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Ape House

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  28,142 ratings  ·  4,172 reviews
Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani, and Makena are no ordinary apes. These bonobos, like others of their species, are capable of reason and carrying on deep relationships - but unlike most bonobos, they also know American Sign Language.

Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab, doesn’t understand people, but animals she gets - especially the bonobos. Isabel fe
Hardcover, 303 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Bond Street Books
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Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  28,142 ratings  ·  4,172 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Another book I'm sure I reviewed... lost also?
I had bought this book when it first came out in the Chicago airport. Given it was the 2nd book after Water For Elephant....I remember--
liking it --- but not 'wild' about the overall book. It does pull on your heart strings as you get towards the end.
Plus... my admiration for the authors research and love for these animals is what I do love.
Timothy Hinkle
I started this book under the impression that it was a piece of capital L Literature, but it turned out to be more along the lines of one of the earlier Anita Blake books with bonobos replacing the vampires. It took me a while to get into, but eventually I started to enjoy reading this. It's fun and silly and things explode. Despite what the jacket blurbs say, it's unlikely to change your life (unless you're the sort of person who sees an episode of Scooby-Doo and immediately starts a charitable ...more
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
I don’t seem to recall why I was such a “Water for Elephants” hater in the first place. But this fact hadn’t come up until I had read the tepid, all-too-unspecial “Ape House”—an animal lover’s dream but a literary person’s annoying albatross. I picked it up because after completing my thesis defense, there was nothing for me to do but to stare out at the open springtime air—I was that tired! & perhaps some cool short novel would then be the antidote to such heavy reading and self editing—of cran ...more
Dec 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Sara Gruen is a wonderful writer and I truly enjoyed "Ape House". I previously read "Water for Elephants" and was eager to read her newest book. I loved "Water for Elephants" as it was a very well done and I learned a great deal from the book. I thought that I might be somewhat disappointed in "Ape House" because I found "Water for Elephants" so captivating. Ape House did not disappoint me, but "Water for Elephants" continues to be my favorite of Gruen's books.

I continue to be appalled and disap
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
It pains me to not have liked this book.

Sara Gruen obviously is a champion for the humane treatment of animals and it shines through in her fiction. It seems like she'd be a witty and kind and smart person, someone I'd really love to hang out with.

This book, though, was not a great read. And, I hate to say that.

In one of the previous reviews on this page, someone said that maybe she should have written a memoir about her experiences with the apes instead of trying to make a fiction story out of
EZRead eBookstore
Jan 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: jenifer-reviews
I saw Sara Gruen speak about “Ape House” at the BEA before the release of the book. The woman is 199.99% crazy for bonobos, after having spent time in a language research center for apes in Iowa. Most of the cute short stories that she told about her own adventures showed up in the book, which begs the question; why didn’t she just make this nonfiction and bypass all the silliness? “Ape House” is stuffed with dues ex machinas, goofy coincidences, and caricatures right out of a high school improv ...more
Edward Lorn
May 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
DNF @ 203 pages out of 306. I'm only rating it because I made it over halfway. The ending could blow my mind, and I still couldn't forgive its bloated-ass middle.

Do you know how fucking boring a book has to be for me to put it down past the halfway point? The past fifty pages have been nothing but he went here and did this and people explaining why the show is failing. All my fucks are bottle up and nary a drop to drink.

Everything interesting in this book is described better in the synopsis than
Sep 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
I was so prepared to love this book and, only 30 pages in, I thought I did. I got sucked into loving those bonobos so fast, and caring about what happening to them, Isabel, and John. Let me tell you - it didn't last long. Well... let me correct myself: My love for the PEOPLE didn't last long.

The rest of what I have to say is an extremely angry, spoilerific rant, which I pray you read if you think this was a book that was worth your time.
(view spoiler)
Jul 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
The novel lacked anything resembling character development and has a bumbling, senseless plot. It reads like the manuscript of a first-time novelist; in fact, I've read better manuscripts and self-published novels than this highly-acclaimed author's third book. If you love Sara Gruen or are masochistic, pick it up and brace yourself. ...more
Aug 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
I picked up an advance reader's edition of this at the ALA conference this summer (2010). This is Sara Gruen's much-awaited second fourth! novel - her Water for Elephants did very well (and the copy I recycled at my book group's holiday book exchange was much fought over).

The "ape house" has many meanings. On the surface, it's a community of bonobos living in a university research facility. The bonobos are highly intelligent and, in the end, far more human than many of the humans in the book. I
Lisa Nocita
Jan 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction-adult
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bookmarks Magazine
Overall, critics considered Ape House a dissatisfying follow-up to Water for Elephants. With its evocative Depression-era setting and unforgettable characters, Water continues to enthrall legions of fans. Unfortunately, some reviewers found Ape House's intriguing premise overshadowed by poor editing, a "silly story," and "trite characters" (Washington Post). Others felt that Gruen glossed over key issues. A few did enjoy Ape House, and lauded Gruen's "knack ... for creating distinctive animal ch ...more
Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Solid three and a half stars, but I'll round up since I read this book in less than a day (and a busy one at that), and there are very few books that make me drop everything to read these days.
I've read all three of Gruen's previous books, and enjoyed them all, though Water for Elephants was by far the most accomplished of the three. When I first heard the premise of this book, I was a little skeptical. It sounded forced. It's not. Everything about the Bonobos seems real and possible. In all of
Sep 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ppl who like contemporary fiction like Jodi
Shelves: adult
I would like to thank Bridget for helping me enjoy this book. Bridget, you read this expecting quality literature, or at least a good/touching story, which it was not, so you hated it. I then read it expecting it to be awful, which it also was not, so I liked it!

It wasn't particularly well-written, well-character-developed, etc., etc. I completely agree w/Bridget's review that some of the plot twists were fairly ridic - and convenient (guy comes into the place where the neighbor works? other guy
Jun 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2011, summer-2011
This book lacked the majesty and wonder that made Water for Elephants so enticing. There are some graphic scenes of animal cruelty, which I found hard to read. The characters are likable, but not totally engrossing or unique. The amazingly human-like behavior of the bonobo chimps in the novel was really what had me reading to the end.
Mar 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: naturalist
Ape House is superb! Gruen is an excellent writer and her ability to incorporate the interrelationship between human beings and animals makes her a unique and original voice. The animals here are bonobo apes, an endangered great ape species closest to humans. Bonobos are remarkable for their ability to communicate,(they can be taught sign language) their fine motor skills (can turn a page in a book one page at a time) and their sexuality. Apparently humans, dolphins and bonobos are the only spec ...more
Aug 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
I started this book on the plane leaving for vacation. I only read in the evening while my husband was watching TV at night and finished it in three days/evenings. It was SO GOOD! Fascinating about bonobos and how much they resemble human beings. Quite the sexual species. Sara Gruen writes so fluidly, easy to follow and understand. I learned a bunch as I was absorbed into this wonderful story.
Karen Germain
Jul 21, 2011 rated it did not like it
Sara Gruen wrote one of my favorite novels, “Water For Elephants”, so I was really hoping that I would enjoy her latest novel, “Ape House.” Unfortunately, it completely fell flat. The story was clunky with cliché characters and absurd plot lines.

On the positive, it started with a great idea. What if Bonobos who could speak ASL fell into the hands of the wrong people, specifically a sleazy porn/reality TV producer? The story brings up many valid moral questions and puts forth some interesting ide
Jill Paulson
Oct 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
I LOVED Water for Elephants and honestly, was looking forward to reading Ape House. Same should be just as good, if not better, right?

Not right. And now that I've read a few reviews from others, it seems I'm not the only one who was more than a little disappointed.

I'm sure that Gruen was trying to keep the plot line moving with all her twists and turns, but it all ended up feeling trite and some of the 'coincidences' that she used to connect characters (like a contrived paternity pl
Sep 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Scrolling through the reviews, I find it interesting that most people seem to feel this book was a disappointment after Water for Elephants. I guess I'm in the minority; I didn't really like Water for Elephants that much (it was ok, but not something I'd rave about as others have), so I wasn't sure I'd like this book. But, my friend insisted that I read it and just had to trust her. I'm glad I did. At first I thought I was going to be disappointed; it seemed like the author was laying the ground ...more
Sep 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
LOVED IT! Loved it more than Water for Elephants. You can tell the author really did her research. I can't wait for her next one! ...more
Oct 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010-reads
Isabell Duncan is a research scientist studying language through teaching bonobo apes sign language. Her lab is blown up shortly after a visit from reporter John Thigpen, and the apes are unharmed but no longer in Isabell’s control. The resulting storyline of the book is the search for the missing Bonobo apes.

I loved WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and unfortunately can not say the same thing for this book. Although is was an entertaining read and obviously well researched, it did not have the character an
Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
★★★★✬ 4.5 stars
This book was quite an experience, and on one hand, if you care about animals, you should definitely read it, but on the other hand – if you're sensitive and you love animals, maybe you shouldn't. Cause you don't know what's been done to them, and I'm not talking about those we, er, eat. Animals are being used for chemical testing, disease research – and in the cruelest ways possible, and you are not aware of that. You should be, and this book exposes it well. Another thing it doe
Sep 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
While I've loved the last 2 Sara Gruen books that I've read, I was still surprised with just how much I loved this one. The elements of mystery and suspense are woven so seamlessly together in this story. There is more here than the story of the apes, or the story of their caretakers, or even the story of those covering those stories. I had a terrible time putting this book down.
The criminal plots were not something I was expecting when I started this book but she has proven that she can handle
Nov 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
How in the world was this written by the same author who gave the world Water for Elephants? Ms. Gruen switched publishing houses between books, and it makes me wonder if her previous editor deserves most of the credit for the bestselling novel. This book is supposed to be about bonobos taken from a research center and turned into the stars of a reality show. And that plot is there, in the background, hidden by boring, poorly mapped plot lines that go nowhere fast (that many of the summaries for ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Though not as good as Water for Elephants, I was engaged throughout this story. The best part of the book was getting to know the apes. There were some issues with John's storyline that didn't seem cohesive to the tale and could have been edited out. ...more
Mar 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub
Years ago, I read Water for Elephants which I truly loved. Although I was aware that Sara Gruen went on to write other books, I think I fell into that reader void where a book is loved so much that it's scary to seek out other titles by same author. Will I feel the same way about their writing? Will I unfairly compare much loved book to the one I am holding in my hand? But when a fellow bookclub member brought this 2010 title to our meeting, I knew I was curious enough to give it a try.

The sto
Loved the promotion and dissemination of information about the culture and language skills of the bonobo apes. The narrative also succeeds pretty well developing the main characters of the journalist John and primatologist Isabel and getting us to root for them. However, the novel aspires primarily to be a "pot-boiler", yet its plot twists and narrative drive do not rise to the high quality of entertainment many others achieve toward that goal. The animal rights issues are too stereotyped and mo ...more
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Listening to an audio book is a different experience from reading, but I thought as a literary effort Ape House was charmless and formulaic. It has none of the offbeat appeal of Gruen's abused elephant, orphan veterinarian and raffish circus types in Water for Elephants. Here the protagonist calls his wife "baby," rhapsodizes about her eggs benedict, and worries she won't be able to fend off the wolves when she takes a job in LA. The wife is just as bad, dressing in her best lingerie and serving ...more
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had heard bad things about this book but decided to read it anyway.. There were slow sections but overall I enjoyed it. I find the subject matter fascinating.
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Sara Gruen is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of five novels: AT THE WATER'S EDGE, APE HOUSE, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, RIDING LESSONS, and FLYING CHANGES. Her works have been translated into forty-three languages, and have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS was adapted into a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Rob Pattinson, and Christ ...more

Articles featuring this book

Tea parties and tickle tag with primates—the animal lover who wrote Water for Elephants describes the friendships she made with bonobos while...
22 likes · 19 comments
“He only had the imperfect medium of words.” 11 likes
“At this moment, the story in his head was perfect. He also knew from experience that it would degenerate the second he started typing, because such was the nature of writing.” 10 likes
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