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Primitive People Paperback – December 4, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1ST edition (December 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060934697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060934699
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.3 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,284,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Through the eyes of protagonist Simone, an illegal immigrant from Haiti who becomes a "caregiver" to the children of unforgivably self-absorbed parents, Prose illuminates some of the ludicrous aspects of our culture.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Simone is an illegal immigrant from Haiti, working as an au pair for a family in upstate New York. There, she learns about American life from the shallow, self-centered "primitive people" around her: her employer Rosemary, who is camping out with her withdrawn children in the ancestral home of her estranged husband; Rosemary's brittle and caustic best friend Shelly, an interior decorator; and Shelly's narcissistic, sexually ambiguous boyfriend Kenny, who owns a children's hair salon. In Simone's adjustment to her new life, Prose's latest novel is reminiscent of Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy ( LJ 11/1/90), while its biting satire and anti-male attitude recall Fay Weldon. Although this book is entertaining to read, it doesn't have enough substance or sympathetic characters to be totally successful. Prose's talent for skewering the pretensions of contemporary life is shown to better advantage in her short story collection Women and Children First ( LJ 3/1/88).
- Patricia Ross, Westerville P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Francine Prose is the author of sixteen books of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. A former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Francine Prose lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
In the book, as in many of her other works, Francine Prose has a gift for evocative description. She nails the feel of a restaurant, or a room, a coat, a meal, etc. It is easy to picture the characters, and translate them to real life. They could easily exist, and are generally amalgams of people one already knows. The society and the culture she describes in this book, she knows, and faithfully depicts. There are universal feelings that the main characters have and describe that she conveys so eloquently that I found myself actively thinking "Wow, I'm impressed."
However, despite her great skill as a writer, I found the book only lukewarm on the enjoyability scale. She may write real and vivid characters, but I didn't really care too much about them. And sadly, I felt like she didn't either. It seemed to lack heart. Passion. This book doesn't quite go the distance, and although it is not a bad read it packs no real punch.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By lisatheratgirl VINE VOICE on July 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
I mean the other reviews. Wo wo wo wo---this isn't a novel with a "dark" plot or characters that are supposed to be realistic individuals. I admit this is the first book I've read by the author, but what this is is satire, these people are supposed to be caricatures. Even the title tells you that. Rich American WASPs are seen through the eyes of a newly arrived illegal immigrant from Haiti. It's the Americans (in Westchester County, I'm assuming) who are the "primitive" people, and not in the literal sense. It's good satire because the author's point is very true, and she has you laughing while shaking your head at the same time. Here is a divorced father who buys his kids their own life-size jukebox, and explains to the Haitian nanny he has a terrible dilemma, because he never knows what to get the kids for Christmas. The Haitian woman meanwhile thinks that kids from her country would prefer too many choices to no food at all. She's having a lot of trouble understanding the world she's been dropped into, and it is pretty crazy. You'll enjoy this book a lot if you see it for what it really is. In some ways it reminds me of Don DeLillo's White Noise, or William Boyd's books. Another story along these lines is that old movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy. We do live in a crazy environment, and sometimes all you can do is laugh.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By algo41 on June 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
The moral of this dark novel could be formulated as " the selfish shall inherit the earth". An illegal Haitian immigrant is hired by a divorced wife to be a governess - unlike the other characters, mother and governess are both very decent people, although the mother can be neglectful and not as strong a person as the children need. The strength of this novel is in its portrayal of the children, caught in a bad situation. The Haitian angle and the governess' back story add interest, the father is charming and chilling, and the children's barber is a well drawn, interesting secondary character. It took me quite a while to get fully caught up in this book, but it was never dull.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By trainreader on October 23, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Primitive People" is my fourth Francine Prose novel, and while I preferred it to "Bigfoot Dreams," I didn't like it as much as "Blue Angel," or "Household Saints." The story is basically told through the eyes of Simone, a beautiful and educated Haitian woman, who is hired by the unstable Rosemary as a caretaker/nanny to look after her two children, George (age 10), and Maisie (age 6). The family practically defines the word dysfunctional, as the once grand house decays around them. Although the children are depressed enough from the divorce of their parents, Simone is really there more to keep an extremely lonely Rosemary company. The other principle characters are the divorced father, Geoffrey; Rosemary's highly spirited best friend, Shelly; and Shelly's boyfriend, the sharp-tongued Kenny, who also doubles as the children's barber.

Frankly the characters speak so condescendingly to each other, and to Simone in particular, that it all began to feel rather forced to me. It was as if the author, banging us over the head with the lack of moral compass of the characters, was trying to duplicate the feel of "The Great Gatsby" in another era, but didn't come close. (The parallels between the pasts of Simone and Rosemary also felt forced to me). For instance, when Simone dresses for a wedding for one of Rosemary's cousins, Rosemary tells Simone something like "you look just like a high-priced Haitian hooker," which is actually repeated to her by another character who follows it up with "but I mean that in a good way." Since I don't know any people who would say something like this to a children's nanny, at times, I became very disassociated from the characters.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Dellarocco on May 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
I read an older HC copy of this book but I couldn't get into it. The characters were too dark, and weird, and parts of the story didn't make sense to me. I'm glad it was only a little over 200 pages. I paid $1 for it at a local grocery store for charity. I'm glad that I didn't pay full price for it. Save your money.
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