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The Woman and the Ape

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  2,170 ratings  ·  106 reviews
The heroine of this love story is Madelene Burden. Lonely and disillusioned despite her upper-crust London existence, she's a modern-day sleeping beauty drowsing gently in an alcoholic stupor. But the prince whose kiss brings her to life is not tall, dark, and handsome. He's a short, dark, 300-pound ape named Erasmus. The victim of a smuggling attempt gone awry, Erasmus is ...more
Paperback, Large Print, 272 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Penguin Books (first published 1996)
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3.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,170 ratings  ·  106 reviews

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Apr 16, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you approach this book as a kind of essay on the topic of animals and London (in terms of how many animals are either consumed in London as food or maintained there as pets, zoological spectacles and research objects), you will find a lot to like in this book. If you approach it as an essay on the relation of the animal world to civilized humanity, you will find perhaps less to like, but at least the outlines of a very complicated problem: should the civilized world impose some kind of limit ...more
Ket Lamb
Feb 14, 2013 rated it liked it
The Woman and the Ape is about a wealthy, alcoholic housewife, Madelene, who reassess her life when an unusual ape offers her a peach. Peter Hoeg's incisive observations about class, wealth, power, freedom, civilization and beauty, keep this easily readable, animal-rights themed novel, intriguing. Madelene's annoying but unpredictable behavior adds surprising twists to what's bound to happen. You won't go bananas over the book, but the provocative ideas are rife for discussion, even if Hoeg's ta ...more
Jun 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
An ape arrives in London on a boat. Adam Burden, respected behavioural scientist, has it hidden on the grounds of his house. His wife Madelene, is a Danish alcoholic. Somehow the author and his PR believe this makes for not only a story, but a parable.

While admiring author Peter Hoeg's understanding of science, especially biology and neuroscience, and his surprising dry humour, I was ready to go where the author wanted to take me. But I had to get off at the point where the beautiful but not qu
Nov 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Loved this insightful parable about man and animals, free will and destiny, science and humanism. The main character is an alcoholic housewife, Madalene, married well, who runs away with an anthropoid ape (he talks) named Erasmus.

Peter Hoeg is the same guy who wrote Smilla's Sense of Snow, which I liked a lot, but this is much, much better.
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This will be a parable full of insight to some out there - skewed vets maybe.

And that, ladies and gentlemen is the most charitable comment I can think of at this precise moment.
Sarah Potter
Mar 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This novel deserves 10 stars, not 5! Being a huge fan of Peter Høeg's, you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon an edition published in 1997 of The Woman and the Ape. I'd never heard of the novel before, but the fact that my favourite Danish author had written it and the cover was suitably quirky (not the one featured here on Goodreads, but far better), I couldn't wait to get home and start turning the book's yellowed pages.

The experience was like entering a different world and being amaz
Jayne Charles
Apr 11, 2013 rated it liked it
I fear I am not intelligent enough to draw the maximum from this book. I was at least halfway through before I could stop using the synopsis as a road map to remind myself what was going on. The prose is dense and highly intelligent but much of its message was lost on me. All I took from the first hundred or so pages was that a form of alcohol exists which you can drink and not end up incoherent and embarrassing and find yourself waking up with your tongue fused to the carpet. In fact it renders ...more
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016
A ship smuggling wild animals crashes into a pier in an English harbor, allowing a strange ape to escape. He is eventually captured by a behavioral scientist who finds out how preternaturally intelligent this ape is. The scientist wants to to more experiments on the animal, but his alcoholic wife, who is drawn to the creature, thwarts the plan and helps him escape. While on the run, the odd couple falls in love. Is the creature, an animal, a man, or something else?

This is a very bizarre book tha
May 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
This novel captured first my imagination and then my heart. Hoeg draws you in with exceptional characters and an action packed plot. Madelene, a wealthy but depressed upper class Londoner, appears to have everything, yet her life is not so simple. Insecure and depressed, Madelene is an outsider, even in her own house, medicating herself with alcohol. she discovers that her ambitious husband has procured an ape called Erasmus, on which he plans to experiment. Madelene rescues Erasmus from his cag ...more
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read this year. Gets increasingly sci-fi as the book goes on; really riveting and interesting exploration of a concept, which made me think in new ways about the relationship between humans and the environment, animals in cities, zoos, and animals/sexism. I'd love to teach this one day next to the book "Bear". Wasn't super Londony, was my only complaint; it was very good at being about a city, but it could have been any city. It felt strangely distanced and mythic. Tha ...more
Jan 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
I love this Peter Hoeg. I really liked Smilla's Sense of Snow and Borderliners, and parts of The Danish Book of Dreams were beautiful and memorable.

This, like The House of Mirth, is about a young woman trying to make her way in the world while obeying society's rules for rich young women. Unlike the House of Mirth, the character in this book breaks these rules by having sex with a highly evolved species of ape. Really.

I love Peter Hoeg's detailed descriptions of scientific procedures, and the d
Ralph deal
Mar 12, 2008 added it
Recommends it for: Anyone who liked Smilla's Sense of Snow
While this book by Peter Høeg did not get high ratings in the reviews I read, I found the book delightful. I love the opening scene in which a super-intelligent ape creates havoc with his captors in London. I like the way it treats "scientists" studying an exotic animal in an unnecessarily destructive way.
While this is a bit of science fiction, the story is a could-be one with Peter Høeg's usual sharp observations, on contemporary Britain in this case.
Juliet Wilson
Jun 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
A disturbing story of a bored woman who runs away with an ape. But it is a lot more than that, it dissects human attitudes to the natural world and our relationships with other species. At the same time it looks at the animal in every human - we're not that far removed from the apes at all when you think about it are we? A compelling, thought provoking read.
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
The clothes make the man. I did enjoy reading this book. I'm not much of a science fiction fan, but there is a message here - very important - that we are all sharing this planet together, and we seriously do need to realize that we cannot just keep taking all of the resources for us so called humans.
Inna Ershova
Feb 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
No, this book is not like "Smilla and Her Sense of Snow". I wanted to give it 2 stars first for several witty metaphors, but after thinking for a while, I decided that in general, "The Woman and the Ape" seemed disastrous to me. To be more specific, it's full of cliches, repulsive descriptions and pretentious conclusions.
Nov 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
short, bizarre, sexy and alarming. almost perfect.
Mar 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want a new twist on magic realism
This is one of my favorite books. It's so bizarre and lyrical and romantic. Read it.
Dominic Smith
Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christina Scholz
Jan 13, 2019 rated it liked it
This was... interesting. From the moment the ape actually (view spoiler) I had problems adjusting to what I perceived as a more and more prominent fantasy element. But this is Peter Høeg, and I had already developed a suspicion that his books usually do more than just one thing, so I read on... and was more than rewarded by a very interesting (and at this point in the plot very satisfying) plot twist. And yes, this book works on several levels, and very visibly so.
May 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This book starts out with an interesting premise and characters but halfway through I felt things just went too weird. It starts with a unique ape being captured and the drunken wife who wants to save it but suddenly switches to a love and romantic situation between her and he ape and I won’t spoil the ending, but woah! That was really out of left field. Even though it was a bit strange for my taste, it’s one I won’t soon forget.
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the first half of this book. The characters and story line reminded me of Tom Robbins. Right at the end of the first half the book turns magical. From that point on I have a harder time believing the actions of the characters and understanding their motivations. There is an overall upbeat mood which is vastly different from Smilla's Sense of Snow. Generally I don't find books by the same writer that are so vastly different.
I liked this book up to around the 2/3 mark. That's where I feel it should've stopped and it would have been a 3.5 star for me. However, it just keeps going and turns into something weird that I had no interest in... Also I didn't like the way the author kept using English phrases (read the Danish version).
Lorraine Wiseman
Thought provoking, humorous and an easy read. This is a book that I suspect I will often think back on and ponder. An easy read does not mean that there is no depth or sutilties ( ok I can’t spell) . I highly recommend this book. I read it in two days a marathon for the book club I have just joined.
Jun 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I am not saying the book was bad with the 3 stars. It was very well written.

I gave it 3 stars, because it was just not for me. It had some very disturbing parts, that to be honest I couldn't stomach, but I did finish reading it.
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
It took me six months to read this book. It was boring with too few interesting plot points. The ending made me consider giving three stars but overall The Woman and the Ape was not a book I would easily recommend to my friends.
Johanne Bisgaard
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
I didn't go into this book thinking I would love it, and I didn't. It bored me and I never really understood any of the characters.
E Van
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Admittedly... the story is a bit weird. A woman falling in love with an ape. But the author did a fantastic job. I found it an unusual but a very good read.
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved it, was weird and alternative and enjoyed the whole experience.
Ro Hart
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a brilliant story!!!!
An upper class woman and an ape form an unlikely friendship.
The best ending ever!!!!!!
Katja Vartiainen
Jun 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
There are a few hilarious moments in this book, but unfortunately, even though it is written with talent(who could deny Hoeg's skills?) it is too pretentious. Maybe it is due to the translation, I read it in Finnish. The main character is a rich, poor girl, quite credible, whose life is so unnatural, I feel sorry for her. The rest of the characters, even the ape, seem a bit vague. The story could be an excellent basis to philosophize about our man-nature relationship, but it is left to the reade ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Corrections add connecting information 1 7 Jun 27, 2019 06:29AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Title correction 3 15 Mar 11, 2019 10:17AM  

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Peter Høeg was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. Before becoming a writer, he worked variously as a sailor, ballet dancer, and actor. He published his first novel, A History of Danish Dreams (1988), to positive reviews. However, it was Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1992), a million-copy best seller, that earned Høeg immediate and international literary celebrity. His books have been published in more than th ...more
“Det var ikke en rituell prognose, som et bryllupsløfte eller et nyttårsforsett. Det var en edsavleggelse av et slag Madelene ikke hadde vært beveget til på tyve år. Det var den fryktløse troskapserklæringen uten tanke på fremtiden som et barn gir en uunværlig lekekamerat.” 0 likes
“- Det ser ut som en krypta.
- Döden är förtroendeingivande. Alla banker är inredda som gravvalv.”
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