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Gorillas and Graves – Today…in Readers’ Advisory

Nonfiction: Woman in the Mists by Farley Mowat

In 1984, after finishing Gorillas in the Mist, her definitive book on the mountain gorillas of Africa, primatologist Dian Fossey returned to Rwanda to continue the research she had begun 17 years ago. One year later she was found slain in her mountain cabin. The book Woman in the Mists, written by environmentalist Farley Mowat, gives an in-depth glimpse into the lives of these great apes, and reveals the intimate and often troubling thoughts and actions of the woman who ultimately gave her life to study them.

Although Woman in the Mists is presented as a biography the abundant use of Fossey’s own journal entries makes it read as if it was written by Fossey herself. Where Gorillas had been criticized for its occasional dry and technical language, Woman uses candid language to put the reader in touch with the struggles and triumphs endured in Fossey’s professional and personal life. We learn of how her commitment to her gorillas, considered fanatical by many who worked closely with her, left her feeling alone and alienated many of her colleagues, how her reluctance to leave the misty mountains of Rwanda contributed to the severe deterioration of her health, and how the methods she employed to protect her beloved gorillas became increasingly strange and violent. Woman in the Mists is an intriguing read of a fascinating woman, and though author Mowat lauds Fossey as a brave scientist and innovator in her field, he leaves it up to the readers to decide if she is deserving of the title hero or anti-hero.

For more information on woman behind the gorillas check out Harold Hayes’ The Dark Romance of Dian Fossey. Multnomah County Library also carries the National Geographic cover story [library card log-in required] that introduced Fossey’s research to the public, as well as the Academy Award nominated film, Gorillas in the Mist, based on the book of the same name.

Fiction: Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indriðason

For many, the mention of Iceland conjures images of grand Viking ships and massive glaciers or perhaps reminds some of the ethereal and eclectic sounds of Sigur Ros or Bjork.  But with his series of Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson novels, Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason is determined to become one of Iceland’s most well-known exports in the genre of crime fiction.

Silence of the Grave begins innocently with a child’s birthday party but the party is cut short after one of the children discover something gruesome has been dug up in the backyard.  The first chapter paints a crime scene that seems so implausible it borders on the absurd, and readers may even wonder if the sort of dark comedy present in the book’s first few pages will remain throughout – however, it does not.  Silence of the Grave follows Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson and his investigative team as they try to solve the mystery of what has been buried in the backyard. Indriðason excels at intertwining Inspector Erlendur’s own troubled story, set in modern day Reykjavík, with the events that explain the crime, which we soon discover has taken place decades before in World War II-era Reykjavík. Silence deals with serious issues such as abandonment, domestic violence, and drug abuse but the tale Indriðason weaves, albeit dark and at times disturbing, is so intriguing the reader cannot help but read on.

Silence of the Grave is the fourth novel of the Inspector Erlendur series [and the second to be translated into English] and winner of the 2003 Nordic Glass Key Award and 2005 British Gold Dagger Award.  Multnomah County Library carries several titles in the Inspector Erlendur series, and if you are interested in other Icelandic-related reads be sure to check out The Icelandic Trilogy, the final installment of Brian Woods’ graphic novel series Northlanders, or the classic sagas of Iceland.

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