The Female of the Species: A Novel

( 2 )

Overview

Still unattached and childless at fifty-nine, world-renowned anthropologist Gray Kaiser is seemingly invincible—and untouchable. Returning to make a documentary at the site of her first great triumph in Kenya, she is accompanied by her faithful middle-aged assistant, Errol McEchern, who has loved her for years in silence. When sexy young graduate assistant Raphael Sarasola arrives on the scene, Gray is captivated and falls hopelessly in love—before an amazed and injured Errol's eyes. As he follows the progress of...

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The Female of the Species

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Overview

Still unattached and childless at fifty-nine, world-renowned anthropologist Gray Kaiser is seemingly invincible—and untouchable. Returning to make a documentary at the site of her first great triumph in Kenya, she is accompanied by her faithful middle-aged assistant, Errol McEchern, who has loved her for years in silence. When sexy young graduate assistant Raphael Sarasola arrives on the scene, Gray is captivated and falls hopelessly in love—before an amazed and injured Errol's eyes. As he follows the progress of their affair with jealous fascination, Errol watches helplessly from the sidelines as a proud and fierce woman is reduced to miserable dependence through subtle, cruel, and calculating manipulation.

An outstanding debut novel about the romantic education of a 59-year-old anthropologist who falls in love with a young student.

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Editorial Reviews

People
“Terrific—a provocative tale of devotion, suffering, and other familiar accountrements of love.”
People Magazine
"Terrific—a provocative tale of devotion, suffering, and other familiar accountrements of love."
Kansas City Star
“Lionel Shriver is a vastly talented writer...This book deserves to be read.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Stunning . . . wide in its horizons, interesting in its insights, and satisfying in its conclusions.”
People
“Terrific—a provocative tale of devotion, suffering, and other familiar accountrements of love.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
"Stunning . . . wide in its horizons, interesting in its insights, and satisfying in its conclusions."
People
“Terrific—a provocative tale of devotion, suffering, and other familiar accountrements of love.”
Kansas City Star
"Lionel Shriver is a vastly talented writer...This book deserves to be read."
Kansas City Star
“Lionel Shriver is a vastly talented writer...This book deserves to be read.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Stunning . . . wide in its horizons, interesting in its insights, and satisfying in its conclusions.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Structured in a circular way, beginning and ending on Gray Kaiser's 60th birthday, this novel gathers momentum as it goes. Gray, a preeminent anthropologist living in Boston, famous for her studies of matriarchal societies in Africa, is a majestic, independent woman. In her late middle age, she falls in love for the first time with a cruel, much younger man, Raphael Sarasola, who is obviously using her for her money and connections. Errol McEchern, the long-time associate who has pined for Gray for years, subjugating his own needs to be with her, narrates the drama while, simultaneously, being deeply involved in it. What he does not witness, he invents; he relates Gray's first expedition to Africa, where she met Charles Corgie, Raphael's predecessor, as well as the story of Raphael's adolescence living in an abandoned factory in North Adams. As Gray transforms before Errol's eyes from a vibrant, brilliant scholar to a helpless, lovestruck victim, Errol begins to get glimmers of insight into his own failings and inability to extricate himself from the destructive triangle. The quality and vividness of Errol's imagination is a tribute to Shriver's own; the pieces fall neatly and compellingly into place. This is a confident first novel and a consuming one. (April)
Library Journal
Gray Kaiser is a renowned anthropologist whose career took off when she discovered a remote African village lorded over by white man Corgie, whose plane crash had convinced the locals that he was a god. Now 59, Gray returns to Il-Ororen to make a film of the village as it was, with the help of her 40-ish assistant Errol. Their lives become entangled with Raphael, the 25-year-old grad student whose uncanny resemblance to Corgie makes him the star of the film and eventually Gray's first lover. This is a remarkable book: it is at once full of very predictable plot turns, yet compelling to read; the three main characters are often cliched and transparent, yet they are striking, original, memorable characters. Fascinating and warmly recommended, though perhaps not for those whose taste runs to sophisticated fiction. Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061711398
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/4/2009
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 1,162,310
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Lionel  Shriver

Lionel Shriver's novels include The New Republic, the National Book Award finalist So Much for That, the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World, and the Orange Prize winner We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her journalism has appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She lives in London and Brooklyn, New York.

Biography

At age seven, Lionel Shriver decided she would be a writer. In 1987, she made good on her promise with The Female of the Species, a debut novel that received admiring reviews. Shriver's five subsequent novels were also well-received; but it was her seventh, 2003's We Need to Talk About Kevin, that turned her into a household name.

Beautiful and deeply disturbing, ...Kevin unfolds as a series of letters written by a distraught mother to her absent husband about their son, a malevolent bad seed who has embarked on a Columbine-style killing spree. Interestingly enough, when Shriver presented the book proposal to her agent, it was rejected out of hand. She shopped the novel around on her own, and eight months later it was picked up by a smaller publishing company. The novel went on to win the 2005 Orange Prize, a UK-based award for female authors of any nationality writing in English.

A graduate of Columbia University, Shriver is also a respected journalist whose features, op-eds, and reviews have appeared in such publications as The Guardian, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, and the Economist. Since her breakthrough book, she has continued to produce bestselling fiction and gimlet-eyed journalism in equal measure.

Good To Know

In our interview, Shriver shared some interesting anecdotes about herself with us:

"I am not as nice as I look."

"I am an extremely good cook -- if inclined to lace every dish from cucumber canapés to ice cream with such a malice of fresh chilies that nobody but I can eat it."

"I am a pedant. I insist that people pronounce ‘flaccid' as ‘flaksid,' which is dictionary-correct but defies onomatopoeic instinct and annoys one and all. I never let people get away with using ‘enervated‘ to mean ‘energized,‘ when the word means without energy, thank you very much. Not only am I, apparently, the last remaining American citizen who knows the difference between 'like' and ‘as,‘ but I freely alienate everyone in my surround by interrupting, ‘You mean, as I said.' Or, 'You mean, you gave it to whom,' or ‘You mean, that's just between you and me. ' I am a lone champion of the accusative case, and so –- obviously -- have no friends."

"Whenever I mention that, say, I run an eight-and-a half-mile course around Prospect Park in Brooklyn, or a nine-mile course in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens in London, I inevitably invite either: ‘Huh! I only run five! Who does she think she is? I bet she's slow. Or I bet she's lying.' Or: ‘Hah! What a slacker. That's nothing. I run marathons in under two and a half hours!' So let's just leave it that I do not do this stuff for ‘fun,' since anyone who tells you they get ‘high' on running is definitely lying. Rather, if I did not force myself to trudge about on occasion, I would spend all day poking at my keyboard, popping dried gooseberries, and in short order weigh 300 pounds. In which event I would no longer fit through the study door, and I do not especially wish to type hunched over the computer on the hall carpet."

"My tennis game is deplorable."

"Most people think I'm working on my new novel, but I'm really spending most of 2004 getting up the courage to finally dye my hair."

"I read every article I can find that commends the nutritional benefits of red wine -- since if they're right, I will live to 110."

"Though raised by Aldai Stevenson Democrats, I have a violent, retrograde right-wing streak that alarms and horrifies my acquaintances in New York. And I have been told more than once that I am ‘extreme.' "

"As I run down the list of my preferences, I like dark roast coffee, dark sesame oil, dark chocolate, dark-meat chicken, even dark chili beans -- a pattern emerges that, while it may not put me on the outer edges of human experience, does exude a faint whiff of the unsavory."

"Twelve years in Northern Ireland have left a peculiar residual warp in my accent. House = hyse; shower = shar; now = nye. An Ulster accent bears little relation to the mincing Dublin brogue Americans are more familiar with, and these aberrations are often misinterpreted as holdovers from my North Carolinian childhood (I left Raleigh at 15). Because this handful of souvenir vowels is one of the only things I took away with me from Belfast -- a town that I both love and hate, and loved and hated me, in equal measure -- my wonky pronunciation is a point of pride (or, if you will, vanity), and when my ‘Hye nye bryne cye' ( = ‘how now brown cow') is mistaken for a bog-standard southern American drawl I get mad."

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    1. Hometown:
      Brooklyn, New York, and London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 18, 1957
    2. Place of Birth:
      Gastonia, North Carolina
    1. Education:
      B.A., Barnard College of Columbia University, 1978; M.F.A. in Fiction Writing, Columbia University, 1982
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 11, 2010

    What a book!

    Lionel Shriver is now one of my favorite authors, the ones I check for new books and order practically blindfolded. This book was great! I first read "We Have To Talk About Kevin", then this book, and lastly "The Post Birthday World" What I love, beyond the fantastic plots and awesome writing, is that each book is different. Each book is dynamic, so good I hate to finish but can't put down. I am a picky reader and Lionel Shriver is up so many notches I have no worry about any other of her books. When I saw there had been no review of this book I had to write a review. This book is much too good and deserves attention. Fairly outrageous story here but if you are picky like me, get this book, cancel plans for the next couple of days and read... I'd write more, but I am looking for my next Lionel Shriver book. Bye.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2011

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