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Raising the Peaceable Kingdom: What Animals Can Teach Us About the Social Origins of Tolerance and Friendship Hardcover – September 27, 2005

8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Masson (When Elephants Weep) records his attempt to "raise together a kitten, a puppy, a bunny, a chick, and a baby rat" in hopes that this "might offer some lessons to us humans" on how to avoid bigotry and war. The result hovers between science and cute animal stories, with not enough of either to succeed. Masson tells us a great deal about handpicking the animals, choosing a cat bred not to hunt and a nonaggressive dog, but not much about how he introduces them to one another and their changeable living situations. His discoveries about the animals seldom rise above the banal (rats have delicate ears; chickens eat insects). More of his attention goes to agonizing about reading the animals' emotions and fretting over—but not grappling with—the conflict inherent in wanting to provide the animals with as natural a life as possible while impatiently expecting them to overcome hardwired reactions to predators and prey. In the end, some of the animals become buddies, but one rat dies under mysterious circumstances, and the "peaceable kingdom" proves stressful for the dog. Masson's peaceable kingdom seems unattainable fantasy. B&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Masson, best-selling author of books on animal emotions (including When Elephants Weep, 1996, and Dogs Never Lie about Love, 1997), explored the question of whether animals of five different species, raised together, could learn to get along. He hoped that the animals might offer lessons that humans could learn about tolerance and friendship. He obtained a puppy, a kitten, a young rabbit, two young chickens, and two rat pups, and introduced them to his wife and two young children. The story of what Masson learned, both from and about the animals, and what they learned from each other, results in a charming book. Except for the rats (due to their small size), the animals had free range of the house and beach where Masson lived, and often chose each other's company. In a final chapter the author muses on what humans can learn from the animals. This interesting experiment in interspecies friendship is thought-provoking and genially written. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (September 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345466136
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345466136
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,885,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Masson has had at least four lives: first as a boy raised to become a "spiritual leader" (see his denunciation of such a life in My Father's Guru). While in the middle of his disillusion, he became a professor of Sanskrit at the University of Toronto. At the same time he trained to become a Freudian analyst. Upon graduation he became Projects Director of the Freud Archives, and was scheduled to move into Freud's house in London when fate intervened: Masson found documents which seemed to show that Freud was right in believing that many women had been sexually abused as children, and that he was wrong to give up this belief, perhaps impelled by societal displeasure at his discoveries. Saying this publicly turned Masson into a psychoanalytic pariah, and he gave up both his professorship and his analytic career to delve into the far more fascinating world of animal emotions. Two of his books, WHEN ELEPHANTS WEEP and DOGS NEVER LIE ABOUT LOVE, were New York Times best-sellers. He became vegetarian as a result of his research, and later, when he looked into the feelings of farm animals, he became even stricter, and no longer eats or uses any animal product (vegan). Harpercollins published his most recent book: THE DOG WHO COULDN'T STOP LOVING: HOW DOGS HAVE CAPTURED OUR HEARTS FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. He lives on a beach in New Zealand with his two sons, Ilan and Manu, and his German wife, Leila, a pediatrician who works with children on the autistic spectrum (using the bio-medical approach), Benjy, a golden lab, and three cats. They often travel to the States, Europe, and Australia. He is now fascinated in the "us/them" phenomenon, between humans but also between humans and animals.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By L. Ficks on January 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As I have read amost all of Masson's books I was looking forward to this one. The premise is interesting, seeing if natural enemies can learn to tolerate each other, and hopefully become friends, if raised together from an early age.

Yet while I found the book easy to read and wanting to know the outcome, I was put off by several things. First, I did not think his writing style compares to his other books. I also felt that Masson was very repetitive in his beliefs of trying to create a natural environment for all. I do not feel differently from him, but I felt he was a bit over the top and could have distanced himself from several readers.

This book also caused me to look at Masson differently. I was upset to learn that many of the animals Masson gets for his research (including "Dog's Never Lie") were given away afterwards. While I am sure all animals went to good homes, I was dissapointed that they were not as much a part of his family as it came off. With the way Masson treated his dog in this book, I was glad the dog was given away.

But overall it was entertaining although it didn't live up to expectations.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on September 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Masson, a resident of Auckland, New Zealand, was interested in learning the essential ingredients in interspecies friendship. His idea was to raise a puppy, bunny, chick and a baby rat together to see if they could get along with each other but also grow an authentic friendship. He hoped that there might be, in his experiment, some lessons for human beings to learn about getting along with each other.

Masson ended up with seven animals: one puppy, one bunny, two rats, one kitten and two chicks. The animals were absorbed into the family and observed. Initially the results were mixed with the adjustment being the easiest on the rats. Soon the chickens began their exploration of the Masson home and contact with the author. As in life, there were accidents and scares. Hohepa, the rabbit suffered an injury that easily could have resulted in death -- and the rats disappeared one day. They were eventually found in the bathroom wall but Masson noted that while they seemed to enjoy human contact, they preferred the freedom to wander at will.

As the experiment continued it was interesting to see what happened with the relationships between the animals -- and between the animals and the human beings in their lives.

Armchair Interviews says: Raising the Peaceable Kingdom is an extremely interesting, unique and entertaining look at the world of animals and how they behave. Most readers will ponder the results and wonder, what if?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jim Mason on October 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Jeffrey Masson's latest is a delightful book and a good read for children and adults. He shows us how he and his family learned to live with cats, dogs, chickens, rats, and a rabbit. We learn how,with patience and understanding, these animals gradually come to accept each other. Why, one wonders, if cats and a bunny can get along, why can't human beings?

I was most delighted by Masson's stories about the two rats, Kia and Ora. People tend to despise rats along with bats, spiders, snakes and a few other species. They are hated and feared so that most people simply refuse to learn anything about them. The hate and fear is passed down from generation to generation and few people care enough to learn more about them.

Friends got me over my learned prejudices about rats in my early twenties. They worked in a research lab where they had befriended some of their subjects and brought them home as pets. They had the run of the apartment. When I stayed there, a couple of them would sleep with me on the couch. They were like small kittens and just as playful and affectionate. Many a morning I would be awakened by the tickle of whiskers, twitching noses, and tiny feet on my neck or cheek.

As usual in his books, Masson's prose is like a friend talking with you, but with plenty of friendly questions and remarks that will make you think.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Audrey Horne on March 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting concept and idea, but I really had some unhappy feelings about the way the author executed it.

The author wanted to do an "experiment" and see if he could raise animals that are considered to be natural enemies together, and see if they could overcome their differences and co-exist, and ultimately see if it would be possible for them to actually become friends or even "soul-mates." He wanted to compare this to humankind trying to overcome our differences. The animals he chose for this experiment were birds, cats, rats, rabbits, and dogs.

The most disturbing factor is that the author did little to no research on the animals he adopted. His sole information on the care of the animals was based on what he already knew (or thought he knew) and the opinions of the people he got the animals from. Depending on where they came from, the information he got was both good and very bad.

He adopted a dog from a shelter and talked to a dog psychologist there about which one would be best to fit in with this family. He bought a cat from a breeder based on word-of-mouth opinions that he had heard on which breed would be most docile. He adopted two chickens, and on the owner's advice, took two because just one would be unhappy (one of the few good pieces of advice he received). He adopted two rats from a shelter and took both because the shelter recommended that they'd also be lonely without another rat companion. He bought one rabbit from a breeder who misinformed him that rabbits don't have feelings, aren't social and don't need companions, and need nothing but food and a cage to be happy.
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