2015
1:12pm, 4 Mar 2015
4322 posts
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Me too.

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This is an extra bonus discussion thread for the October Bonus Book, We Are All ...

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