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The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  2,547 ratings  ·  541 reviews
Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno's ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for ...more
Hardcover, 578 pages
Published February 2nd 2011 by Twelve (first published January 1st 2011)
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GERALDINE Are those words that are made up and not in the dictionary supposed to be words in Chimpanzee language?

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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  2,547 ratings  ·  541 reviews

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Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: u-s-lit, top-10-2011
Behold Genius.

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

Start with a great idea....

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

Now, restart with a great idea: a chimpanzee who learns to speak, who evolves in starts and fits into Man. I've r
The WTF factor is strong with this one.

The story of Bruno, a chimpanzee who learns how to speak and who slowly "evolves" into a man started out really strong. Bruno described the circumstances of his captivity and hints at the story that led up to his current condition. However, the story takes long, long, long time to tell, and Bruno is a somewhat less than reliable narrator. Well, either this, or Hale left out some relevant explanations of certain turns in the plot.

While there is something cle
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
A book like this should come with a warning on the cover: This book will interfere with your normal life. It’s almost 600 pages, and you won’t be able to put it down. This will be a serious problem unless you’re one of those prodigal fast readers. You’ve been forewarned. To hold a full-time job and finish this book in less than a week is an achievement in itself for a sluggish reader like me. This book provides a good excuse to stay at home on a Saturday night when it’s cold and windy and you re ...more
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing

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

In my opinion, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore should have exploded into people's consciousness. It should have been reviewed by peopl
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: original, fantasy
It has been such a long time since I read fiction this good. I almost didn't read it when I read the premise (a memoir of a chimpanzee.) It didn't seem possible that this could make a good book. I trusted the goodreads reviewers though and this time was so glad that I did. The author did an amazing job of bringing Bruno to life. I felt like I knew him and he became a part of my life for the 10 days I spent reading this book. I couldn't wait to pick up the book each day and I was sorry when it en ...more
Kelly Konrad
Um .... yeah. I desperately want a friend to read this book so I can debrief with them, but have a hard time telling anyone it's a must-read. It's not a bad book—one where you set it down and think to yourself, "Wow, that was a colossal waste of my time. How did they get that printed?" But it's not a "Crikeys, everyone MUST.READ.THIS." For a debut effort, I'm really impressed with Benjamin Hale, but I would suggest the book is beyond verbose. There are quite literally entire chapters you could b ...more
Karen Loveridge
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
I heard about this book and was very excited. It's a book about a chimp who learns how to talk! It's like Nim Chimpsky but fiction! I MUST LOVE. Eh, not so much. The tone of the narrator (Bruno, the chimp who learned to talk) is just not pleasant. Spread that over 580ish pages and you have a rather challenging book to get through. In all fairness, I get WHY Bruno has his tone and perspective as the whole impetus of his evolution is his rejection of animal nature. Of course he is then rejected by ...more
Well...I think Bruno summarized it thus: "I have never been a religious ape. I was and remain the chimp of the perverse."

The novel itself was a study in dualities: what it means to be animal and human, what it means to love your own kind vs. an outsider, what it means to cross that line from the inner being to the outer, and most of all, deciding to hold on to the innocence of youth (keeping with an animal nature) and accepting the incongruities of living as a man (becoming aware of what it mean
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Imagine a novel that includes Philosophy, Psychology,Biology, mystery, love, Theology, Anthropology, I dare say to read my fellow bookworm Tony's review:
"Behold Genius.

Benjamin Hale is scary smart and as good a writer as it is legal to be. What a debut! He knows his Shakespeare and has captured his rhythm. And Eliot. And the Bible. The Language that flows through us all. Hale, a literary Incubus, seduces with timelessly crafted sentences on every pag
Jun 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Review copy from publisher

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

One of the more talked about novels back in May 2010 during the BEA's, I managed to somehow walk right by this hefty novel without adding it to my many bags of books. Huge thanks go out to it's publisher, Twelve, for making a r
May 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
The title pretty much says it all. This is the story (the extremely well written story) of Bruno, a chimp living in a zoo in Chicago and how he 'evolved' from a normal every day chimp to a fluent, emotional, artistic, literate 'human'. The book begins with Bruno in jail, narrating his own biography to a journalist. He is a household name, but not in a good way. He tells of his travels through different paths,and how each helped him on his slow progression towards becoming a human. And that is th ...more
Finally. I know I've only been reading this book for 4.5 days, but it felt like eternity. I wanted to like this book, I really did. I think Hale makes some great commentaries on human life (see below on educating someone, religion, and the trouble of it/thou during sex). However, he was inaccurate at times, verbose and repetitive (always), and too serious (I think that he was trying to be mock-absurd in the way the Tom Robbins can be absurd, but instead he oftentimes fell flat and instead of mak ...more
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book was verbose and under normal circumstances might be intolerable for 580 pages of verbiage. Under the circumstances though, this being of a particular point of view and that, had a chimp really developed this level of language --- perhaps they would talk like a supercilious professor of English, it was tolerable. It honestly didn't bother me very much. I never felt the need to run for a dictionary, you acclimate quickly and the style of language was very consistent.

Plot wise, I'm hones
Jan 25, 2012 rated it liked it
I was excited to read this, since blogger Mimi Smartypants, who reads an inhuman number of books, gave it four stars (a VERY rare rating for her), and while it certainly was very sharp and funny, with lots of amusing references to culture of both the highbrow and lowbrow varieties, in the end I didn't find it all that amazing. It felt sort of like a fascinating writing experiment carried too far. Sort of like those movies that get made out of Saturday Night Live sketch characters, which work as ...more
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Some writers focus their craft with laser precision, building it piece by piece like a type of architecture. Some writers make me so sick with their talent. These writers parade their prose back and forth like it’s their groomed Bichon Frise at Westminster. Some writers often arrogant with their skill, filling pages with leaps of precise logic and seemingly effortlessly composed metaphor.

Benjamin Hale, makes me forgot about the actual craft of writing. This is not to say that Benjamin Hale isn’t
Sep 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Like my sister, who recommended this to me, I would normally not be turned on by a book about a monkey. But this was one of the departures from my reading comfort zone that actually paid off.

In this wonderfully written novel, Bruno Littlemore recounts his autobiography -- his birth at the zoo, his participation on scientific experiments leading to increasing consciousness on his part and ultimately to his gaining the ability to speak, his participation in a variety of human interactions and expe
Meg Elison
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is sometimes an excellent book, and other times it's an awful one. There are fantastic descriptive passages that are riveting, then there are pages spent on turn-by-turn directions or the exact layout of an apartment, neither of which ever become important. There are flashes of intelligence in Bruno when he denies trichotillomania or interprets Caliban with startling insight, but then he fails to recognize marijuana and calls it something childish. Lush moments abruptly run aground in minut ...more
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book was quite unique. I've never quite read anything like it, and it's mostly in a good way. A monkey essentially becomes a human and falls in love with a human girl, who falls love with him in return. The evolution, as the title states is very gradual, and takes place throughout the book. The one thing I could say about this book that was negative was that it was written in a very pretentious language, as "indicated" by the narrator. However, it was definitely readable, as well as enjoyab ...more
Jun 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
I'm reserving one-star reviews for books that I was unable to finish, and this was one of them. While Hale shows a great deal of potential as a writer, the tone and voice of this book were very uneven, fluctuating from pompous to crude to colloquial to intellectual—which would not necessarily be a negative thing if the transitions were handled smoothly, but, well, they're not. After 200 pages or so, the book starts to move along at a snail's pace—while I can appreciate the care that the author t ...more
Jan 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Whew. I finally finished this 576-page book! When I picked it up at the library, I was surprised to see how huge it was. Normally, I love thick books, but somehow I knew this wouldn't be a good thing here. Bruno Littlemore, a human trapped in an ape's body, is, to sum it up in one word: verbose. (See, I can do what he can't!)

The other problem is that Hale crams too much in one novel. In doing so, he riffs on different things about our society - all of which is amusing and often on target. He's
Brian Cowlishaw
Very few books have made me ponder as much as this one has. It is a vast-ranging tour-de-force by the author through every conceivable emotion. It causes me despair--raw, naked envy as a writer awed by his characterizations, Bruno's "voice," and the winding journey taken by the plot.
I'd love to teach a class at some point that includes this and other books on the subject of the nearness of apes to humans. I'd put in Kafka's story "A Report to an Academy" and Will Self's Great Apes, and find more
Ron Charles
Jan 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
These are hairy times for fans of simian fiction. The autobiography of Tarzan's sidekick, "Me Cheeta," was mildly amusing, but Sara Gruen's silly "Ape House" left me dragging my knuckles on the floor, and Laurence Gonzales's "Lucy" read like something thrown out between the bars. Now, though, we've finally got a book to screech and howl about. Benjamin Hale's audacious first novel, "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore," is a tragicomedy that makes you want to jump up on the furniture and beat your ...more
Amanda Peterson
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book a number of years ago when I checked it out from the library because Entertainment Weekly did a review on it that had me intrigued. I liked it then and now having read it in a post-Shape of Water world I can say the story’s quality still holds up. Here we have both a loss of innocence and evolution story wrapped up in a very interesting enigma named Bruno. A chimpanzee that I can definitely say is the most human of any character I have seen in fiction. I mentioned this book for ...more
Valerie Blanton
I don't know how to rate this. Did I like it? No. Was it good? Yes. My friend put it well: "I was fascinated and repelled in equal measure." This is disturbing and weird and occasionally funny and deep.
Margaret Mclaughlin
No idea how to rate this one...
Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
You know those moments when you pick up a book and it's love at first sight? Whatever it is that does it for you - language, premise, originality - grabs you from the beginning and never lets go, and you start to think that all the other books you've been reading were such a shameful waste of time because this - THIS - is the book.
What's even crazier is I don't even know how I got this book to begin with - it showed up on my reserve list one day at the library, but I'm pretty sure God Himself (t
Mar 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: twenty- somethings
I struggle with this review – on the one hand it IS amazing and on the other – disappointing. I think Hale bit off a little more (Hehheh) than he could chew. (Hahahhehah, I’m really funny.) I was really into this story until page 400 and then I almost quit reading. I just didn’t care anymore about Bruno, or what and was happening to him. I knew what happened, and had decided that Hale, the author, was coming across as a nerdy creep. I know that’s harsh. This story of Bruno the chimp who acquirer ...more
Gary Schroeder
Aug 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Interested in a story about a chimp that learns how to think, talk and act like a human? This is the book for you. However, if you're looking for a plausible explanation of how such a thing could happen, this is not the book for you. Likewise, if you're squeamish, you may wish to look elsewhere.

The conceit of a chimp that develops human-like thought is fraught with possibilities and author Benjamin Hale generally delivers. How does the member of another species view we crazy humans? How can our
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Osvaldo by: Matt Matros
Once again I am frustrated by my inability to grant ½ stars on Goodreads. I would give this 3½ stars if I could. I more than liked it. I less than really liked it. I am sure Ben Hale would know a good word for the liminality of my liking - or at least, he'd know how to look up good one in the kick-ass thesaurus he must have.

Despite being a long book I flew through it - though I must admit there were a few parts I kind of glossed over thinking Hale's editor could have done a better job of explain
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Benjamin Hale is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop. He is the recipient of an Iowa Provost’s Fellowship and a Michener-Copernicus Award. He grew up in Colorado and now lives in New York.

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Contemporary young adult literature has often led the way in depicting the real-life issues facing teens from all backgrounds. To delve into ho...
55 likes · 8 comments
“...we, and I mean humans, are meaning makers. We do not discover the meanings of mysterious things, we invent them. We make meanings because meaninglessness terrifies us above all things. More than snakes, even. More than falling, or the dark. We trick ourselves into seeing meanings in things, when in fact all we are doing is grafting our meanings onto the universe to comfort ourselves. We gild the chaos of the universe with our symbols. To admit that something is meaningless is just like falling backward into darkness." (p184)” 13 likes
“If you ever have children, tell them they must always be drunk. Drunk on love, drunk on poetry, drunk on wine, it doesn’t matter. This world is too goddamn painful to waste a second of your existence sober.” 9 likes
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