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The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore Hardcover – February 2, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2011: From the first page of Benjamin Hale's exquisite novel, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, Hale’s linguistic talent locks the reader into their seat and sends them ticking up the roller coaster ride of Bruno Littlemore’s life. An unlikely narrator, Bruno is a chimpanzee trying to become a man--a process he sees as “equal parts enlightenment and imprinting your brain with taboos.” Bruno acquires a fervent love of language--and of primatologist Lydia Littlemore, with whom he develops a deep (and, yes, sexual) relationship until she falls ill. Comic relief comes in the form of Leon, a boisterous subway thespian, who introduces Bruno to the stage shortly before a murderous transgression results in Bruno’s return to captivity. With Bruno Littlemore, Hale has crafted a truly original narrator, holding a mirror on humanity with a razor-like precision that makes this stunning novel one readers will want to discuss the minute they turn the last page.--Seira Wilson

From Publishers Weekly

An enlightened chimp goes on the wildest adventure since Every Which Way but Loose in Hale's mischievous debut. Bruno Littlemore, the narrator chimp, eventually lands in a research lab at the University of Chicago, where he falls in love with Dr. Lydia Littlemore, who, shortly after hearing Bruno speak his name, takes him first to her apartment (sex is had, much later) and later to the quietude of a Colorado ranch owned by a couple of odd animal rights advocates. It is in this environment that Bruno becomes a fully articulate and artistic being, but the idyll does not last: Lydia falls ill, and Bruno is captured, escapes, ends up in New York City, and befriends a dreamer named Leon with whom he mounts a performance of The Tempest before being forced by circumstance to return, tragically, to Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. Bruno, having mastered speech, is quite happy to play with this new toy, going on philosophical riffs and speaking at length about art, and while his monologues are less tedious than you'd imagine, it's his quest for answers about the agonizing dilemmas of existence that is unexpectedly resonant. (Feb.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve; First Edition edition (February 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446571571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446571579
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,056,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Benjamin Hale is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the recipient of a Provost's Fellowship, a Michener-Copernicus Award, and the Bard Fiction Prize. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in "Harper's Magazine," "Conjunctions," and "The New York Times," among others. He grew up in Colorado and now lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

Well written book.
Ted King
Guess I shouldn't have said I read the entire book--I did skip through these parts after the first time.
A remarkable novel, by a gifted writer.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Anastasia Beaverhausen VINE VOICE on January 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The advance hype for "Bruno Littlemore" stretches all the way to last June, where it was the talk of the BookExpo America in New York. The hype is justified. Benjamin Hale has created one of the most distinctive and playful narrators in years in the form of Bruno Littlemore, a talking chimpanzee who dictates his story to an assistant. If you read the first three pages, you won't be able to stop. Trust me on this.

Bruno is intelligent, witty, and quite arrogant--a wonderfully glorious combination. Bruno's voice is in sharp contrast to "Room" by Emma Donoghue, a novel with a child's narrative voice that was well received by critics and audiences in 2010. However, like that book, "Bruno Littlemore" transcends the narrative trickery to provide the reader with an emotional experience that you will remember long after you've finished the final pages.

P.S. There is monkey/human sex and monkey/frog sex. The former is love, and the latter you've probably seen video of on YouTube.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Chris B. on February 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Benjamin Hale's big debut novel is the story of a chimpanzee (an ape, not a monkey, as he says) named Bruno Littlemore. His name is half taken and half received: Bruno is his given name, Littlemore is the last name of his former caretaker, Lydia. Littlemore turns out to be a misnomer as Bruno is much more than a chimpanzee, he can speak.

The novel is told from Bruno's perspective in the form of a transcribed recording of his autobiography (see, Lolita). Bruno is selected at a young age from a zoo for research and is transferred to a lab in Chicago. A young researcher, Lydia Littlemore, takes a special interest in Bruno and Bruno shortly reveals his ability to speak, or to learn to speak, honed by (of all people) an autistic night janitor.

As Bruno says, "A being acquires language because it is curious, because it yearns to participate in the perpetual reincarnation of the world. It is not just a trick of agreement. It is not a process of painting symbols over the faces of the raw materials of the cosmos. A being acquires language to carve out its own consciousness, its own active and reactive existence. A being screams because it is in pain, and it acquires language to communicate."

This is when the novel really takes off. As Bruno "evolves," he takes on the better and worse qualities of humankind: vanity, self-consciousness, morality. Bruno becomes human in as many ways as an ape can, to his benefit and detriment: he loves, he is loved; he suffers, he makes others suffer. Through Bruno, the novel asks many questions about the nature of man and animal, about language, about morality, and about love.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J.Prather TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have been going back and forth in my head over this review for quite awhile. I mean, how can I possibly give this book a two star rating when the writing is just so wonderful? The author challenged my vocabulary; something that no book has done in quite awhile. The many literary and philosophical references served as delightful surprises to be unearthed in this story that was in turn shocking, tedious, inspiring, infuriating and thoughtful.

*******Spoiler Alert*****

To say that this is not a book for everyone would be a gross understatement. I knew going into this novel that Bruno and his human companion develop a sexual relationship. Somehow I was still shocked when it occurred. I am puzzled that this relationship developed at a time in Bruno's evolution when even the scientists admitted that he had the language skills of a two year old child. The relationship between Lydia and Bruno occurs at a time when Lydia is a mother figure and he is still being charmed by Sesame Street. The speed at which this relationship changed from pseudo mother/child to lovers left me flabbergasted and dismayed. I have read books where people do unfathomable things, but usually the author makes some effort to bring us into the heads of their characters so that we may better understand their actions. I did not feel this at all with Lydia. I did not understand her feelings, her motivations, or her actions. Unfortunately, this killed a lot of this story for me.

There's no doubt that Bruno's evolution is a fascinating read. The first two hundred pages or so that involved language acquisition were interesting and made for compelling reading. Bruno's obsessive descriptions of things in his environment were made more palatable by the author's beautiful writing.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By DMary48 on February 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time.

In response to the one negative review on here, Bruno is not supposed to be a likeable character. Yes, he's sarcastic, crass, self-contradictory (aren't we all?), but, above all, he is overwhelmingly truthful, and I can anticipate that some readers will squirm as he voices his (very loud) opinions. That is the beauty of this book. As "unlikeable" as he may be, there are some extremely tender moments where I felt myself feeling compassion and pity towards Bruno. THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE is an exploration of the human condition-- the good, the bad, and the ugly. And Bruno certainly doesn't spare us from the things we don't want to hear about ourselves.

Hale is an excellent writer and his talent shines through on every page. It's a hefty book, but it moves quickly with a vivid cast of characters that at times will have you laughing out loud. I couldn't put this book down. An excellent debut novel to say the least. I look forward to reading more of Hale's work in the future.
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