The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore
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The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  1,862 ratings  ·  482 reviews
Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno's ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for...more
Hardcover, 578 pages
Published February 2nd 2011 by Twelve (first published 2011)
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Behold Genius.

Benjamin Hale is scary smart and as good a writer as it is legal to be. What a debut! He knows his Shakespeare and has captured his rhythm. And Eliot. And the Bible. The Language that flows through us all. Hale, a literary Incubus, seduces with timelessly crafted sentences on every page.

Start with a great idea....

No, to start: That is the greatest cover for a book, ever.

Now, restart with a great idea: a chimpanzee who learns to speak, who evolves in starts and fits into Man. I've r...more
A book like this should come with a warning on the cover: This book will interfere with your normal life. It’s almost 600 pages, and you won’t be able to put it down. This will be a serious problem unless you’re one of those prodigal fast readers. You’ve been forewarned. To hold a full-time job and finish this book in less than a week is an achievement in itself for a sluggish reader like me. This book provides a good excuse to stay at home on a Saturday night when it’s cold and windy and you re...more
Kelly Konrad
Um .... yeah. I desperately want a friend to read this book so I can debrief with them, but have a hard time telling anyone it's a must-read. It's not a bad book—one where you set it down and think to yourself, "Wow, that was a colossal waste of my time. How did they get that printed?" But it's not a "Crikeys, everyone MUST.READ.THIS." For a debut effort, I'm really impressed with Benjamin Hale, but I would suggest the book is beyond verbose. There are quite literally entire chapters you could b...more

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore was published back in April, and caused nary a splash as it hit an unsuspecting public. I've seen very few reviews and not many discussion points concerning this novel. It's not been put onto any longlists or shortlists that I'm aware of, and Benjamin Hale has not been feted as one of the bravest debut novelists of recent times.

In my opinion, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore should have exploded into people's consciousness. It should have been reviewed by peopl...more
Karen Loveridge
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
It has been such a long time since I read fiction this good. I almost didn't read it when I read the premise (a memoir of a chimpanzee.) It didn't seem possible that this could make a good book. I trusted the goodreads reviewers though and this time was so glad that I did. The author did an amazing job of bringing Bruno to life. I felt like I knew him and he became a part of my life for the 10 days I spent reading this book. I couldn't wait to pick up the book each day and I was sorry when it en...more
Well...I think Bruno summarized it thus: "I have never been a religious ape. I was and remain the chimp of the perverse."

The novel itself was a study in dualities: what it means to be animal and human, what it means to love your own kind vs. an outsider, what it means to cross that line from the inner being to the outer, and most of all, deciding to hold on to the innocence of youth (keeping with an animal nature) and accepting the incongruities of living as a man (becoming aware of what it mean...more
I heard about this book and was very excited. It's a book about a chimp who learns how to talk! It's like Nim Chimpsky but fiction! I MUST LOVE. Eh, not so much. The tone of the narrator (Bruno, the chimp who learned to talk) is just not pleasant. Spread that over 580ish pages and you have a rather challenging book to get through. In all fairness, I get WHY Bruno has his tone and perspective as the whole impetus of his evolution is his rejection of animal nature. Of course he is then rejected by...more
Review copy from publisher

Well, there is one positive to calling out sick and feeling like death warmed over - and that is the ability to clock in uninterrupted "couch time", which allowed me to breeze through the final 150 pages of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore today.

One of the more talked about novels back in May 2010 during the BEA's, I managed to somehow walk right by this hefty novel without adding it to my many bags of books. Huge thanks go out to it's publisher, Twelve, for making a r...more
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Imagine a novel that includes Philosophy, Psychology,Biology, mystery, love, Theology, Anthropology, I dare say to read my fellow bookworm Tony's review:
"Behold Genius.

Benjamin Hale is scary smart and as good a writer as it is legal to be. What a debut! He knows his Shakespeare and has captured his rhythm. And Eliot. And the Bible. The Language that flows through us all. Hale, a literary Incubus, seduces with timelessly crafted sentences on every pag...more
The title pretty much says it all. This is the story (the extremely well written story) of Bruno, a chimp living in a zoo in Chicago and how he 'evolved' from a normal every day chimp to a fluent, emotional, artistic, literate 'human'. The book begins with Bruno in jail, narrating his own biography to a journalist. He is a household name, but not in a good way. He tells of his travels through different paths,and how each helped him on his slow progression towards becoming a human. And that is th...more
Some writers focus their craft with laser precision, building it piece by piece like a type of architecture. Some writers make me so sick with their talent. These writers parade their prose back and forth like it’s their groomed Bichon Frise at Westminster. Some writers often arrogant with their skill, filling pages with leaps of precise logic and seemingly effortlessly composed metaphor.

Benjamin Hale, makes me forgot about the actual craft of writing. This is not to say that Benjamin Hale isn’t...more
Like my sister, who recommended this to me, I would normally not be turned on by a book about a monkey. But this was one of the departures from my reading comfort zone that actually paid off.

In this wonderfully written novel, Bruno Littlemore recounts his autobiography -- his birth at the zoo, his participation on scientific experiments leading to increasing consciousness on his part and ultimately to his gaining the ability to speak, his participation in a variety of human interactions and expe...more
I was excited to read this, since blogger Mimi Smartypants, who reads an inhuman number of books, gave it four stars (a VERY rare rating for her), and while it certainly was very sharp and funny, with lots of amusing references to culture of both the highbrow and lowbrow varieties, in the end I didn't find it all that amazing. It felt sort of like a fascinating writing experiment carried too far. Sort of like those movies that get made out of Saturday Night Live sketch characters, which work as...more
I'm reserving one-star reviews for books that I was unable to finish, and this was one of them. While Hale shows a great deal of potential as a writer, the tone and voice of this book were very uneven, fluctuating from pompous to crude to colloquial to intellectual—which would not necessarily be a negative thing if the transitions were handled smoothly, but, well, they're not. After 200 pages or so, the book starts to move along at a snail's pace—while I can appreciate the care that the author t...more
This book was quite unique. I've never quite read anything like it, and it's mostly in a good way. A monkey essentially becomes a human and falls in love with a human girl, who falls love with him in return. The evolution, as the title states is very gradual, and takes place throughout the book. The one thing I could say about this book that was negative was that it was written in a very pretentious language, as "indicated" by the narrator. However, it was definitely readable, as well as enjoyab...more
Whew. I finally finished this 576-page book! When I picked it up at the library, I was surprised to see how huge it was. Normally, I love thick books, but somehow I knew this wouldn't be a good thing here. Bruno Littlemore, a human trapped in an ape's body, is, to sum it up in one word: verbose. (See, I can do what he can't!)

The other problem is that Hale crams too much in one novel. In doing so, he riffs on different things about our society - all of which is amusing and often on target. He's...more
Meg Elison
This is sometimes an excellent book, and other times it's an awful one. There are fantastic descriptive passages that are riveting, then there are pages spent on turn-by-turn directions or the exact layout of an apartment, neither of which ever become important. There are flashes of intelligence in Bruno when he denies trichotillomania or interprets Caliban with startling insight, but then he fails to recognize marijuana and calls it something childish. Lush moments abruptly run aground in minut...more
I got to really like Bruno. He's trying so hard to be human when everything in his nature/dna works against him. He's an interesting character and a likeable unreliable narrator (as far as, memoirs are all somewhat unreliable).
This book is an interesting look at the differences between primate & human. What is the difference between an animal & a human? How can one evolve from being an animal to being a human? What does one gain? What does one lose?
I would have liked to know a little m...more
Paula Margulies
This freakishly compelling Humbert Humbert meets Curious George tale had me at hello. There is brilliant writing ("Like Satan," the main character, a preternaturally gifted chimpanzee named Bruno Littlemore, says, "I am a beautiful loser.") and mawkish humor (including the hilarious monkey/frog sex scene with Rotpeter, Bruno's father). Even so, I found Bruno too soulless and self-centered for my taste. Despite his initial protestations of undying love for the strangely childlike researcher, Lydi...more
Actual rating: 3.5 stars.

A long novel widely held by critics to be profound, I finished it wondering whether in fact it really is that profound. Benjamin Hale's concept is sound: by creating a chimpanzee infatuated with humans and gifted with speech, examine what it is to be human, what it is to be animal. It isn't that great a philosophical leap for me to see that the lines are blurred ... hell, my dog taught me that years ago. The concept, though, does give the author ample room to poke fun at...more

This book was certainly verbose and under normal circumstances could be intolerable for 580 pages of unceasing verbiage. Under the circumstances though, this being of a particular point of view and that, had a chimp really developed this level of language --- perhaps they would talk like a litigious supercilious professor of English, it was tolerable. It honestly didn't bother me very much. I never felt the need to run for a dictionary, you acclimate quickly and the style of language was very co...more
Gary Schroeder
Interested in a story about a chimp that learns how to think, talk and act like a human? This is the book for you. However, if you're looking for a plausible explanation of how such a thing could happen, this is not the book for you. Likewise, if you're squeamish, you may wish to look elsewhere.

The conceit of a chimp that develops human-like thought is fraught with possibilities and author Benjamin Hale generally delivers. How does the member of another species view we crazy humans? How can our...more
Feb 18, 2012 Osvaldo rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Osvaldo by: Matt Matros
Once again I am frustrated by my inability to grant ½ stars on Goodreads. I would give this 3½ stars if I could. I more than liked it. I less than really liked it. I am sure Ben Hale would know a good word for the liminality of my liking - or at least, he'd know how to look up good one in the kick-ass thesaurus he must have.

Despite being a long book I flew through it - though I must admit there were a few parts I kind of glossed over thinking Hale's editor could have done a better job of explain...more
Sean Pagaduan
Passable. Remember that this is Benjamin Hale's first novel, so you'll have to bear with him on this one.

That said, the novel kind of feels like it didn't go through a lot of drafts before publication. Another reviewer noted that the story has a lot of interesting themes going on (religion, games, species boundaries), but the story really fails to develop any of these in any detail. It's because the story is being told from Bruno's voice, which frequently doesn't let us into his emotions enough,...more
Eileen Granfors
Intriguing premise.

Benjamin Hale's "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore" is a controversial, wildly imagined, book that is likely to make more than one reader squeamish, revolted, or angry. It at the same time will inspire more than one reader to consider, "What does it mean to be human?"

Hale allows his protagonist, a chimpanzee taught to speak, to tell his tale. Still, he uses an amanuensis to transcribe his memoir, for his hands have not the dexterity (and he has not the will) to put the 550+ pa...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
five stars, yeah, sure, you bet, i admire the work that went into this one.

that said, this one took me a while to plow through. was that because i read it on the kindle? perhaps. it is a relatively new experience for me, pushing a button to turn the page, though i like the highlighter, no lack of ink, though i can't do colors, like i do/did when i wreck a paper book. and that's a memo.

parts of this story are a real hoot. i loved the close encounters of the janitorial kind. that was fine. that wa...more
June Helmsley
Crazy awesome! Lolita + Flowers for Algernon + The Jungle Book + your mom = this badass bitch of a book.

Seriously, this is an amazing story. The premise is fucking genius! A chimpanzee learns to talk, becomes very intelligent, and at some point kills someone, and now he's being held captive. It's like the opposite of a Michael Bay movie. If that doesn't get you reading this, nothing will.

I know people out there will read this book and cringe at a few graphic points but HEY! The fucking prose alo...more
First, I want to express my surprise: I read a lot about this book before its publication; it was published about 2 months ago, and I no longer see anything recent said about it, or book blogging about it. It sounds as if it were very quickly dropped.

I am very surprised, as this book is phenomenal; ok let’s put aside what may gross you out, and yes the first sexual graphic scene between Bruno and Lydia is not the best passage of the book.

The writing is fantastic, it’s incredible how the author t...more
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Bruno Littlemore Book Cover 3 50 Jun 12, 2012 01:08PM  
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Benjamin Hale is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop. He is the recipient of an Iowa Provost’s Fellowship and a Michener-Copernicus Award. He grew up in Colorado and now lives in New York.
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“...we, and I mean humans, are meaning makers. We do not discover the meanings of mysterious things, we invent them. We make meanings because meaninglessness terrifies us above all things. More than snakes, even. More than falling, or the dark. We trick ourselves into seeing meanings in things, when in fact all we are doing is grafting our meanings onto the universe to comfort ourselves. We gild the chaos of the universe with our symbols. To admit that something is meaningless is just like falling backward into darkness." (p184)” 12 likes
“In paradise there is nothing to say. Eden was sacrificed not for the pleasure of a fruit, but for the pleasure of the word. Now we have shame and pain and knowledge of death and whatnot, but at least we can talk about it.” 6 likes
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