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The Last Neanderthal

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Forty thousand years in the past, the last family of Neanderthals roams the earth. Girl, the oldest daughter, is coming of age and her family is determined to travel to the meeting place to find her a mate. But the unforgiving landscape takes its toll, and Girl is left alone to care for Runt, a foundling. As Girl and Runt face the coming winter, Girl realizes she has one chance to save her people, at great cost to herself.

In the present, archaeologist Rosamund Gale works well into her pregnancy, racing to excavate newly found Neanderthal artifacts before her baby arrives. Linked across the ages by the shared experience of birth and early motherhood, and inspired by the recent discovery that many modern humans have inherited DNA from Neanderthals, Girl's story and Rosamund's story examines the often taboo corners of women's lives.

288 pages, ebook

First published April 1, 2017

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About the author

Claire Cameron

3 books255 followers

Author of The Last Neanderthal (April 2017), The Bear and The Line Painter.

I am 2.5% Neanderthal, according to the 23 and Me DNA test. I have a gold tooth.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 677 reviews
Profile Image for Fran (apologies...way behind).
619 reviews563 followers
May 4, 2017
Paleoarchaeologist Dr. Rosemund Gale, working on a dig in present day France, makes an astonishing discovery. She unearths fossilized bones of a Neanderthal girl and a modern day man, facing each other, and buried in the same strata. Radioactive dating indicates that the Neanderthal and the Homo Sapien co-existed, perhaps forming a loving relationship. Rose had discovered a Neanderthal girl 40,000 years after her death. Taking a leave of absence from her tenure track teaching post, Rose intended to make sure she published and was credited with the find.

Neanderthal culture was dwindling. Living in matriarchal groups with a Big Mother at the helm, sons were expected to bring home a breeding female chosen at the yearly spring fish run held at the confluence of the river forks. Daughters were expected to live outside their family by winning a place as Big Mother in a different family. The journey to the meeting place could occur only after the ice melted. Girl's current family consisted of Big Mother, Him, Bent and Runt. Tragedy struck when Bent was killed by a bison while trying to protect Girl during a bison attack. Soon after, Girl and Him, both hormonal, mate. A pregnant Girl is cast out by big Mother, the decision maker, and told she must travel alone to the fish run. Big Mother hopes Girl's resourcefulness and determination will enable her to arrive safely. Girl's survivalist skills are stretched to the limit as she travels to her destination.

Girl's story was very compelling. The low density family lived in a hut tucked in a granite cliff and protected from predators. They slept as one body, curled around each other to stay warm. Their covers were bison hides. By violating the taboo of incest, Girl was forced to search for safety and sustenance.

The parallel story of Rose's pregnancy and her determination to continue to head the archeological dig was not as engaging. Rose's single mindedness made her overbearing, not sympathetic.

Author Claire Cameron's extensive research turned "The Last Neanderthal" into a well crafted tome. The latest DNA genome has determined that up to four percent of the current European and Asian populations have Neanderthal DNA. Cameron's novel describes a connection, perhaps a love connection between two intelligent species. A good read.

Thank you Little, Brown and Company and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Last Neanderthal".
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
April 8, 2019
i was a terrible online book club participant - i did all of the assigned reading, sure, but i only showed up to respond to one round of questions, after which point i just read everyone else’s responses like some ghostly book club lurker. i didn’t even drink any wine, which should make up at least 40% of book club activity.

my failure was one part down to me transitioning from a dayjob person to a nightjob person - with all the attendant physical and psychological horrors, and not having the time/headspace to participate in the group until the weekend, by which point everyone else had already weighed in and moved on, and one part me not really feeling this book (which might also be a result of part one). but it makes me sad to see all of the downright glowing responses to this book; wondering how i missed out on what other readers got out of it. i seem to be on a claire cameron seesaw - i loved her first book The Bear more than most people i know did, and with this one, i am sitting with my butt on the ground while everyone else soars above me, kicking their feet wildly.



it's a narrative divided into two parts: the neanderthal "girl's" prehistoric storyline and the modern day story of pregnant archaeologist rose excavating two skeletons whose import may rock the scientific world.

girl's chunk of the story was great - all action and survival and an interesting perspective on the relationship between the individual and the family, other creatures, the surrounding world… but cameron seemed overly keen on describing bodily fluids and aromas, hair, secretions, the surrender to taboo sexual urges - establishing the idea of otherness; the evolutionary divide between neanderthals and modern man, but it mostly came off as an attempt to be shocking, which never interests me much as a reader.

as for rose’s half, well - i didn’t like any of it. rose is a wholly unlikeable character, which is not a dealbreaker for me, but she’s surrounded by a bunch of other characters who are either boring, spineless, or cartoony, all stumbling around in a perfunctory plot i could not summon any interest in. it was utterly dismal all around, and brittle rose and her dull story kept taking me out of the much better story of girl facing actual peril - weather, animal attacks, loss, separation, and that one thing she did that made me REALLY sad.

i’m sure it’s my own shortcomings and not the book, but i just could not get into this one. if it had been entirely girl’s POV with no rose and her “bravery” (<— scoff ), or that trip to ikea or the excruciating dialogue:

”Am I bigger?”

“Beautifully so.” He knew the precise kind of diplomacy that was required.

“A lot, yes?” I asked.

“Well…that is how pregnancy works.”

“I’m that much bigger?”

He sighed. “It’s more…you used to look like Rose with a belly. Now you are a belly with Rose attached.”

“Really?”

“Like you have been hired to carry a baby bump around.”

“It’s heavy.”

“I wish I could take it for you.”


it would have had a much better chance of winning my heart. because the girl half was frequently excellent, just not excellent enough to overcome the drag of rose’s contributions.

but don’t let me steer you away from this book, because i’m absolute garbage these days, and my brain-thoughts cannot be trusted. i will enjoy watching you all kick your feet in the air from here, before i fall over in exhaustion.



***********************************************

i will be reading this book for the whole month of september and participating in learned discussions over at riffle's monthly book club! it is online! bring your own wine!

https://discussions.rifflebooks.com/t...

01 - 09 September: Through end of Chapter 7 - BOOM! ready to rock!
10 - 16 September: Chapter 8, through end of Chapter 15
17 - 23 September: Chapter 16 through end of Chapter 22
24 - 30 September: Chapter 23 through to end

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,686 reviews14k followers
April 8, 2017
France, a female archeologist finds the bones of two people, the bones displayed as if they are looking at each other at the time of their deaths. A very important discovery as it turns out because one of the skeletons is a female Neanderthal and the other a male homo sapiens.

This is a cleverly constructed book, as we go back to the time of the Neanderthal and our author reimagines a time when they were living. She uses a family, a mother, a girl, a boy and another boy, and a young boy that they have sort of adopted that is quite different from them. They call him Runt. Their daily lives, constant quest for food, the danger from predators, each members role in the family, though eventually this will be the girls story as circumstances dictate that it is her we will follow. This story alternates with the modern day as Rosamunde, our archeologist struggles to get financing for her dig, an unexpected pregnancy and trying to maintain control of the dig and her personal life. Both paths of these women will have commonalities and differences but the struggle for women will intersect across time.

Changing views of our perception of the intelligence of the Neanderthal made this book believable. Genetics has proven that many descendants of these early people are still alive today, it is in their DNA. Although little is known about their lives, which the author acknowledges in her afterward, leaving her free to use her imagination. I enjoyed this look into some unknown history, and freely admit that the historical storyline was the more fascinating one. Well written, well imagined, a different type of read.

ARC from Netgalley.
Publishes April 25th from Little Brown.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,161 reviews541 followers
May 14, 2017
It's 2.5 stars, but I just can't round it up. The ancient portion is too simplistic and inaccurate for being put into a "scientific" context to the present day story. And the present day story is just off and IMHO, poorly written in characterizations. It's similar to a YA level account of being a late thirties age pregnant woman who holds a PhD but which is put into the words and emotions of a teenager rather half denying the reality of outcome for her pregnancy. And the emotional and realistic conflicts also seem off in the present day portion of the novel. What kind of planning or connotation of/for her own reality? Or emotion for her own forthcoming baby? Or the guy who fathered it? She was almost unknown at her core, IMHO, and also highly unlikable. The job and her funding in comparisons of value? And did she even once think about the insurance or healthcare situation of staying on site? What a rocket scientist? Not.

But what really turned me from the 3 I wanted to give it for the first half, to the 2 for the second half, was the ending for Girl. There was no science or reality there at all, not even for the bear scenes at the fish run or the wolf pack at the cow bison take down. And none of these people of either species would have spent so much of their time parsing abstractions. They wouldn't have.

Very inaccurate portrayal of the Neanderthal. More chick lit fiction portrayal of a last survivor.

The more you know of the actual science and anthropology/forensics/paleontology- the less you will enjoy this read.

I finished every word because it was such easy read speed to do so, and also because I DID have interest in finding out Girl's outcome. 2.5 to be fair.
Profile Image for Laura.
270 reviews22 followers
May 8, 2017
I adored the idea of this book! I still think that the concept has merit, but unfortunately, I don’t think it was well-done.

By far, the better sections of the book are those taking place in the distant past, and perhaps this is because we don’t know anything about how those characters would be, and whether or not they are realistic. They still felt fresh and interesting. . . unfortunately, the book description reveals where the plot will take us FIFTY PERCENT INTO THE NOVEL, so the suspense about what is going to happen is lacking for most of the read.
Speaking of suspense, is it a technique to have some type of action finally happening, and then draw out that imperative by suddenly switching over to an observation about a boring subject, like where or when hazelnuts grow?? This happens frequently during exciting buffalo hunts and other adventures, to the point that I wondered if the author was holding back deliberately. It did not pique my interest, to say the least.
There are some other fiddly things I noticed, such as, “If they can smell this, why can’t they smell that?” or “when did she bring that along??” or “do we need to use the very modern terms ‘pooped’ or ‘dirt nap’ all of a sudden?” but they are not as relevant. For my own reference, because it’s a pet peeve, “shock” is used to describe hair at least seven times.

The modern parts of the novel felt extremely weak and almost cartoony to me. The protagonist is frankly pretty irritating, and not on purpose. She seems to have zero ability to use foresight or make a decision, and I just kind of wanted to scream at her for one reason or another during each modern chapter. Maybe this is even compounded when contrasted (intentionally!) with Girl, the Neanderthal. Rose has so many options and resources that she chooses not to use or even contemplate! I think the intent of writing two narratives about motherhood designed to mirror each other caused the author to focus on that idea, rather than on what Rose could actually do, and what would make **any sense**.
The protagonist and one other character—I won’t reveal which, because it comes so late that it’s actually kind of A SPOILER—are the only ones which show any dimension. I wish I could believe that the other characters seem so flat as a statement about the Neanderthal-era characters! I suspect that they were just kind of thrown in as scenery for Rose, and that. . . happens. I mean, does the Dr. Pepper swilling jokester assistant really need to be a dynamic character? It’s just that we do spend a lot of time with these as we’re waiting for Rose to waffle around.

This is a pretty scathing review, but I actually didn’t despise the book as much as it sounds like I did. I thought that most of the Neanderthal narrative, and the very-ends of both narratives, were quite good. There were some things that I genuinely didn’t expect (which seems difficult, considering that one protagonist is finding the other’s bones), and some plot points that felt genuine and raw and affecting. I ended up happy for Rose, against all odds!
I think that perhaps the author had a really great creative spark upon seeing the photo (included at the end) of the skeletons, and that’s not a bad thing. A lot of people seem to have loved the result, and I don’t have to be one of them. Much Warm to Claire Cameron.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews94.7k followers
Read
August 1, 2017
I couldn’t stop thinking about this book after I put it down. Telling the parallel stories of Rosamund Gale, a present-day archaeologist uncovering the find of her career, and Girl, a Neanderthal woman coming of age centuries before her, this novel explores how humans are linked—by DNA, by history, and by shared experiences—to our Neanderthal relatives. The scenes set 40,000 years in the past sing with urgency and tension as Girl tries to survive on her own in an unforgiving landscape. While the present-day scenes aren’t quite as compelling, Cameron’s exploration of the ties that bind Girl and Rosamund is incredibly moving and has stayed with me for a long time.

— Kathleen Keenan


from The Best Books We Read In April 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/05/01/riot-r...
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,182 reviews123 followers
August 23, 2022
Some meat gets to eat … some meat gets eaten!

Some 40,000 years ago, as the last ice age slowly relinquished its steely grip on the northern hemisphere, the Neanderthal, a separate species of hominid whose DNA, by some estimates, comprises as much as 6% of modern Homo Sapiens DNA, sadly went extinct. Although there is no solid consensus, current wisdom suggests that the reason for the extinction may be as mundane as a population too small and too widely dispersed that ultimately proved non-viable, unable to withstand the difficulties of squeezing through a genetic bottleneck. Today’s forward-thinking anthropologists and paleontologists also regularly incur significant opposition from those who would hold to 19th century cartoonish stereotypes of the Neanderthal as a stooped, primitive, violent brute who lost a war for their place on the planet in a pitched battle against Cro-Magnon, the precursor to today’s modern Homo Sapiens.

Rosamund Gale is a modern, professional scientist – an archeologist who must achieve her place in science in the face of institutional misogyny. She also struggles daily against the opposition to her beliefs in a more modern version of Neanderthal behavior and capabilities, that they are capable, innovative toolmakers with advancing technology, that they have developed a place and value in their lives for cosmetic and physical personal adornment, and that they interacted, mingled and, of course, mated with Cro-Magnon as circumstances allowed or demanded. She also faces the additional harsh demands of a difficult pregnancy and a long-distance relationship with her husband. In her novel, author Cameron portrays Gale as having hit the proverbial archeological mother lode – a burial site that contains female Neanderthal and male Cro-Magnon remains obviously carefully positioned (or perhaps they were positioned by the circumstances of their joint death) to show a strong relationship, perhaps even a permanent loving relationship.

I have a personal preference for interpreting The Last Neanderthal which may not have been the one that Ms Cameron intended when she wrote it. I think that the strength of Ms Gale’s beliefs in her version of a Neanderthal hominid, the emotional depth of those beliefs coupled with the difficulties of her pregnancy, the problems of her absent husband the and the daily opposition to her advancement and achievement by her scientific colleagues led Ms Gale, much like a clairvoyant or a medium, to channel her physical contact with those remains into a detailed imagining of the pathos of the final months of the last Neanderthal female and her erstwhile clan. That the last Neanderthal existed somewhere, sometime, somehow in a post-Ice Age Europe was a logical, unavoidable inevitability.

Gale’s Neanderthal calls herself simply Girl. Her companion, Runt, is a juvenile Cro-Magnon boy perhaps as young as six or seven years old. Girl’s continuing concerns that Runt is sickly or diseased, weak, mal-nourished or underdeveloped and deficient in some fashion make it clear that Girl is entirely unaware of the existence of a second species of hominid with such marked physical differences. Runt and Girl are making the trek to the annual clan gathering at the site of a salmon spawning run where Girl, who has now come into heat and entered puberty, hopes she will find a mate and the opportunity to become the matriarch of her own clan. When no other family clans join her at the site, the reader becomes aware that Girl is now the last Neanderthal.

My initial chagrin at the fact that the end of Girl’s life, in effect the death of the last Neanderthal on earth, and the explanation for the positioning of the bones at the site of Gale’s monumental discovery was not to be forthcoming vanished as I realized that it is likely that Cameron intended leaving things open-ended. The reader closes the book on the final page in exactly the same position as Rosamund Gale. That is, Gale and the reader must conceive their own possible explanations consistent with the evidence offered when, sadly, the bones aren’t able to explain themselves. They just sit there daring the scientific observer to draw conclusions.

When I cracked the binding on The Last Neanderthal and began reading, it was my hope that, like Björn Kurtén’s awesome Dance of the Tiger, Gale would take advantage of the literary license offered by story-telling that was forbidden to her when she was doing her scientific research and put forward her own theory for the demise of the Neanderthal species. In all likelihood, Ms Cameron never intended to do that in the first place but it is the reason that the book paled ever so slightly in my estimation and I withheld that fifth star.

Highly recommended

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,379 reviews11.7k followers
April 1, 2018
3.5 stars

This is basically a lecture on prehistoric life and archeology in a form of a novel. Mostly worked for me, although I think the book would have been better without the dry modern-time perspective. It didn’t really have any life in it until almost the very end. But the perspective of the Neanderthal girl was impressively vivid and raw. It’s hard to know how early humans lived and thought, but the author had a beautiful take on it, emphasizing the deep connection of humans to their surroundings and their own bodies.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,807 reviews348 followers
June 5, 2020
What a well structured novel this was. I don't know if the author has ever had a baby, but I would strongly suspect so. If she hasn't, may I commend her on her research? The Neanderthal woman, Girl, is a good mirror for Rose in the present day. They are both women at pivotal junctures in their lives which are complicated by pregnancy. Girl needs to find a mate, join a family, stay alive, and reproduce. Rose has a significant archaeological site to excavate, staff to oversee, papers to write, and a reputation to establish. Pregnancy is a threat to Girl's survival and to Rose's academic survival.

I'm always interested in authors' representations of ancient humans. I do think that Neanderthals were more like us than we might be comfortable with. Their brains were larger in volume and a different shape than Homo sapiens, so they certainly had potential to have skills similar to our own. Not to mention the percentage of Neanderthal DNA found in the modern human genome. I've heard an apocryphal story of a clay reconstruction over a Neanderthal skull, done in the Soviet Union, that looked so much like a member of the Communist party that it got hidden away lest he take offense and relegate the reconstruction artist to Siberia.

About half way through the novel, I realized that the ancient chapters were numbered and the modern chapters were named. I'm unsure of the significance of this, though it was obviously intentional. I must say that I enjoyed the Neanderthal chapters more than the modern story. I guess I already know about life for women now and was more interested in the speculations about the past. My mother always said that I preferred to read about mysterious civilizations rather than the well-documented ones.

If you enjoyed this book, you might also like The Clan of the Cave Bear and The Valley of Horses. The first couple of books in this series were the best for me, after that I found them repetitive and somewhat melodramatic.

Profile Image for Caro (Bookaria).
583 reviews18.4k followers
June 23, 2017
“Words could be empty. It was the return of a gesture that held meaning”
― Claire Cameron, The Last Neanderthal: A Novel


This story alternates between the present-day life of an archeologist who found the remains of a neanderthal and the life 40,000 years ago of a neanderthal family.

The book is very interesting, the modern-day scientist is the main character of the present-day timeline and describes theories about neanderthal lives and processes related to archeology findings. The "Girl" is the main character of the 40,000 years-ago timeline, she is young, strong, has recently become pregnant, and her story describes her journey for survival.

I really liked the book! I have always being intrigued by the idea of neanderthals, like, what do you meant there were other humans? What do you mean they were "homo" but not "sapiens"? (Homo neanderthalensis, if you want to be accurate), What do you mean that they went extinct and nobody knows the exact reason why? All these questions with no definite answers but fascinating to ponder.

This book has a historical feel but is also like nothing I've read before, probably because not many speculative-fiction books are written about neanderthals.

Overall it is a great read, interesting and well paced.

Review also posted on blog

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Profile Image for Nancy.
1,387 reviews299 followers
May 30, 2017
In her new novel, The Last Neanderthal, Claire Cameron draws on new scientific information to recreate the world when our human ancestors and Neanderthals coexisted. Of course, DNA sequencing of Neanderthals has proven that they are also part of our ancestral heritage. No longer can we imagine that human superiority overcame an animalistic, inferior group. So what then did cause the extinction of the Neanderthal population?

In this novel, Girl is part of a small family group that just survives, living in isolation on their territory. Big Mama is in her early thirties and her body is failing. An older sibling has already joined her mate's family. Girl has a younger brother, Him. They have allowed a hanger-on, Runt, to join the family. Runt is small, talks too much, and is without the Neanderthal musculature and bone structure. But if he is weaker than Girl he also is brave and resourceful.

During the time of the fish run the local Neanderthal population gathers at the river to feast on spawning salmon, intermingle, and mate with individuals outside of the family group. This year will be Girl's time to mate and leave.

In alternating chapters, the contemporary foil to Girl is the archaeologist Rose who is excavating Girl's skeleton. Rose is independent, strong, and a leader, like Girl. Rose is also pregnant, as was Girl.

The two stories lines offer a contrast and comparison. The one difference is that Rose has a support group around her, for human society evolved through a social contract beyond the family group. Girl, on the other hand, has lost her family and finds no one at the summer river. She is vulnerable and alone--and doomed.

Humans' larger social groups allow them to share innovations and new technology. The Neanderthals' isolation limits their advancement, but they seem to have an instinctual race memory as well as acquired knowledge that is passed through generations. Girl pushes away abstract thinking when it arises as it interferes with the alertness that guarantees her survival.

Readers will compare this novel to Jean Auel's 1980 blockbuster The Clan of the Cave Bear. I have not reread the Auel book since it's debut and will not comment on a comparison. I will be interested to hear how Auel fans will react to Cameron's novel based on new research, but also on how her characterization of Girl and her presentation of Neanderthal and human interaction compare to Auel's book.

I have read some reviews by Goodreads readers who did not like Rose. Another reader pointed out that being a female scientist in a male-dominated field is hard. Rose needs to be dedicated, single-minded, and protective of her work. I liked Rose as a foil to Girl. Both are dominant, capable women. They allow readers to connect the similarities and differences of women's experiences across the millennium.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel. I did have questions about Girl's concrete vs. abstract thinking and asked Ms. Cameron if she would clarify. I wrote,

Dear Ms. Cameron,
I have read your new book through NetGalley. I was hoping you would answer a question I have about Girl. At times she seems to draw on instinct, focused on the concrete and the 'now'. But at times she also shows an ability to imagine another's motives. For instance, she sees a calf and thinks "From his skitterish eyes, it was clear that he would have crawled back inside her belly if given the chance." This abstract thinking is what I am wondering about. Can you clarify your understanding of the Neanderthal mind and if this is an ability unique to Girl or if this is a new understanding of the species as a whole?

I received a nice reply.
Hi Nancy,
I often get the same questions over and over. I don't mind at all, as I understand that they are fundamental to the experience of reading the book. Occasionally, though, I get a question that shows how thoroughly a reader has engaged with what I was trying to do. Your question feels like this to me. Thank you for asking. My idea was that Girl has a stronger connection between her mind and body than we do. For example, she would never get angry at herself for eating at extra cookie. If she could witness me scolding myself for eating a cookie, as many of us do, she would wonder who I was talking to-- there is only one me? I've often wondered why we have this split sense of ourselves, of the mind vs. the body. Girl would just simply eat a cookie. But, Girl is also a hunter. I read about animals and the new theories about how their minds work. One book that I particularly love is Frans De Wall, ARE WE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW HOW SMART ANIMALS ARE? He talks about how we think of intelligence as a cognitive ladder, that the smarter are at the top. But when breaking down the different skills that animals have, this clearly isn't true. One of his frequently cited examples is that squirrels can remember where they cached hundreds of nuts a season, whereas a human could never do this. Does this mean a squirrel is smarter? No, but it does show the difference between their intelligence and ours. When you apply this kind of non-hierarchical thinking to hunters, the more they can get into the mind of their prey, the more successful they will be in making a catch. The hunter, be it either a leopard, Wildcat, or Girl, has to anticipate what their prey might do. What does the prey want? What might it do next? Girl was such a good hunter because she was also good at anticipating others needs. That is the long answer. The short one is that I was trying to think of Girl has having a different kind of intelligence that wasn't necessarily better or worse than ours. Just different. In reality, we know very little about how Neanderthals thought, so I extrapolated from what we know about the mind to imagine my own answers.
I hope that answers your question. Thank you, again, for it.
Best,
Claire

Cameron discovered she has 2.5% Neanderthal DNA and this novel is not an exploration of 'the other' as much as an imagining of our common ancestry.

I expect this book to interest many readers and be a big hit.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,393 reviews439 followers
March 16, 2017
Recent science has been rethinking the way we're originally perceived out distant relatives, indeed related if only by a small margins due to the long ago crossbreeding of their species with homo sapiens. This book does more than rethink, it vividly reimagines the Neanderthals as all too sentient, intelligent and able individuals. While that portrayal might be viewed as too steeped in anthropomorphism, it's nevertheless very compelling, as the book follows one young Neanderthal girl's journey. This takes up majority of the book, minority of it is dedicated to the female archeologist who discovers the remains of the girl some 40 000 years later. There are parallels to their lives that are meant to tie the story together, but they seems too structured and simplified in a way, for me they added nothing really. Separately, it's possible the archeologist character just didn't do much for me, there isn't a lot there but fanatical dedication to her work, at cost to her relationship and possibly fate of her child (she spends most of the book pregnant), although the book does go to great length to present an uncomfortably realistic view of pregnancy, childbirth and subsequent childcare from a psychological point of view. With exception of the aforementioned overdrawn parallels, the book was well written, interesting and entertaining. For someone with a great interest in the past and evolution in general and Neanderthals in particular this is certainly worth a read. Thanks Netgalley.
Profile Image for Martie Nees Record.
659 reviews129 followers
November 5, 2017
Pub. Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company

This is a novel about the makings of the female species. There are two female protagonists. One lives in the present and the other lives forty thousand years ago. The author, Claire Cameron, weaves the two females’ very different lives together in flashbacks and flash-forwards. Cameron writes her novel as if it is a thesis, with a theory that needs to be proved. Her hypothesis is that our ancestors were strikingly similar to the humans of today. Her end notes have an impressive list of references on the subject, showing that she did her homework. In the hands of a lesser author, this dissertation-like focus could be the book's weakness. Instead, her storytelling skills are so good that it is the book’s strength. It reads as a historical fiction, a mystery, a fast-paced suspense tale, and a love letter to the human race, with an emphasis on the female ability to create life.

The modern day woman is a pregnant archaeologist who is racing to get grant funding to continue her work on Neanderthal artifacts before her baby is born. The bones she finds in her dig are of two bodies and they are a shocking discovery because they are of a female Neanderthal and a human male buried together, positioned as if embracing. In the distant past, the Neanderthal teenage girl is also pregnant. She is racing to find shelter before her baby is born. It is crucial that this baby lives since she knows that her species’ numbers are low. Her mother taught her that her reason for being born is to reproduce so the “family” can continue. (Family here can mean their immediate family but is also used as their word for all Neanderthals). It is clear to the reader that the female bones found by the archaeologist are the bones of the female Neanderthal protagonist. Both the Neanderthal girl and the modern day woman have very difficult births, one without her partner, in a country where she doesn’t speak the language, and the other alone in a hole in the earth during a snowstorm. Both almost lose their life giving birth and have to decide whether to save their own life or the life of their unborn baby. This type of choice always makes for a thought provoking and heart-tugging read.

By itself, the story of the modern day heroine would have been a good feminist tale, asking if working women can have it all—a fulfilling career and family life? The author adds in a postpartum psychosisepisode, and the Archaeologist begins to think about killing her baby. This temporary madness makes for an interesting story but it has been written before in “All She Ever Wanted” by Rosalind Noonan and other stories on this subject. But the story of the Neanderthal girl is so intriguing that I sometimes became annoyed when the next chapter focused on the Archaeologist. In the girl’s story, I became lost in the world of 40 thousand years ago, when the last families of Neanderthals roamed the earth. They were incredible people, and I choose to call them people because of what I learned in this book. Yet, they had an animal-like fairness to them that modern humans do not have. Unless desperate, they never killed a baby animal. They understood that this would disrupt the balance of living creatures, because then the baby bison would not grow and continue the circle of life.

I became fascinated with other side stories in the novel too, such as the girl’s friendship with a tiger too old to hunt. He would come to visit her like a pet and she would give him strips of meat, usually cooked. (The Neanderthals would eat raw meat immediately after a successful hunt but once brought home the carcass is cooked). The Neanderthal girl and the tiger jointly knew that if it came down to it, one would kill the other even though they were friends. It is survival of the fittest with a certain kindness and respect. Another character that intrigued me is a boy child that the mother Neanderthal takes in when she finds him lost and orphaned. He became a much loved family member even though they see him as an odd looking child as well as rather strange. He had impressive qualities that they did not have. Something about his arms allowed him to throw and hit a target as only an adult could. Unlike the others, who rarely use their voice to communicate in words, he chattered all day long, driving the others crazy. And a difference that made this reader laugh out loud is that the family worried that when his time came he will never find a mate, because he is such an ugly looking male, no female would find him attractive enough to want him. (Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I guess Neanderthals were not physically attracted to humans' facial features).

I will not share what happens to each of the female heroines or their babies. It would be a spoiler. I will share that one of my favorite parts in the Archaeologist’s story is when she is in labor and couldn’t talk with the doctor so they locked eyes and somehow managed to communicate without out words, just as the Neanderthals did. This book makes me want to pay attention to my own forgotten senses lost from lack of use. I often joke that my sinus and spine pains can tell me when the weather is about to change. Could this be how modern Homo sapiens modified our alertness to nature? And can we once again regain instincts that we have lost? The author made me truly feel for our ancient ancestors as if they were my relatives and not just extinct creatures that I once read about in a history book. This is a powerful novel that made me often tear and sometimes laugh, all while exploring the concept of what makes us human?

I received this book from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Find all my reviews at https://books6259.wordpress.com/
Profile Image for Susan.
1,490 reviews35 followers
March 29, 2017
Full disclosure: I am a female and an archaeologist, although prehistory is not my area of expertise. I found this look into the psyche of a young Neanderthal woman fascinating and touching. I am aware of recent research into the possibility that Neanderthals had a much more complex culture than they have historically been given credit for. If the recent popularity of home DNA/ancestry tests has given us anything really interesting it is the fact that many people have some Neanderthal ancestors which is proof that modern man and Neanderthals bred together. This throws the traditional picture of the knuckle dragging cave man for a loop! Claire Cameron provides a much more likely picture of Neanderthals and their interaction with homo sapiens. I wonder what it is like to be part of a species on the edge of extinction and to literally have no one left to befriend or to mate with. It's a rather chilling prospect and one I hope our species never has to face.

Rose's story was immediately relatable for me. I've never had to deal with a pregnancy while working at a site but archaeology is a very male dominated field and it doesn't usually treat women's perceived weaknesses very kindly, and yes pregnancy would be considered a weakness in the field. I loved how tenaciously she clung to keep control of the narrative of her site! Obviously Rose's story would provoke strong reactions in me but I I have to admit that there were tears shed during Girl's story at the sacrifices she had to make to survive a winter on her own. While I assumed that things would work out for Rose in the end, it was Girl's story that tore at my heart.

I received this book for free through a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway but this has not influenced my review in any way.
Profile Image for Sarah.
564 reviews142 followers
April 29, 2018
Someone told me when I picked this book I should read Clan of the Cave Bear instead. I’m reasonably sure I should have listened.

As it turns out, following a Neanderthal around in their daily life is just not that interesting. I enjoyed Rose's parts, but that made up about 5 or 6 chapters. Not enough to sustain a whole novel.

On the surface, this is a novel about how Neanderthals lived and how they might have presumably become extinct. At the core, this is a novel about the shared experiences of mothers. There isn’t anything wrong with that, and I related to much of what was said, but it just wasn’t what I wanted I guess.

The writing was okay. There is no dialogue (I guess Neanderthals communicated but not much with words?). It drove me crazy that the MC was called Girl. Girl, Big Girl, Big Mother, Him... I don’t know why but this bored me to no end and seemed to call to attention it’s boringness.

There isn’t much of a plot. There’s very little action but a few suspenseful moments. The conclusion isn’t much of a conclusion at all. I wasn’t expecting the book to end when it did. It’s incredibly vague and ambiguous. Some authors can get away with it, unfortunately Cameron doesn’t. Because if a book isn’t about anything in particular it should at least have a conclusion.

CONTENT WARNINGS:

I wouldn’t recommend this book as science fiction or historical fiction. I might try Clan if the Cave Bear in the future but not anytime soon.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,331 reviews492 followers
May 14, 2017
The two skeletons looking into each other's eyes will stop people dead in their tracks. All we need to say is that one is a modern human and the other is Neanderthal...the two skeletons suggested a deeper relationship that could live in the realm of everyone's imagination.

description

Imagine this picture of the “Valdaro Lovers” – included at the end of The Last Neanderthal and cited as inspiration for author Claire Cameron – but instead of it being two human skeletons, what if it was that of a Homo Sapien male and a Neanderthal female? As the modern Eurasian genome tends to have some admixed Neanderthal ancestry, we know that the two groups could (and did) interbreed, so it is interesting to imagine under what circumstances that might have occurred. This book is Cameron's take on contact between the two groups, and while the concept is intriguing, it unfortunately falls short for me in execution.

The book is told in two parts: In the sections from forty thousand years ago, we view the world through the eyes of Girl; an adolescent female Neanderthal who is just reaching maturity, and as a clever and emotional being, her observations and actions are definitely more human than animal. In the sections from today, we follow Rose Gale; an archaeologist who has discovered a human/Neanderthal burial site, and as she must both negotiate the bureaucracy of securing funding for her dig and manage the power dynamics at the site (all while dealing with the unique challenges of being a woman in charge), Rose's storyline deliberately mirrors that of Girl – as though a Skyped conference call with a museum director has as much at stake as trying to find shelter in a winter storm. And while I really did like the parts in prehistory, the deliberate parallels and Rose's bullheadedness (which seems to cause all of her problems) just felt forced.

I recognise that Cameron's goal was to correct any lingering misconceptions that Neanderthals were knuckle-dragging beasts, or some missing link between the apes and us, so it was a useful conceit to have Rose in the present explaining to other characters what the latest research has revealed about our Neanderthal cousins. But the science is undermined by Cameron's imaginative flights: I appreciate learning that Neanderthals had a sensitive spot on their top gums that could “read” the air, but I can't believe that Girl could climb a tree, retract her top lip, and discover every warm-blooded being that passed for miles around for the past days and weeks. I really enjoyed reading about how Girl interacted with her family group, but rolled my eyes at the idea that, tangled up in sleep at night, they could share dreams and thereby discover what each other has seen and learned that day. But here's my biggest complaint:

Again, I did truly enjoy the parts from the past – Cameron weaves an interesting and exciting story of survival and humanity under harsh conditions – but the modern storyline didn't really work for me. It all evens out to a low three stars.
Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,063 reviews7 followers
May 14, 2017
About 20km from my house is the Cradle of Humankind, the place where some of the oldest human remains reside. With a recent new discovery of a well-preserved skull of the Homo Naledi species the interest in this subject matter was all over the media.

So when I saw this book it seemed like the perfect time to delve into pre-historic fiction. The story of Girl and her family trying to survive 40,000 years ago was an interesting one. The author clearly tried her best to make the imagined life of the Neanderthals as realistic as she could.

Parallel to Neanderthal storyline is that of Dr Rosamund Gale who in modern times discovers new bones in France, bones that may prove her controversial theory that humans and Neanderthals coexisted. But as Rosamund is pregnant this discovery is a race against time as to excavate the artefacts before her baby comes.

The author draws clear parallels between Rosamund and Girl showing how both women need to deal with similar life events but with vastly different resources. Showing the contrast between Girl’s instinctive connection to her own body and environment and Rosamund’s discord with her own. Unfortunately, I found Rose’s character so unlikable that she spoiled the story for me.

I would rather recommend The Clan of the Cave Bear for anyone interested in exploring pre-historic fiction.
Profile Image for Sandra Uv.
1,002 reviews229 followers
May 17, 2019
4/5

“Nos comparamos con ellos partiendo de una cruel realidad: nosotros sobrevivimos y ellos, no. En el espacio entre esas dos cosas, la vida y la muerte, es dónde comienza nuestra tribulación.”

La última Neardental es una novela conmovedora sobre dos mujeres separadas en el tiempo, pero a la vez muy parecidas. Una auténtica oda a la vida, bella y desgarradora. La historia se quedará conmigo mucho tiempo.

-Blogger: http://addicionaloslibros.blogspot.co...
Profile Image for Sumaiyya.
127 reviews814 followers
July 18, 2017
Full review is on my blog Sumaiyya Reads: https://sumaiyyareads.wordpress.com/2...

This book follows two characters separated by 40,000 years. One is a prehistoric Neanderthal Girl, the daughter of one of the last families of Neanderthals. The other is Rose, an archaeologist who discovers Neanderthal remains that she's excavating. Both are connected with their shared experience of pregnancy. I really enjoyed reading this unique concept and I think this novel has two really strong threads; the first being the comparison of how pregnancy is dealt with in prehistoric and modern times, and the second is a fresh and intriguing representation of how Neanderthals lived, communicated and traversed their world. Overall I loved the book but was disappointed to see a major question we'd been pursuing through the novel remain unanswered.
Profile Image for JenniferD.
1,006 reviews361 followers
September 10, 2017
really enjoyed this book. currently discussing in an online book club throughout september, so won't say much now. curious how/if my feelings with change through talking about the book this month?
Profile Image for Die.
109 reviews6 followers
October 7, 2022
Überraschend gut. Hat mich sehr begeistert
Profile Image for Kelsi H.
352 reviews11 followers
February 13, 2017
Please read all of my reviews at http://ultraviolentlit.blogspot.ca!

The Last Neanderthal is an innovative new novel from the author of The Bear. Once again, Cameron uses a haunting, unexpected voice to tell a story that explores what it means to be human, particularly as a woman. This novel connects two women who are separated by 40,000 years – and yet they both face the same struggles and taboos as they attempt to reconcile motherhood with their own desires.

Thousands of years ago, in what is now France, Girl is the oldest daughter in a close-knit Neanderthal family. They are hunters and gatherers, with minimal language, and yet they find ways to express themselves and their feelings for each other. Big Mother is the respected matriarch, doing her best to raise her children to be strong and healthy. However, she cannot prevent Girl from growing up and exploring her newfound sexuality in dangerous ways. As the family travels to their annual meeting place to find Girl a mate, they face many problems along the way – including their own complex relationships.

In present day France, archaeologist Rosamunde Gale makes an incredible discovery – a Neanderthal female buried in an intimate embrace with a Homo Sapiens male. As Rose and her assistant slowly reveal the burial site, they realize that it could lead to a reevaluation of everything we know about our human roots. While scientists formerly scorned Neanderthals as an inferior species that was simply a step on the way to Homo Sapiens evolution, we now know that Neanderthal DNA can be found in up to four percent of the current European and Asian populations. The exposure of Rose’s cross-species couple could be the answer to how this happened - instead of a stepping stone in evolution, the Neanderthals were perhaps close cousins and even lovers to Homo Sapiens.

When she finds out that she’s pregnant, Rose races to finish her excavation before it is taken from her by the male financial backers who don’t believe that motherhood is compatible with the rigors of archaeology. Simply because of her gender, Rose is forced to defend her abilities to continue the job at which she excels – she struggles to succeed as a working woman, providing for her family both financially and emotionally. As we jump to the past, Girl’s journey is also fraught with disaster – small issues soon become life-threatening, and the family diminishes quickly. Girl is left alone to care for Runt, a child who was adopted into the family, and she realizes how much more difficult it is to survive the winter with the responsibilities of a child.

There is a clear link between the two women across time, as they struggle to reconcile their work and desires with the obligations of family and the strict bonds of being female. From Girl to Rose, 40,000 years have passed and yet it is still taboo for a woman to put herself before her family. While science and archaeology continue to show us that our past is much more complex than we realize, it is also true that the Neanderthal girl and the Homo Sapiens woman share more than just DNA.

This novel is an exploration of what it means to be human, specifically as a woman today, and how it is reflected on our past. It shows that survival always comes with compromise, and ultimately sacrifice. Both Girl and Rose follow their biological imperative to preserve their people, and yet they show us that there is room for individual desires and successes within their female roles. It is fascinating to see that an examination of a girl who lived thousands of years ago, can teach us about being human in the world today.

I received this book from Little, Brown & Company and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Greg at 2 Book Lovers Reviews.
487 reviews49 followers
April 25, 2017
I’ve always enjoyed a good historical book, usually the older the better. Well, with The Last Neanderthal, I’ve gone pre-historic. Claire Cameron’s story bounces back and forth between Girl, our Neanderthal protagonist, and Rosamund Gale, and archaeologist excavating a groundbreaking site.

Whenever I immerse myself in a book like this, one that starts quoting numbers and percentages, I ask myself, does the author have the science right? In the end, it’s a work of fiction, make it convincing and reasonable and I’ll run with it. Cameron did exactly that, she gave me a greater appreciation for my Neanderthal ancestors. I felt like I was given an insight into actual events from 40,000 years ago. Cameron made it feel real.

I enjoyed the back and forth presentation of the story. The parallels between Girl and Rose helped to bring the story home; through Rose, Girl became real. Despite the fact that Girl and Rose were separated by thousands of years and some important DNA strands, there was a kinship between the two. This connection wiped away all the differences between us and them.

It’s hard to imagine what life was like before we had all of our gizmos and gadgets; even harder before hot and cold running water and trips to the emergency room when we have a mishap. Cameron took me back to a time when we had fire, and the wheel was right around the corner. The basic conveniences that I take for granted were nowhere in sight; she made this time real, tangible and not that far removed from where we are today.

The Last Neanderthal was a captivating story that I couldn’t wait to get back into. Cameron introduced me to a whole new world that I would love to visit again. I kept thinking over and over again, “How does a species go extinct? In a blaze of glory or with a quiet poof?”

*I received a copy of the book from the publisher (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Olga.
951 reviews136 followers
April 25, 2019
Sentimientos encontrados con este libro .... la trama me ha gustado , sobre todo la parte de Chica... la parte actual ,para mi gusto sobra y no aporta nada a la historia .

He disfrutado leyendo sobre una parte de la historia que no es muy conocida y que habla de una vida muy dura de supervivencia , donde un movimiento era un gasto de energía y determinaba la vida o la muerte...

Hay escenas muy muy duras ( como debió ser Esa época de la historia ) pero que no deja de sorprender ( e incluso horrorizar para mi gusto )!...

Me ha gustado como se describen como cazaban , guardaban comida y como sobrevivían en ese mundo tan hostil, como eran las relaciones sociales y familiares entre ellos ... sinceramente no sé si el libro tendrá rigor científico pero me ha hecho entender un poco mejor a los neandertales y ponerme un poco en su piel ( más cuando dicen que compartimos mucho rasgos de ellos)!.

Lo único que no me ha gustado es el final ( salvo que haya una segunda parte) ya que no descubre quien en la otra persona que está enterada con Chica....
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse).
440 reviews887 followers
September 2, 2017
Excellent. Beautifully imagined and paced. Entirely immersive. Gripping ending. Primal and elemental and female. Loved it.
______________________

ETA: After the first flush of finishing this novel, having read it inside of eight hours, I still think it is very strong but maybe wouldn't be as breathlessly prolific in my superlatives as I was above.

Its strength is in the story-telling - really, two stories - which come together at the end in a dramatic and, I found, really compelling way. There is not a lot of lyricism in the writing, and I'm sure those with a greater understanding of paleoarchaeology will find much to quibble with in terms of the scientific underpinnings. But neither of these details bothered me in the least.

I have been "reading" novels almost exclusively by audio, and as much as I enjoy that form, there is nothing as satisfying as speeding through a really competently-told and transporting tale.

This is still, for me, a solid 4 stars.
Profile Image for Ines.
316 reviews185 followers
July 29, 2017
Una storia veramente appassionante di una ragazza Neanderthal affiancata alla storia della donna ricercatrice che la trova durante. uno scavo. Solo 3 stelle perché tanto quanto era interessante la vita di Girl e del suo mondo.....una palla cosmica invece la vita e i problemi di Rose...affiancare. il suo pseudo dramma mi ha solo irritato, sarebbe stato bello invece qualche parola di più nel finale, capire meglio cosa realmente sia accaduto e come ha poi vissuto Girl......
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,669 followers
December 12, 2021
It was the best of books it was the most mediocre of books. That is The Last Neanderthal in a nutshell.

When Claire Cameron's writing was back in time, imagining Girl and Runt and the rest of the Family, The Last Neanderthal soared. Cameron's commitment to her vision of Girl as the last of her kind, to Girl's survival, and her meeting with the new people who were different from her -- but only ever so slightly different -- and were now slowly replacing her kind, her novel was compelling, heartbreaking and brave, as brave as Girl herself.

But then Cameron took us forward to the paleontologist (archaeologist?) Rosamund Gale, who has been digging up the bones of Girl (that's clear from the start so it's not a spoiler, but I won't tell you whose bones she shares her grave with) as she navigates the machinations of fellow scientists and funders and museums, all while getting deeper and deeper into her inconvenient (though wanted) pregnancy. My most fervent wish throughout The Last Neanderthal was that all of the modern parts would have been replaced by more time with Girl, but I failed to blow that eyelash off my daughter's finger, and my wish wasn't fulfilled.

Still, Cameron has a reason for her parallel tales, and despite my dislike of Dr. Gale, I could appreciate what Cameron was saying about Dr. Gale's eventual depression, but I couldn't help feeling cheated out of a more complete tale about Girl, a longer, more epic tale that was replaced by career paranoia, privileged whining and a ham-fisted "hunting trip" to IKEA.

I don't want to sound too hard on The Last Neanderthal because, in the end, I liked it well enough; it's just that my love for one half of the book was diminished by my dislike of the other, and that always bums me out. Even so, I have bought another book of Claire Cameron's because she is a strong, imaginative writer, and if she can write an entire novel with the vigour of Girl's tale, that is a novel I must read.
Profile Image for Dayla.
2,025 reviews202 followers
February 11, 2019
Review first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7

This is a review of an ARC copy.

The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron is an extremely promising book. From the beautiful cover, to the seemingly enticing story, Cameron’s novel sold itself pretty well. However, I was frustrated by various aspects of this novel because I felt like it could have dealt with various issues in a better way, and the jarring use of dual perspectives really took me out of the story more often than not.

The Last Neanderthal follows two women during major events of their lives in two very different times in history. One perspective is a modern day woman who has finally discovered the remains of a neanderthal woman in surprisingly close proximity to a modern day human. The other follows a living neanderthal, Girl, who lives in a time where her family is beginning to change in a way that is increasingly making Girl the last neanderthal. Between the two characters, we get a dual story of change and acceptance.

I admit that I was very intrigued when I first picked up The Last Neanderthal. It looked like a short read (not even three hundred pages), and the prologue held a sort of magic in itself that immediately made me curious. Was this going to have some fantastical elements? Was this going to be an adventure of a read? In hindsight, not reading the synopsis and basing all of my hopes and dreams on a prologue was probably not a good idea.

Instead of addicting, Cameron’s novel began to feel like a heavy, heavy read. A reading slump threatened on the horizon, and I was seriously contemplating DNFing it because I didn’t want to waste my time. For some reason, however, I really wanted to see how it ended. Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t worth it.



My biggest dislike about this book isn’t a theme, or a particular writing cliche, but a character. Rosamund, the present day narrator, was incredibly dull, selfish, naive, and just completely unlikable. Most of her storyline is fraught with her worry that being pregnant will impede on her find. She complains and worries and doesn’t appear to give a damn about those she is affecting, including her partner–the father of her unborn child. There is a particular scene where she is rude (for no reason other than the allusion to her pregnancy hormones being the cause) to him and he literally throws a fit while she sits back and just waits for him to get back in the car. Imagine someone being mean to someone else for no reason, then ignoring how upset they’ve made the other person. This isn’t the worst instance of her being a horrible person, but it stands out clearly in my mind.

Also, Rosamund is constantly certain that she’s being ousted from her find. Despite people assuring her and basically kissing her ass, she is determined that she is being played. Paranoia seems to be a friend of hers as she constantly puts the health and safety of her child at risk because of her obsession about being part of her find.

One of my main reasons for why I disliked Rosamund, other than the above-mentioned reasons, is that her boring storyline kept interfering with the flow of the novel. I don’t know why the idea of having someone like Rosamund have a voice in a story that could have been deeply compelling was introduced. Girl, the neanderthal, offered a fantastic story of her own. Whenever the risks and adventure rose in Girl’s story, Rosamund came along. I understand the need to build tension, but it was ridiculous. Rather than make me yearn for more of Girl’s story, the interruptions frustrated me. The jarring transitions made me groan aloud and almost throw the book against the wall.

Perhaps of all of my complaints regarding this book, the poor judgment of braiding these stories together is probably my biggest dislike. Two narratives should work off each other in a book. This time, one narrative would have been sufficient, or even one narrative and one omniscient narrative would have worked better.

Girl was admittedly much more interesting to me. Her way of life and the creative way that Cameron tells her story was enough to not give this book a solid one star. The emotional aspects of it, the constant allusions to the coming end, and the continuous discoveries while trying to survive had me wanting more. But as Rosamund was an unlikable character for the entirety of the book, Girl became someone that I disliked by the end of the book.

I understand that certain things need to be done in order to survive. But there were some moments of brutality that didn’t need to happen at the end. It almost felt like gratuitous violence. Girl’s behaviour and actions near the end of the book contradict the character she was earlier on. I know that characters grow and adjust as life changes around them, but it all just felt so sickening. It also felt cheap, like an easy and disturbing way of solving her problems.

The ending of the book was deeply unsatisfying. All we are left with are assumptions. I’m not saying I wanted a happy ending, but I wanted answers. I wanted more than an open ending that didn’t really explore the major topics brought forward at the end of the book. Again, like the deeply troubling actions of Girl near the end of her story, the ending of The Last Neanderthal feels like a copout.

I really wanted to like this book. I almost unhauled it, but kept it because it was short and again, that prologue hooked me. This experience has taught me that I shouldn’t judge a book by its size and that the prologue isn’t always a sign of how the rest of the story is written.

Happy reading!
Profile Image for Luanne Ollivier.
1,623 reviews84 followers
May 9, 2017
The Last Neanderthal is the newly released third book from Claire Cameron. Each book from Cameron has been completely different from the last. This latest springs from Cameron's fascination with Neanderthals.

Research has shown that some modern humans have inherited 1- 4% of their DNA from Neanderthals, indicating that 'rather than a more evolved version of Neanderthals, we are close cousins."

The Last Neanderthal is Cameron's imagining of that time - the end of the Neanderthals and the beginning of humans.

Cameron's story is told through the eyes of Girl and her family far in the past. In the present it is Rose's voice. She is the archaeologist who has just uncovered the skeletons of a human and a Neanderthal buried together - facing each other.

Girl's voice was first and I was so drawn to her. Cameron imbues Girl and her family with, well - humanity. They care and respect each other. But the drive is to survive - to find enough to eat, to procreate and to see another season. I became so invested in this family, notably Girl, Runt and Big Mother. The reader knows what happens to the Neanderthals, but it is Cameron's imagining of Girl's thoughts, feeling and actions that brings the book to life. I enjoyed the description of their language, customs and culture. (And found myself reading more about Neanderthals on the web)

In present day, Rose's discovery of the skeletons is the pinnacle of her career and her research. But it coincides with major changes in her personal life and creates upheaval at home and at work. As Rose's life moves forward the similarities with the past become evident. Girl and Rose are not that different, despite the time separating them. "I know that if I had ever been fortunate enough to meet her, I would look into her eyes and know her. And maybe she could know me. We were so much the same."

The book ends on a great note, but I didn't want it to - I wanted more of Girl's story. The Last Neanderthal is another great read from Cameron - one that will make you feel, make you think and make you wonder.......
Profile Image for Lindy.
237 reviews44 followers
July 11, 2017
The narratives we choose to construct around Neanderthals and how those narratives have changed over time fascinate me because they're usually semi-veiled ways of talking about race and racism, so that's why I read this book. And on that level The Last Neanderthal certainly provides plenty of material worth discussing. I wouldn't describe my reading experience as fun though.

Perhaps because I was already reading this allegorically and because most things we think we know about Neanderthals have been disputed at one time or another, I didn't mind that Cameron took significant creative license with the parts of the book set in the Paleolithic. However, I found the parts set in the modern day to be unbearable. Rosamund Gale is about as believable as a paleoarchaeologist as Indiana Jones, and doesn't come across as very bright. So that's where my suspension of disbelief stops, I guess.

I thought Cameron's prose seemed stilted and choppy, but that's probably a taste thing.

If you don't know as much about paleoarchaeology and human evolution as I do, you might be able to enjoyThe Last Neanderthal, but I couldn't.
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