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The Female of the Species
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The Female of the Species

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  351 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Still unattached and childless at fifty-nine, world-renowned anthropologist Gray Kaiser is seemingly invincible—and untouchable. Returning to make a documentary at the site of her first great triumph in Kenya, she is accompanied by her faithful middle-aged assistant, Errol McEchern, who has loved her for years in silence. When sexy young graduate assistant Raphael Sarasola ...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by HarperCollins (first published April 1st 1987)
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I'll read anything by Lionel Shriver. This was her first novel, and not as finely etched as her later works, but nonetheless, quite a rewarding read. All of her novels feature extremely strong female protagonists, and Gray Kaiser, the world-renowned anthropologist in this book, is no exception. In many ways, you feel like you're studying Gray Kaiser the way she studies her subjects. Shriver leaves you with pretty ambivalent feelings about her character by the end of the novel. In Kaiser's shoes, ...more
As Shriver's first novel, I had somewhat muted expectations regarding this book, which were well met. Having read a number of her later works, elements such as her use of prose and perspective to advance the story are present here, but just beginning to develop into her signature style. I appreciated the story and her exploration of manipulation within relationships, though the novel is not one that I would revisit. I would pick "So Much for That" over this one, though I gave them both two stars ...more
Susan Walsh
This was a great vacation read. A fascinating look at the sexuality of an independent, older woman and her life choices. Very interesting alpha/beta male dynamics here. Great characters. I look forward to reading more Lionel Shriver.
She's SUCH a good writer. Read it in two days, sitting on a sunny dock, looking out at a beautiful lake. Pretty perfect :)
My first review, and it's a negative one! Oh well. It's really because I was excited to read something by Lionel Shriver and was pretty disapponted by this novel. I've heard a lot of good things about Shriver, especially "We Need to Talk About Kevin," so when I was last in a bookstore I wandered around with her name in my mind. Unluckily for me, this was the only book of hers they had.

Basically, it's the story of a famous and well-respected anthropologist who is brutally taken down by late-in-l
Ruth Seeley
This will be one of my odder reviews. There's great enhanced content in the trade PB edition, another essay by Shriver, this one talking about her experience writing her first novel, revisiting it, what she might or might not change (plus an amazing series of recommendations of first novels to read). Oddly, the one thing she debates changing is a descriptive narrative of Charles Corgi, the evil Sean Connery (in The Man Who Would Be King) character. I see Katharine Hepburn (mashup of the The Phil ...more
Zeavo Defacto
I have decided that this book falls into the category of what I call "fictiony fiction" which is fiction that doesn't always adhere to a formal plot structure and instead presents characters in different situations to explore how they behave, what motivates them, and how they view things. That's not to say it's disjointed or confusing though, it all makes sense and the web it weaves is logical. Other works like this include "The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach and "The Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan ...more
Greig Roselli
The story is great fun on the surface: gods, Africa, kooky anthropologists, incantations in the form of TV commercial jingles, a suited Masai warrior, a tough female (Gray, the titular protagonist) an unrequited love, and a young charming graduate student all make for enjoyment yet I found myself slogging through the muck. I'm hoping I can one day have eloquent conversation in a kraal. And what would I do if I were a god? Rafael is sexy. I wish I could be a successful non-reader intellectual (no ...more
This was not as beautifully written as her later books but this was a great first novel. I can certainly see the birth of the character Kevin in the character of Raphael. Eerie and cold. She writes those men very well!
Shriver's first novel. (Which I read after her most recent Post-Birthday World). Another page turner, but this time about a 59-year-old famous Harvard anthropologist who's never married, the long-tim assistant who's always been in love with her, and this 25-year-old student who uses his beauty and charm to great advantage. (Sort of) That's all I'm gonna say about. Didn't like it as much as Post Birthday World, not sure why, but it explores gender expectations, power struggles between men-women, ...more
I picked Lionel Shriver's this book after reading “We Need to Talk about Kevin. However, this book was a total disappointment. I actually skipped many pages after reading about half the book, a rare thing for me to do usually. Where “We Need to Talk about Kevin” was such an engrossing and touching story this book was a stretch but then this was her first book. I really tried very hard to like this book and so stubbornly read 200 pages with hope for story to pick a pace. However, it did not work ...more
Vanessa Bennett
Didn't enjoy as much as the other two of Shriver's I've read. Felt the metaphor was almost stretched to breaking point.
After having read The Post-Birthday World I was in the mood for more Lionel Shriver and somehow settled upon this one, her first novel.Not quite as tightly written (& hence not quite the page turner), but an interesting plot (with a few unexpected twists) and female protagonist. At times elements of the 3 main characters made them feel a little far fetched, but they remained intriguing throughout. Not her best, but it is her first novel and worth a read if you find you like her other books.
I really enjoyed this book. In some ways, it does read like a first novel. Most notably, I'd say, in the ending.
But overall, the writing was quite good and descriptive. I like her narrative tricks like how she gets around a first-person point of view. I also really enjoyed the anthropological aspects. I don't know how authentic those elements are, but I enjoyed them.
Parts of the story were predictable, but Shriver loves ambiguity, so the power in the relationships is never black and white.
Lionel Shriver is always thought-provoking, creating memorable characters with great depth and putting them in extraordinary situations. I did not enjoy this book as much as I did "The Post-Birthday World" or "We Need to Talk About Kevin," but it is nonetheless a very interesting explication of what people are willing to or forced to endure for the sake of love. Not a cheerful book.
Arlene Walker
This is the story about an anthropologist who approaches absolutely everything in her life, well, anthropologically, even her relationships. She studies them, takes notes, observes the opposite sex in their habitat until she knows everything about them (Except her assistant who suffers from unrequited love). Good story, great writing, completely unpredictable.
Lionel's stories are always clever and unforgettable, and this is no exception. Sure, it's not as strong as We Need to Talk About Kevin, but few books are. I finished this book feeling sad and reflective and wanting to seek out everything she's ever written. I think I'll do that.
Fiona Pearse
While I love Shriver's prose and will certainly read her again I'm afraid I found this book to stall in places with back stories that didn't add to conflict or tension. The dialog seemed unrealistic in places and the narrator who really didn't need to be in the story didn't seem convincing as a man.
Kate Thompson
Really enjoyable, though melodramatic. I didn't realize until I'd finished that this was her first book, which explains a lot - her style is much more sophisticated now. Still, there is a lot to love in the Katherine Hepburn-esque main character, the crazy African adventures and the twists of the heart.
Ivan Kotcher
Brrrr. Great book, with a few uneven parts. The beginning lures with a take on Heart do Darkness, but then jumps to a meditation on the battle of the sexes that initially seems overdone and then becomes...well...much more interesting. The ending is odd, but the rest of the book is worth it. Recommended.
Cristina Ana
I thought the construction is disappointing for a Lionel Shriver novel, but after learning it is her debut novel, I found it promising, and thought it allows for a glimpse into what will become a great writer. It is biographically a decent read, as to see where she started.
As always with Lionel Shriver, her characters were real, their thoughts were audible, and there was great attention to detail. I had to know what happened to each of the characters next, and I was kept guessing as to their motives. This was one of my favorites of hers.
I loved this story of a woman and her choices about love and attraction. I would highly recommend this book.
Love this author.
Lynn Kearney
3.5. At first I thought this was a new book by the quirky and original writer - ("We Need to Talk About Kevin" - one of the most riveting books I've ever read!) Not so - it's actually her first. Well written but maddeningly convoluted plot.
Timothy Knutson
I will read anything by Shriver. I didn't enjoy this quite as much as We Need To Talk About Kevin, but really close. Amazing story with characters I loved, and more importantly, believed.
This is The Heart of Darkness except not boring. As she does so well, Shriver dissects the relationships between humans in all their twisted and fascinating complications.
Nicky Sharp
Dubious at the beginning as to whether it would be as good as previously read Lionel Shriver books, but persevered and found it to be a brilliant book, really enjoyed it.
God I have the biggest word crush on shriver. She's brilliant at capturing the real with plenty of allegory too. its puts you off being an anthropologist though..
Found this my least favourite Lionel Shriver book to date. Awkward and clunky, I found the characters very difficult to connect with and the plot pretty tedious.
Lionel Shriver did it again - I love her storytelling. Captivating to the point where nothing gets done around here if I am reading one of her novels.
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Lionel Shriver's novels include the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. Earlier books include Double Fault, A Perfectly Good Family, and Checker and the Derailleurs. Her novels have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her journalism h ...more
More about Lionel Shriver...
We Need to Talk About Kevin The Post-Birthday World Big Brother So Much for That Double Fault

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“I seem to remember even from when I was very young that when you loved someone you also hated them for making you love them, since loving someone is so incredibly humiliating.” 7 likes
“Sometimes things end worse for one side than the other. These 'injured parties' always seem to see themselves as victims of a moral outrage. They never feel simply rejected, but also abused. I've known many women who were great believers in the curative powers of indignation.” 4 likes
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