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The Woman and the Ape
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The Woman and the Ape

2.5 2
by Peter Hoeg, Barbara Haveland (Translator)

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The Woman and the Ape is the story of a unique and unforgettable couple--Madelene and Erasmus. Madelene is the wife of Adam Burden, a distinguished behavioral scientist. Erasmus--the unlikely prince--is a 300-pound ape. Brought to the Burdens' London home after escaping from animal smugglers, Erasmus is discovered to be a highly intelligent anthropoid ape,


The Woman and the Ape is the story of a unique and unforgettable couple--Madelene and Erasmus. Madelene is the wife of Adam Burden, a distinguished behavioral scientist. Erasmus--the unlikely prince--is a 300-pound ape. Brought to the Burdens' London home after escaping from animal smugglers, Erasmus is discovered to be a highly intelligent anthropoid ape, the closest thing yet to a human being. Madelene decides to save Erasmus, and between them blossoms a profound affection as deep as any human relationship. A fable for our time, The Woman and the Ape poses searching questions about the nature of love, freedom, and humanity.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The Woman and the Ape has many arrestingly stylish and inventive passages and an overall brilliance of tone that shows once again the originality of Mr. Høeg's voice.” —The New York Times

“A witty, compelling thriller that touches a primal nerve that has lain dormant since King Kong fell hard for Fay Wray.” —Francine Prose, People

“This decade's most offbeat love story . . . Funny, often touching, and definitely inventive.” —David Walton, St. Petersburg Times

The Woman and the Ape is great fun to read. . . . Peter Høeg has written an intelligent novel of ideas and slyly disguised it as a lighthearted comedy. . . . He's figured out how to blend his various styles into a distinctive voice that's satiric, deadpan funny, at once warm and cool.” —Brigitte Frase, Newsday

“No imaginative writer working today is any more daring than Danish novelist Peter Høeg, any more willing to shock readers with something that is genuinely new. . . . He does it again with this utterly original mix of fantasy, fable, myth, and love story.” —Bill Ott, Booklist (starred review)

“This should confirm Peter Høeg's place as one of the most creative and interesting authors today.” —Elizabeth D. Dickie, Richmond Times-Dispatch

“One of the most griping books I've read in years. It moved me so deeply that by the end I found myself weeping.” —Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Village Voice Literary Supplement

“An engrossing fable.” —Deloris Ament, The Seattle Times

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
No one will ever be able to claim that Heg doesn't know how to hook a reader. The newest ecothriller by the author of Smilla's Sense of Snow opens with the deceptively simple sentence: "An ape was approaching London." What the vague syntax and flat affect omit could (and does) fill a book. For instance, the "ape"-who's dubbed Erasmus-turns out not to be "some sort of dwarf chimpanzee" as eminent zoologist Adam Burden claims, but a brand new species of ape that just might have the potential for language and higher cognitive functions. The opening line gives little indication of the hubbub Erasmus will raise in a few short paragraphs when he causes the Ark, the ship that has carried him captive to London, to lose its crew and plow mast-first into busy St. Katharine's Dock. Or, a few pages later, when he leads Dr. Burden and his minions on a merry chase through the streets of London. Or, a couple of chapters down the road, when Erasmus seduces Madelene, who just happens to be Burden's beautiful alcoholic wife, and takes her away for a week-long lovefest at a wild animal park. The first line gives no indication of all this because the story and its characters are mere window-dressing for Heg. While he's a fluid writer who is competent at telling stories, it's in the realm of ideas that he excels. There are long passages in which he analyzes Erasmus and human emotions and London itself in terms that are by turns mechanistic and organic. On one page, London is a "gigantic mycelium," a fungus. On a later page, we discover that London is a worn-out machine," full of blind spots and flat points." At the end of this fine and diverting novel, Madelene explains how she's always pictured angels, and her definition could as easily stand for Erasmus or London or even the Earth. "It's one third god, one third animal, and one third human." 100,000 first printing; major ad/promo. (Dec.) FYI: The movie version of Smilla's Sense of Snow, starring Julia Ormond and Gabriel Byrne, is scheduled for release in March 1997.
Library Journal
From Smilla's Sense of Snow to Borderliners to A History of Danish Dreams, Danish novelist Heg has maintained a sharp sense of social critique that, refreshingly, is not wittily dismisive but earnest without being heavy-handed. And what better way to show up human heartlessness and pretension, particularly of the ruling classes, than in our treatment of animals? In this swift-paced, lacerating new work, an ape brought illegally to England ends up at the home of Madelene, a Danish woman married to Adam Burden, director of the Institute of Animal Behavioral Research. Madelene is young, fresh, and deeply alcoholic, but through the glassy haze that Heg describes so effectivelyfrom the inside out, not simply for dramatic effect but almost as an aesthetic experience, like being in a crystal cageshe can tell the ape is in danger. Madelene sets out to rescue the ape from her coldly calculating husband and his even more frigid sister and, in the process, rescues herself. That is the only predictable aspect of this thought-provoking work, which is too fresh in its writing and its perceptions to fall into the sentimentality one might expect. An air of freedom surrounds Madelene's eventual abduction by the ape, and though their sexual involvment may seem over the top to some readers, you can't help but be carried along by Heg's convictions. Don't think King Kong; this is much subtler. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/96.]Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Kirkus Reviews
Heg's fourth novel (his third, the international success Smilla's Sense of Snow, 1993, having been the first published here) is an energetic fable about relations between the animal kingdom and its human exploiters—more than a little didactic in spots, but distinguished by enough wit and invention to redeem a dozen lesser books.

The story begins in London when a "dwarf chimpanzee" escapes from animal smugglers and is immediately captured and targeted for exhaustive experimentation by a research institute affiliated with the city's zoo. Behavioral scientist Adam Burden and his steely sister Andrea, who works for an Animal Welfare Foundation, see in their astonishing find ("a new and hitherto unknown mammal, an apparently highly intelligent anthropoid ape") a career-making opportunity. But their plans are thwarted when Adam's Danish-born wife Madelene, a lissome alcoholic, discovers in the ape (named "Erasmus") a fellow sufferer whose captivity echoes her own (as a tamed, well-behaved helpmate and showpiece), and also a potential soulmate. Forswearing drink, Madelene craftily subverts her husband's careerist politicking, and—aided by the smuggler's cheerfully criminal driver—runs off with Erasmus. The novel really picks up seriocomic steam as Madelene and Erasmus learn to communicate (he can talk, and is a quick learner), make love in the treetops, and enjoy a mock-Edenic "idyll" unobserved in a junglelike wildlife preserve. Everything climaxes during Adam's acceptance speech as he's being installed as the London Zoo's new director—with dramatic proof that Erasmus isn't the only creature of his kind. It's a romp, in more senses than one, and Heg manages, against odds, to shape both the story's discursiveness and its ingenious plot toward a smashing and emotionally satisfying conclusion.

Heg is an adventurous and intelligent writer whose future course seems, happily, impossible to predict. He has made himself, in a few short years, one of the essential contemporary novelists.

Product Details

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First Edition
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

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Meet the Author

Peter Høeg, born in 1957 in Denmark, followed various callings--dancer, actor, sailor, fencer, and mountaineer--before turning seriously to writing. He is the bestselling author of five novels and one short story collection. His work has been published in thirty-three countries.

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The Woman and the Ape 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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