Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Review: The City Of The Beast

 City Of The Beasts, by Isabel Allende

Synopsis: (From the book flap) Fifteen-year-old Alexander Cold has the chance to take the trip of a lifetime. Parting from his family and ill mother, Alexander joins his fearless grandmother, a magazine reporter for International Geographic, on an expedition to the dangerous, remote world of the Amazon. Their mission, along with others on their team—including a celebrated anthropologist, a local guide and his young daughter Nadia, and a doctor—is to document the legendary Yeti of the Amazon known as the Beast.
Under the dense canopy of the jungle, Alexander is amazed to discover much more than he could have imagined about the hidden worlds of the rain forest. Drawing on the strength of the jaguar, the totemic animal Alexander finds within himself, and the eagle, Nadia’s spirit guide, both young people are led by the invisible People of the Mist on a thrilling and unforgettable journey to the ultimate discovery….
In a stunning novel of high adventure, internationally celebrated novelist Isabel Allende leads readers through the intricacies of two personal quests, and on an epic voyage—teeming with magical realism—into the wonder-filled heart of the Amazon
In A Sentence: A very entertaining, thought-provoking children’s novel that you should absolutely read with your kids.
My Thoughts: This one took me about 5 hours collectively to finish. I say collectively because I kept dozing off while reading. I’m not sure if it was because of the writing, or if it was because of the sleep deprivation I’ve been experiencing, but I do confess to falling asleep while reading this book.
That being said, it was still a great book. The premise is an excellent, epic adventure, with a bit of magical realism added in to make it more exciting for the target audience. The characters were fun too. I loved Professor LeBlanc. He was the ultimate joke of an anthropologist, the perfect example of what you shouldn’t do when you’re studying new peoples.
Allende must have done some type of college-level anthropology research before writing this book, because a lot of the things she says, about encountering isolated tribes and how different people perceive each other, strongly remind me of what my professors kept telling me during my cultural anthropology classes: people with a different way of life perceive us the same way we perceive them. Our habits are frequently considered as bizarre, and sometimes as unnatural and dangerous, which is what we also think of their habits. The point is that we shouldn’t judge and condemn a culture because they are different from us; we should instead take the time to learn from them and try to understand them. Preserving an existing people takes a greater priority than trying to change/improve their way of life, because even the best intentions can ultimately destroy an entire culture. I was really impressed that Allende was able put that in a way that even children could understand, and it’s the main reason why I rated this book so highly.
I did have some minor problems with book, however. The writing style seemed a little flat and dry in its simplicity. It might be because of the translation, but nevertheless, it did detract from my full enjoyment of the story. The plot made up for it, however, so I can’t complain too much.
I would definitely recommend this book to kids ages 12-15, since this book has an excellent moral behind it, about being open-minded and feminist. I would also say that the parents should read it too, since they’ll probably enjoy just as much.

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