The Woman and the Ape tells the amazing story of a very unforgettable and special couple – Madelene and Erasmus. They are the main characters in Hoeg’s odd and somewhat warped universe in this brilliant novel. Madelene is the wife of Adam Burden, a distinguished behavioral scientist. Erasmus is strange and very intriguing main character – he is a 300 pound ape! He has escaped captivity by smugglers of endangered species, and is an extremely intelligent anthropoid ape, a type of ape that is very close to human beings. As he escapes, Hoeg immediately starts to weave a masterful tale that immediately spellbinds us.
Madelene Burden decides to save Erasmus, and between them blossoms a profound affection as deep as any human relationship. Madelene feels that Erasmus, ”in its stoic helplessness had reminded her of herself.” This is a great fable for our time, where mankind is evil and the ape noble, and The Woman and the Ape poses searching questions about the nature of love, freedom, and humanity.
Trying to save Erasmus, who turns out to be a very special ape indeed, Madelene escapes with him. The two of them flee through London, ending up in St. Francis Forest, a “pornographic Garden of Eden” within the city walls. But paradise does not last, of course. And as their strange love story progresses we learn much about the adaptability of the ape, and perhaps also about the innermost life of women. If Hoeg is right, we share perhaps more with the apes than we like to think, and therefore may be able to learn much about ourselves from them as well.
The writing in this book is beautiful and very evocative. It is every bit as masterful as that of Smilla’s Sense of Snow. In The Woman and the Ape, Peter Hoeg is humorous, ironic, satirical, lyrical and philosophical. He writes very beautifully, but at the same time raises a number of important and very thought-provoking questions about topics like evolution, civilization versus freedom, and the construction and reconstruction of social identity.
The book is very interesting, well told, has an intriguing and rich plot and an ending with several very surprising elements. I love this book; it is daring and full of unique images and twists. The Woman and the Ape really is a must-read, and a book one does not easily forget.