TITLE: The Last Neanderthal
AUTHOR: Claire Cameron
SUMMARY: Girl is a Neanderthal living one of her worst seasons yet, meanwhile in the present Rose is coping with her impending motherhood and stressful job as an paleo-archeologist
GENRE: Fiction | Historical Fiction
The minute I saw this book and read the synopsis, I knew I had to get it. I found the premise of the story so interesting because it is about a Neanderthal family, and I for one find this type of history fascinating. So I bought the book and started reading it when I got home later that night.
One of the most striking things about the book is the writing style. You can tell Cameron adapted her writing style to fit the story of the Neanderthals. The sentences are simple, the wording is different from ours, and the descriptions are mixture of these things. When I first saw the pages of the book, I was scared because there isn’t much dialogue when we’re reading Girl’s parts. It’s just blocks of paragraphs and barely any dialogue. For some reason, I thought that was genius on her part simply because you can’t expect a different species to talk or think the same way as ours.
Which brings me to how the author portrays the Neanderthals. Instead of the savage primitive beasts we’re used to seeing, Cameron writes a story about family and loss. If they are ever savage or beast like, it’s as a result of their harsh surroundings. Girl and her family are kind and nurturing and intelligent.
Yes I said intelligent, not dumb. We might have survived but they did live for over 70,000 years and we’ve only been around for 50,000; clearly they did well.
The story also brought you to this survival mindset the Neanderthals and early humans must have felt constantly. Through Girl’s mind you see the importance of surviving everything in their harsh environment. Everything was thought through, and everything done was meant for the family to survive from the way they hunted, their sleeping habits, their travels to the meeting ground, and even their interactions with other animals and themselves. Every little bit counted towards the protagonist’s survival, and I really enjoyed that.
It was nice (and rare) to read story about pre modern humans, where the troubles the characters encounter are completely different.
The book alternated between the ancient past with Girl (the Neanderthal) and modern day with Rose (an archeologist who finds Girl). By the time I got halfway through the book, I started losing interest in Rose’s storyline. It wasn’t boring but it wasn’t as interesting as Girl’s story. The author tries to make a connection between the two characters (and it’s there) but I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t care about Rose’s personal problems, all I wanted to know was about her “science” and conclusions about what she found, and I didn’t get that.
While I really did enjoy the story, I’m not sure I would read it again. It’s not a page turner the same way other stories have been for me, but the topic is interesting and different enough that I’d recommend it to those who find Neanderthals interesting.