This intriguing novel is narrated by a chimpanzee but not just any chimpanzee. Bruno Littlemore, with a high-brow and hilariously pompous attitude, is the first chimpanzee to conquer human speech. He’s confined to an institution in Florida where he’s dictating his memoirs to a stenographer named Gwen. Born into captivity in a zoo, he’s later transferred to a research facility in Chicago when it’s learned through an experiment that he’s a bit different than other chimps. There he meets Lydia Littlemore, who decides to take him in as her own and let him live at her house. Eventually the two become involved romantically and then, sexually. Disturbing? Yes. But also strangely… sweet.
Robert Petkoff as Bruno adapts a scholarly tone with a melodic enunciation of each word. He’s so convincing, there is no doubt that if a chimpanzee could speak, he would sound exactly like Petkoff. His affectations when taking on the characters of Lydia and others throughout the novel are equally skillful. But what really sets him apart from other narrators may be the recitation of animal vocals his chimpanzee squawks and guttural grunts would easily persuade a chimpanzee that he was of like DNA. Bruno is, if nothing else, a detailed storyteller (he drones on for at least 10 minutes about the appearance of a janitor in the research facility). This has the potential to get tiresome, but Petkoff’s sense of timing and drama combined with the vocabulary talent of author Benjamin Hale manage to make the minutiae come alive, so that descriptions are craved and not dreaded.
The plotline of Bruno Littlemore is so creative and far-fetched, yet simultaneously so intensely real and believable the hallmark of genius story-telling. Colleen Oakley
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 painting. But for all of his gifts, the chimpanzee has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys -- and most affecting love stories -- in recent literature.
Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest, and amazingly accomplished. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human - to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is an amazing novel. It is often hilarious, occasionally revolting and never stops asking, "What exactly does it mean to be human?"
Bruno Littlemore experiences life on both sides of the glass wall that separates the chimpanzees from the visitors at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. That unique perspective is what makes this book so wonderful.
This is Benjamin Hale's first novel and he's created something very special. Robert Petkoff does a tremendous job reading the book.
This is the kind of book I will listen to again and again and every time find something new and amazing.
Do yourself a favor and get this book. And once you've read it, tell all your friends about it. I have.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Great idea with some terrific passages, but belabored and repetitive, and, because of that, it became boring and irritating.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
What a great book. This fantasy world of Bruno has to be enjoyed by anyone who wants to escape the normal. I laughed out-loud many times while listening to this book. The reader has an excellent voice and enhances the experience. Loved it.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Some of the topics of this book were a bit crude at first, but if you truly look at this story as a what if and let your logic go then it is truly enjoyable. I know we as humans don't know all there is to know, so maybe. I really recommend this book to all who truly love fiction.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful
Loved the book overall. It was a great ride but about a 1/3 rd of the way through it was a little tough to stay engaged. It was very much worth it as it had a great ending. Loved to hear the writers interview at the end.
This is a very fascinating book. It details the evolution of Bruno, a chimpanzee, from ape to a primate closer to its human form. I think this evolution was mainly possible due to knowledge; his craving for it and the availability and willingness of others to offer it to Bruno. There are elements to the book that are way too fantastic, as well as a bit difficult to swallow at face value. But overall, it is a story that exalts the best of the human condition, but using a primate as the main character.
The performance was great. Robert Petkoff is a very gifted narrator and performer; he could read the phone book and make it seem like he is reading early 19th century English literature. His voice changes very on the mark and slightly petulant voice he gave Bruno gave true life to this character.
The book was enjoyable up until Bruno ends up in New York. That whole section of the book was bizarrely disjointed from the rest of the narrative and really didn't fit in at all. On balance, it was enjoyable, but it ran a bit long given the long rambling in NY at the end.
What would have made The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore better?
I liked the concept, but hated the execution. I didn't LIKE Bruno -- according to the author, a chimp who learned language would become a pretentions prig! Maybe the character gained more depth as one got through the book -- but this is the second book in the last five years that I have chosen not to finish. I have such a large backlog of books to read (I listen to about 5-8 books a month), that I didn't see the point in sticking with a book I not only wasn't enjoying, but then took a turn that made me decide it wasn't worth slogging through.
What was most disappointing about Benjamin Hale’s story?
The sex between Bruno and his caretaker. I could understand one night of sex, but when Bruno asked the reader to picture him and his human lover spending naked weekends in bed enjoying each other sexually, it was a picture I didn't want in my mind. It was wrong on so many levels -- human female and chimp, mother figure/dependent being taken care of , teacher/student. Even if Bruno had been human, the relationship would have been wrong, and adding beastility onto it gave me the excuse I needed to stop and move to another
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
I wanted it to. Again, I really liked the concept and there were so many interesting things that could have been done with giving a chimp language. One thing that was interesting was the
If you like anthropomorphic animal stories for grown ups (I do), I recommend this one. The comments that there is too much description and repetition is very true; but as the book moves into the middle section you start to get that this is just part of Bruno's personality. It's not a very realistic book (if the premise were true), but fun nonetheless. It could be titled something like "Forrest Gump with Chimpanzees" in certain spots.
A stunning and deep story. I loved Bruno!! The voice used to perform Bruno was wonderful, I have told friends to listen it, don't read it because you would never use that wonderful accent. It was quite a journey, we took, Bruno and I. I have some new "life quotes" I have a new feeling about chimps. After listening to this and listening to the 20 minute interview with the author..please do not miss that...I watched some Jane Goodall documentaries and have some whole new thoughts about apes.
If I had one thing negative to say...it would only be this...how many times can the author use the term "my long purple fingers". Really...it almost got annoying, but if that's the worst..then please, please listen to this book!! Wonderful!!!