Monday, August 28, 2017

The Last Neanderthal

Title:  The Last Neanderthal
Author:  Claire Cameron
Publication Information:  Little Brown & Company. 2017. 288 pages.
ISBN:  031631448X / 978-0316314480

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "They didn't think as much about what was different."

Favorite Quote:  "A mother makes a child from her own blood and bones. They are attached in the first part of life, and although the connection lessons, it never goes away."

A few disclaimers to begin with. I have not researched the science of this book. So, no ideas or commentary on whether this book represents the current understanding of neanderthals. Then again, I read this book not for the science but for the story, expecting one like a James Michener or a Jean Auel book. I also read the book admittedly based on the cover which is intriguing and draws me into the world of this book. Also admittedly, it took a few times and the story itself before I saw the silhouettes in the cover.

So, enough disclaimers. Now, on to an issue. The book includes an image of two skeletons in the book, presumably reflecting the characters of the story which is set about 40,000 years ago in the area that is now France. The image, however, looks an awful like the Lovers of Valdaro, a pair of human skeletons dated to about 6,000 years ago in the area that is now Mantua, Italy. Coincidence or artistic liberty? Either way, unnecessary and misleading. This book is not at all based in history. It is a pure fiction. The skeletal discovery in this book does not exist.

Now finally, the story. Like many books, this is a story set in two time periods - current day and 40,000 years ago. Like many books about such old history, the current time period is about an archaeological dig, and the past is the history that occurred among the remains and artifacts found at the site. This book extends a bit further by following time lines and situations in the current day that mirror those of the past.

The current day heroine is Rosamund, an archeologist who espouses theories about the Neanderthals that counter current beliefs. She is passionate in her work and believes that her work at this site will give proof to her theories. Obstacles and politics abound. Rosamund's personal life also enters the picture for she is pregnant with her first child. Emotions and relationships loom large.

The heroine of the past is Girl, the last neanderthal. The story of the past is a story about family, love, loss, and survival. Emotions and relationships also loom large in this time. Strongest of all though is the struggle for survival.

As often with books set in two time periods, the stories progress in tandem, giving further credence to Rosamund's theory and the basis for the book that the Neanderthals were more like current humans than we perhaps think. For that, the alternating time lines work.

However, As often with books set in two time periods, one story and one set of characters appeal to me more such that the other story becomes a distraction. In this book, the story of the past and the character of Girl is the more compelling one. That is unfortunately also the story that comes to an abrupt end at the close of the book. It leaves me wondering if a sequel is planned. Overall, the book is an enjoyable reading experience but not as compelling as I had hoped.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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