It’s unlikely that you will otherwise ever come across a female gorilla as the narrator of a story. Especially a story which begins in Portugal sometime in an imaginary nineteen twenties or thirties, and involves, among other episodes, a murder that isn’t, a miscarriage of justice, a kidnapping at sea, the friendship of an undiscovered prima donna of traditional song, and an enforced sojourn for our heroine as the aide of an Indian Rajah. The story unwinds at a leisurely pace but, with so many mysteries to be solved, rescues and escapes to be made, and the ground constantly shifting under Sally Jones’s gorilla feet, it’s a story that confidently holds you in its comfortable grip and keeps you turning the pages. There are incidents enough but what makes the tale remarkable are its characters, nearly all given individual black and white portraits by its Swedish author and illustrator before the start, and developed so carefully in the telling that, like people in your own life, you feel that you know them and can still be surprised by them. Sally, of course, is the most remarkable of them and the only one not to be pictured initially (although she is later). Her status uncertain in the human world, without a speaking voice to make her feelings known, although she can write, of course, she relies on the friendship of people who can recognise her intelligence, her manual dexterity, her gentleness, and, above all, her own capacity for friendship. Perhaps, in some sense, she represents the outsider and the misunderstood in all of us. Almost certainly, she makes an attractive heroine and observer for a child audience. In its scope and its ability to create a world that is based in historical reality but full of adventure and touched with fantasy, the story reminds me of the work of another recently translated author, Timothée de Fombelle. It’s a real pleasure to have them both available now for those of us who can read confidently only in English. Long may the trend continue.
http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bfklogo.png 0 0 Angie Hill http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bfklogo.png Angie Hill2017-09-05 18:07:312021-06-22 13:28:04The Murderer’s Ape