Chloe asked:

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

To answer questions about The People in the Trees, please sign up.
Kate Chloe, I had the same response (well not exactly as I don't know Gadjusek's work although Im aware of kuru), in that I found the novel egotistical. I don't enjoy books that set out to be 'transgressive', that is, writing really cruel, skin-crawling scenes in an effort to shock the reader. The 'allegory' about Western imperialism was so very heavy-handed...she could have given her protagonist even an iota of depth or a redeeming feature, instead he was cold, brutish, self-indulgent and cavalier about the people he studied. I kept waiting for the twist or the deeper character to emerge - no luck! I chose 'The People in the Trees' because a good friend had loved 'A little Life'. Very disappointed.
Caroline H In an interview with MIT, "Science in Fiction" she actually mentions that it is a direct novelization of Gadjusek's work (which I'm just as puzzled as you if she had mentioned she had just 'known of him,' and didn't base the book off of it in other interviews) She speaks of how since her father was a scientist, Gadjusek was a household name in their house and she actually had ties to him, and what was really cool is how she said when she was younger she wanted to write a novel about him. Then when he was arrested she decided to write about him, but just obviously only through heavy inspiration
Deripmaver yes! just in reading some of the following comments i noticed it looks like you think she was plagiarizing and basically pretending these ideas were her own, but it looks like she's been open about this being directly based on gujdusek's life pretty much since the book came out?
Ellen Sears I had no knowledge of Gajdusek before reading the novel and discussions surrounding it. Thanks for bringing this to attention.
Chloe Not a question but another curiosity about this book. I do not know Hanya Yanagihara. I have no personal relationship with her. But as I mentioned in my comments about People in the Trees (which I found to be fascinating and well written) she has a things she mentions or omits in her interviews that puzzle me in the extreme. Beside never acknowledging Carleton Gajdusek’s actual study of a fatal disease (she did I believe when nailed down on it said she had known of him. Recently in another interview (NYT, NYer, Atlantic...) she says this book is an allegory for “western hubris”. I am wondering why she said and why she thinks it. It might have made more sense to come really clean and simply say I thought of something worse that Carleton did and ran with . I enjoyed the book until I realized it was fictionalized of the Kuru books written some years back. This, however well she writes, brushed her with duplicity and ego that has left me very unwelcoming of her newest fiction. Sounds stupid, but she comes across as a very facile person - and a copycat. Leaves me cold.
Image for The People in the Trees
by Hanya Yanagihara (Goodreads Author)
Rate this book
Clear rating

About Goodreads Q&A

Ask and answer questions about books!

You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with Reader Q&A, or ask your favorite author a question with Ask the Author.

See Featured Authors Answering Questions

Learn more