Customer Reviews: Through a Window
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on June 19, 2002
In "In the Shadow of Man", Jane Goodall introduced us to the Chimpanzees of Gombe. If anything, this sequel is even more fascinating.
The whole study reads like a sweeping saga. As "Shadow" closed, the "main characters", the Flo family, were thriving, though there was a tinge of sadness with the realization that Flo wasn't getting any younger.
As "Window" opens, the inevitable happens, and we learn how each of Flo's children coped with her death - including a foreshadowed tragedy. We then watch her sons find their place in the male hierarchy and see what her daughter has learned about successful parenting from her mother.
The "supporting cast" is as interesting as that of "Shadow" - like Jomeo, a large male who never reached the high position one would have anticipated; Goblin, the Machiavellian politician who works his way up the ranks by befriending Alphas; Evered, who never reached a particularly high position but may have had the last laugh on all the males by quietly fathering the most children of the lot of them and Passion, the psychotic, nightmarish baby cannibal who sounds like something out of a horror movie.
The book also documents the brutal, disturbing territorial war that proved that Chimpanzees are capable of violence against eachother. This is a war that would have never been recorded had the study ended when originally scheduled - showing why long term studies are needed for long lived animals like chimps and elephants.
Both books should be among the first in the collection of everyone with the slightest interest in animal behavior. I keep up with the continuing story on internet, but I still can't wait for Ms. Goodall to continue with another book about what happened next.
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This book clearly deserves more than five stars.
Through a Window is the popular version of the first 30 years of Dr. Jane Goodall's pioneering primate research at the Gombe reserve in Africa. Arriving in Africa as a young woman who found she did not like office work, she looked for something to do. The legendary Dr. Louis Leakey became interested in the idea of doing parallel research on chimpanzees in the wild to shed light on the development of early man. He persuaded Dr. Goodall to trek into Gombe, and helped her raise money and respectability for the project. From the beginning, he knew it had to go on for at least 10 years. Overcoming great deprivations and dangers, Dr. Goodall turned this into one of the most important animal observation studies ever. In this book, you will get the highlights of what has been learned from that research.
The book emphasizes the closeness between humans and chimpanzees. The two species have 99 percent genetic similarity. Each can catch diseases that no other species can. In fact, Gombe was overwhelmed by a polio epidemic that affected the chimpanzees and the humans in the 1960s.
As you walk through the forest with Dr. Goodall, you will find behaviors that are very similar to what humans do. Is it any wonder that she supposes that chimpanzees feel many of the same emotions that humans do? The only major difference she finds is that chimpanzees never torture each other or other animals like humans do.
You will follow along with families of chimpanzees over three generations, and find out about what works well and what doesn't for them. There are even chapters about memorable individuals who had a large impact on the chimpanzee community.
Before Dr. Goodall did her work, people thought of chimpanzees as being insensate animals. She soon observed that they made and used tools, ate meat, and cooperated with one another in very sophisticated ways both for hunting and child rearing. They have very complicated social rituals designed to keep everyone in place, but feeling friendly towards one another. As Dr. Goodall says, there are some chimpanzees she has liked more than some people and vice versa, because each one is so different.
Having developed a better understanding of and sympathy for chimpanzees, Dr. Goodall then turns her attention to making the case for more preserves for wild living (and observation), eliminating the trade in chimpanzees (which lead to much death, suffering, and disaster for chimpanzees and humans), eliminating and improving the way research chimpanzees are "tortured" and "mistreated," and improving zoo conditions. Chimpanzees are very social creatures and are highly intelligent.
She likens the treatment of chimpanzes by animal researchers, trainers, and zoos to modern day concentration camps. I must admit that she more than convinced me. Clearly, much can and must be done to improve the lot of chimpanzees. If we cannot treat our nearest animal relative well, what does that say about us? Who are the brutes?
The book's title is a reference to the limited perspective we can get by only studying behavior. We do not know what goes on in a chimpanzee's mind. Perhaps someday we will because experiments are showing that chimpanzees rapidly learn to use sign language.
You will laugh a lot about the problems that Dr. Goodall has had in convincing scientists that chimpanzees are advanced and sensitive. It's as though psychologically our self-image depends a lot on making animals "dumber" than they are.
Since I will probably never get to see chimpanzees in the wild, I was delighted that this very interesting book was available to me. It will make you feel like you are on a long hike chatting with Dr. Goodall (but minus the danger and deprivation).
You will also come away vastly impressed by the dedication of Dr. Goodall and her colleagues at Gombe. They have done a marvelous piece of work here that will continue to pay important knowledge dividends in future years.
After you finish enjoying this superb book, I suggest you think about where else you assume that a person or animal is "dumb." For example, children have quite sophisticated ability to understand emotional situations at a young age, but cannot speak about them well. So adults often "talk down" to them, making the child lose respect for the adult.
Why not assume that everyone and every creature has vast reservoirs of understanding that you do not have? Then, you will start noticing what you can learn from them. The many ways that chimpanzees give solace and reassurance would improve the quality of life for almsot any human, for example.
Live more beautifully by grasping all of nature's intelligence, wherever it is!
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on January 26, 2000
I have always been a fan of Jane Goodall and her wards that she cares about so much. As a former student of anthropology I had the fortune to study(albeit in textbook sense only) the lives of the chimpanzees. Jane's book should be required reading not only for students of anthropology but for any member of the human species. She succeeds in forcing us to realize our place in the world and the ignorance in which we conduct ourselves every day of our lives. This is one of those books that made me feel two ways: one was to be ashamed to be a member of a species capable of such stupidity and cruelty, but at the same time proud that we have people such as Jane Goodall there to open our eyes to that which is right before us. Her relationship with the chimps is nothing short of amazing and inspiring. This book chronicles the years that she has spent with them and presents it to the reader in a way that also allows us to be a part of that relationship. Just as it has been of immense importance to her, she allows us to realize that we too factor into the equation somehow. It is because of that that we all have a responsibility, not only to ourselves but to our children to protect these animals and ensure they have a place alongside us in the future.
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on May 23, 2006
When I picked up this book it was because I randomly chose it from a pile of recommendations a friend gave me. I had no desire to read it, and the only reason I actually went through with it was that a) I would have to give the book back someday and b) she always recommends good-to-decent books. And despite the obvious reputation that Goodall has, I still had no desire to read it. Having recently picked up (and put down) Rachel Carson's The Edge of the Sea, I was in no mind to read another nature-based book. That gives you a good indication of my mindset going into this.

I'm glad I was wrong. I enjoyed this book much more than I would have imagined - it's a fascinating read. I say that having had virtually no prior interest in chimpanzee's nor Jane Goodall. I doubt I would have read this book on my own, since there are a million books begging to be read every time I open my eyes. Sometimes you need to go where you don't necessarily want in order to find a jewel.

The title of this book refers to the window that Goodall gets when she observes the chimps over the years. Through this window she gets an idea of how we, humans, have evolved from where we were to where we are. It gives her a glimpse of the similarities - sometimes uncanny - between chimps and humans. This window often leads to observations you can never expect. Goodall's observations and her way with words fully draw you into the narrative.

Goodall writes anecdotally, attempting to illustrate her point with examples of behavior she observes in the field. These instances make the book much easier to read than a pure scientific approach. Through the text you grow to like (and dislike) some of the chimps in the narrative, as well as easily finding yourself drawn into the various elements of (nearly human) chimp behavior.

The thing I find most surprising is that the stories which transpire between the "actors" are just as dramatic as a work of fiction. They say that fact is stranger than fiction. I don't know if I agree, but it can undoubtedly be interesting. It's certainly a surprise how similar the chimps are to us - or maybe it's not, which I guess is one of the points of the book.

If I have to take on the other POV, which I usually force myself to do in an effort to be fair, I suppose I have to say that despite all she has seen, she does at times force the issue that chimps are better than people. One thing I worried about was that Goodall would constantly laud how amazing the animals are and how we humans could learn from them. For the most part, she doesn't do this. From time to time she seems to be on the verge, but she balances it out with fair observations on both sides of the fence.

In all, it is a riveting book that is well-balanced and, to be sure, well researched. Goodall's years of experience no doubt come through with this book, and her ease behind the keyboard is surprising. I did not find this clunky in the normal vein of science texts at all. In fact, it was a smooth read, almost to a word. Granted, it may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the subject matter discussed in Through A Window is sure to entertain most people who pick it up. Excellent book and highly recommended.
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on December 18, 1999
Foremost expert on chimpanzees, not only because of her first-hand, scientific knowledge of them, but because of her empathy with this species who is closer to us in genetic make-up than a gorilla, Jane Goodall's name is synonymous with advocate and scientist. Richard Leaky, world-renown paleoanthropologist, back in 1960 suggested to his secretary that we might learn more about how early man acted if someone conducted a long-term study of our closest relative. His stroke of genius was to suggest that Jane Goodall be the person to conduct this study. In this wonderful book, author and scientist Jane Goodall gives a brief overview of how she got into the chimpanzee business and why such studies are important to us. But, most of the book is about what Mrs. Goodall does best-observe chimpanzees. I mean really watch them, catalogue their every movement, watch every facial expression, every action, follow them through war, sex, discovery, grooming, interacting with other species, being born, growing up, getting themselves killed, and even finding things to laugh about. What Jane Goodall's four-decade work with chimpanzees has taught us is how appalling ignorant we are about the animals living today, and the inestimable loss we have incurred by not having done similar studies on the species we have extincted. If you don't know who Jane Goodall is (she's near the very top of my hero list) then pick up this book and find out.
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Jane Goodall's contributions to our knowledge of chimpanzees has been remarkable. Because she first arrived in Africa completely untrained as an observer of animal behavior, she was able to bring a humanist's instincts to her work; her natural ability to see details and connections, as well as her affection for her subjects, culminated in published results that rocked the scientific community. THROUGH A WINDOW picks up her observations where IN THE SHADOW OF MAN left off. Here, she follows the lives mostly of the children of the original group. She has organized her chapters by theme: Mothers and Daughters, Sons and Mothers, War, Power, Love, and more. Within these chapters, she explores the specific lives of the Gombe chimps and their relationships with their relatives and group members. By tackling specific topics of behavior, she is able to fully integrate the range of her experiences, from first observations to those made thirty years later. As Goodall is quick to point out, what she assumed at first did not necessarily prove to hold fast over time.
No less fascinating than IN THE SHADOW OF MAN, this book is extraordinary for its insight into chimpanzee personalities, relationships, and culture. If you have never before read Goodall's books, you will be surprised by the strong echoes of human behavior in these wild and highly individual chimpanzees. Goodall has made enormous contributions to our understanding of non-human primates, and should be widely read.
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on November 25, 1999
A strickingly passionate and clear view of the reality of this species. But the book goes way beyond this. At the beginning I thought it was "a bit" self-centered, because of the slow beginning, all focused on the author's personal life and feelings. But after a few pages I discovered that was only the way to lead us in: going from our so mortal and human, personal vicessitudes, to LIFE. We believe we are the center of creation, but isn't wisdom also being humble? There is a sense of greatness in the 3s year story of this tribe... and yet it is all described through simple, everyday life! The author spends 300 pages to tell us how grand life is. How incredibly sensitive and logical. And then, in probably 10 pages we are abruptly brought back to how we "the elected" humans treat it! And even here, Jane Goodall does so with no morbid or romantic view, but with the researcher's eyes, looking for solutions, those possible in such a "human" world. Not only for animal lovers, but for all interested in psychology, antropology, life in general.
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VINE VOICEon July 24, 2011
I have read every book that Jane Goodall wrote. She has an easy-going writing style that shares scientific principals easily with the layman. Probably because when she started, she was little more than a novice, going from secretarial school to the Gombe to study chimpanzees. She stayed there on and off for thirty years. This book, Through a Window (Houghton Mifflin 1990) shares her thoughts and conclusions on what she learned from that stretch of time with the chimpanzees.

The book reads like an anecdotal history of a town, inhabited by chimpanzees, but no less vibrant than any human town you might visit. Families mingle, struggle for survival, fight for loedership. Children mate and have babies. Parenting styles differ, which dramatically affects the future of the youngsters. A war between factions breaks out and residents take sides. There is death and rebirth, pain and sorrow, and rebirth again.

This book could be considered about animal behaviro, but I challenge you to read it--without knowing it deals with chimps--and not recognize your neighbors, relatives, acquaintances, colleagues in the caste. You'll find the emotions you'd experience in friends and the actions you'd expect from those you work with. You'll think it's the history of a small town.

And it is, but a town of primates.

The chapter titles tell you what you're in for:

Mothers and daughters
Figan's rise
Sons and Mothers
Bridging the Gap

Sound familiar? By the time I finished this book, after reading Goodall's others, I never looked at chimpanzees or any of the great apes the same. Their emotions, actions, thoughts, desires are too close to human to be relegated to some 'animal' that we can't understand. I'd recommend this for all those interested in studying our humanity.
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on November 26, 2014
Jane Goodall paints a family portrait of the chimpanzees she got to observe for thirty years in the wild.

Most of it is not pretty but, then again, it's like reading about human history: there's the good, the bad, and the ugly. And it's no coincidence, since chimpanzees are our closest animal relatives.

Goodall's contribution to understanding this species is undeniable, as are her bold statements fifity-odd years ago regarding the emotional and humane position in which she regarded her subject matters. And it's plain enough to see that in this retelling, where she calls every chimpanzee by a human-given name.

Goodall bookends her story well, starting off with the reactions of the scientific community towards her in the beginning of her career and ending with a conclusive summary of the degrees of difference between humans and chimpanzees, as well as the horrors that some of these animals face in the name of scientific research.

It was fascinating getting to know various communities of chimpanzees in their natural habitat and understanding that Mother Nature is brutal without any added help from us.
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on February 14, 2016
Firstly, I want to emphasize that the seller delivered the book very quickly, and the book was in great condition. However, the book itself was not enjoyable. I understand that Jane Goodall is trying to sell this book, and thus must "fluff" it up a little--but this book is just too over-the-top with hyperbole and overdramatization. Her descriptions of the weather and the predicaments that she ends up in are described as if this were a fiction novel, which makes it hard to focus on the educational elements of the book. Furthermore, the "characters" are given unrealistic expositioning, and her observations are based largely on what she think the animals are feeling/doing.

Look, I'm just giving my honest opinion here. Jane Goodall seems like she didn't know what genre to categorize her book into, since she forcibly molds her "characters" to symbolize certain human character tropes--something that is just way too far-fetched to be expected of...well, non-human beings.

Overall, I would certainly do business with the seller again, but this was honestly one of the most poorly constructed books i've ever read. If you want to read something that conveys the same amount of realism as this book, I recommend picking up "A Jungle Book."
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