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Primitive People

3.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  148 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
Young Simone flees the chaotic violence of Haiti only to land in a world no less brutal or bizarre--the world of upstate New York's Porter family. Here, dead sheep swing from trees, light bulbs are ceremoniously buried, a fur-clad mother carves terrifying goddesses from pumice, and learning to lie is the principle rite of passage into adulthood.
Hardcover, 227 pages
Published April 1st 1992 by Farrar Straus Giroux
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 258)
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A conflict of cultures is the backdrop for this early Francine Prose novel. Simone decides to flee Haiti (it's the very unsettled early 1990s). Her lover has cheated; there's no reason to stay, every reason to flee to the U.S. So she finds a way.

Simone finds her way to Hudson's Landing, New York, a place of contemporary American values and problems, consumer culture, money, old families, fast living, a whole new type of living that her past experience never prepared her for. Now she has moved fr
Kristal Cooper
The premise here is that a Haitian immigrant gets a job as a nanny in upstate New York and finds everyone there to be “primitive people”. The concept has a lot of potential, but it wasn’t really realized. I think the author’s mistake was making the characters too neurotic. I mean, even wild parody has to be based in some fact to be good and these people don’t resemble anybody I know in any way.

I’m so underwhelmed by this book, I can’t help shaking the feeling that I just missed the boat entirel
Jan 07, 2009 Jen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It is possible to over-analyze in literary fiction, to so thoroughly dissect the thoughts/speech/small actions of characters that the whole novel suffers. This happened for me with this book. The writing was just fine, but the characters didn't seem to get out enough and breathe the air.

Mar 13, 2015 Dfsalvador rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure why there are so many negative reviews regarding this novel. I thought this story about the fallout from divorce was engaging, funny, and tragic with an undercurrent of tension running throughout. Keeping the narrative in the point of view of Simone, the Haitian nanny, gives an outside perspective on the insanity of fragile relationships and the innate ability of people to lie and manipulate. There were a couple of continuity issues which were distracting but overall I found the nov ...more
Christy England siegerdt
This was a horrid book. And nothing resolved at the end. Don't waste your time or money. No wonder it was only 25 cents at the used book store. Grrr
Interesting characters, okay on plot. Enjoyed the writing.
Feb 24, 2011 Billie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am generally a big fan of Prose's work (fighting the urge to pun right now), but this is not among her best. It's one of her early works, and I think that probably has a lot to do with it. It's very well written, but the observations about her characters just aren't as sharp as they have grown to be in some of her more recent novels. This attempts to be a satirical novel but lacks the subtlety to succeed entirely. Her skill in this regard has grown significantly since this novel's publication ...more
Dec 07, 2012 Joan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this is a slight novel, I enjoyed it. Set in the Hudson Valley, it features an "innocent abroad," a woman from Haiti. The novel is told from her point of view. Ordinarily, a red flag goes up for me when a white author puts words in the mouth of a black character, but my scruples were somewhat overridden as Simone, the Haitian woman, reflects upon and gains insight into her own feelings and past relationships by observing the dysfunctions of the families around her in her new home.
Feb 22, 2009 Sandra rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have read a few books by this author. She is a bit off-beat. I liked Hunters and Gathers, but didn't really like the Bigfoot book. She has a bit of humor and the stories are just about people ---not a romance, not a mystery, not a "her children were killed in a car accident" or "her husband just left her"
This book is about a woman from Haiti who is a nanny for an artist.
Jul 25, 2007 Dawn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i loved blue angel, and this book is about a haitian woman, so i am interested to read a book by an author i like, about my haitian roots that i am trying to learn more about.

I wrote that in 2007. It is now 2013 and I do not really remember this book. I dont know whether that says something about my memory or the book itself. Probably both.
Samantha C
.. to adapt to another country you had to be all eyes and ears, and the mistake most diplomats made was to be all mouth and larynx. - p 29

How wasteful that the difficult should seem so much more precious, so that the practically unattainable was valued most of all. - p 85

It was just okay for the first two thirds - good characters, good description, but you're kind of wondering what the point is... then something happens and it becomes a page-turner. Overall I thought it was worth it.
anique Halliday
Picked it up off a sidewalk in Brooklyn and started it, but couldn't get into it. It felt like a shaky, transitional book in an otherwise solid writer's repertoire.
Feb 03, 2015 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Francine Prose is spot-on describing how shallow and affected this particular group of people are, and how they treat and mistreat each other.
Mar 19, 2012 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Currently in love with Francine Prose's style. Dear Ms. Prose, would you please be my mentor?
Sep 19, 2008 Danielle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: deep
Maybe this is 2 1/2 stars - I didn't dislike it, but I never got into the story or the characters.
Mar 22, 2012 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
LOVE Francine Prose...even an "average" book of hers is better than most writers'.
Jun 23, 2007 Donald rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldnt-finish
One of the rare books I gave up on. Sold my copy on Amazon for a buck.
Oct 09, 2007 Carla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quiet book, but I think about it all of the time.
Sue Kozlowski
Sep 03, 2013 Sue Kozlowski rated it it was ok
Kind of weird.
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Francine Prose (born in 1947 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American novelist. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1968, and received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1991. She has sat on the board of judges for the PEN/Newman's Own Award, and her novel Blue Angel, a satire about sexual harassment on college campuses, was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is now teaching at Bard College.

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