In this fictional memoir, Norton Perina – a medical doctor who began practicing in the 1950s – tells the story of his increasingly twisted life and career studying (and taking advantage of) the nearly immortal people of a remote Micronesian island. Perina is neither likable nor reliable, but his voice is uncomfortably captivating in Yanagihara’s lush, thought-provoking first novel.
I really disliked this book. Although the previous novel written by the author was beautifully done and heartbreakingly intense, this novel left much to be desired. Based on the book's description, I expected a fantastical tale of eternal beauty gone wrong. While I anticipated a dorian grey style novel what I got was a creepy, hard to stomach, uncomfortable tale of a sexual predator with no respect for others. The book opens on his trial for sexual assault... hard to even say anything more about that. I just couldn't get myself to finish the book after scenes that made me deeply uncomfortable.
Weary of performing dull experiments in a university research lab, Norton Perina leaps at the chance to join an anthropological expedition as the team's doctor because, frankly, it promises to prove more interesting than what he's doing currently. Their destination is a remote island in Melanesia, whose inhabitants are an only-recently-contacted tribe. As their small party begins studying and documenting this remote society, they make a number of strange and unsettling observations. First, there are no elderly residents in the small village; and second, the aged, ostracized population they do find wandering the surrounding wild landscape are not only suffering from various mental deterioration, but are also exceptionally, world-record-breakingly long-lived. Perina suspects that there may be some connection between the seeming immortality of the population and their consumption of a peculiar species of turtle living on the island.
Although I had heard good things about this book, the first few somewhat dry chapters had me feeling dubious. I'm glad I persevered -- it was worthwhile and thought-provoking, particularly from environmental, ecological and human rights perspectives. The "protagonist," however, is an exceedingly disagreeable and obnoxious human being throughout the book, and thus a difficult pill for the reader to swallow.
A strange and disturbing debut novel, this one has stayed with me for some time. Despite its flaws (perspective and structure), I enjoyed this one more than Yanagihara's more popular A Little Life.
This book is about conflict of science and conscience. It is a difficult read, true, but fascinating nevertheless.
Very hard to read in Overdrive - the footnotes were driving me bananas, as it's impossible to click on a number and go to a footnote and then go back. Instead, I just read all the footnotes AFTER finishing the chapter.
THIS IS A BOOK ABOUT PEDOPHILIA. It is a well written book which deals with pedophilia obliquely, but in the end that is what this book is about. In other words, pedophilia is, for most of the book, in the distant background, so much so that it possible to enjoy the rest of the story without thinking about it too much. The end, however, makes it clear that pedophilia was really the topic all along.
This book I does not present anything new about the world or the human condition so the only reason to read it is for entertainment. The writing was so well done that it is entertaining but personally I find non-pedophile based books more worthwhile to read.
I'm sorry to say I found nothing to like about this book. The main character was a simple, arrogant narrcissist with nothing of worth to share. The concept of the book is facile and done before in much better ways. The twist at the end is an obvious metaphor. If i wasn't reading this for a book club, would have put it down.
This book is a really excellent read, but a disturbing, perhaps shocking, plot element will offend some. I found it an interesting corollary to "The Island of the Colorblind," a nonfiction scientific examination of another South Pacific island written by Oliver Sachs.
This is not an enjoyable book, particularly in the Kindle format, where the footnotes are a particular irritation. The monologues by the chronic whiner Nobel laureate, Norton Perina, required a large amount of text skimming in order to get to relevant clumps of the story. The purpose for this book may be the portrayal of a supremely self-justified individual as a model for a celebrated scientist, but the portrayal is flawed in that Norton doesn't really have the chops (the ability) to be successful, due in part to excessive mental wanking without a moral or ethical framework. In my opinion, an interesting concept but mediocre execution.
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