Tuesday, February 28, 2017
The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron
Being a Canadian, I always like to read and review Canadian authors. I read Cameron's The Bear for a book club selection, I didn't love it, but I was eager to give her another chance.
An interesting premise—Cameron juxtaposes the last Neanderthal family against a parallel modern-day storyline. Initially I was unsure, Neanderthals? After finishing The Last Neanderthal, I'm glad that I requested something that normally I wouldn't be attracted to.
40,000 years in the past, the last Neanderthals are fighting for survival after a hard-fought winter. Their numbers are low, but Girl is coming of age and her family are determined to make the trek to the annual meeting place in hopes of securing her a mate to carry on their species. The small family's existence is further threatened by the elements and nature and Girl is left to care for Runt, a small foundling of unknown descent. Once again, Girl and Runt must face the winter and risk their survival.
In modern-day France, we meet archaeologist Rosamund Gale who has just learned that she is pregnant and worried about the repercussions of having a baby. The site that Rose is working at contains the remains of a female Neanderthal that appears to be embracing a Homo Sapiens male—were they lovers? This startling discovery has scientists reevaluating what they believed were our origins. With a race against impending motherhood, Rose does not want to give up her work after making incredible strides in a male-dominated field of study. She often has to defend her position simply because she is a woman. Rose begins to feel an incredible amount of pressure as the project in jeopardy of losing funding, and she has just learned that she is the sole bread winner after her partner Simon loses his teaching position.
Rose and Girl are linked through time by their pregnancies and experiences of what it means to be a woman, a mother, and to survive.
Primal, raw, and unique, this was an interesting read.