Jane Goodall: IN THE SHADOW OF MAN
We’ve all heard of Jane Goodall and her work with chimpanzees in Africa. At least, I hope we all have. I follow her page on Facebook, and I find it to be inspiring. Not only is Dr. Goodall a brilliant scientist, but as a woman in the field in the 1960s, she paved the way for many other female scientists. I’ve always admired her work, but I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I’d never read one of her books until now.
In the Shadow of Man is a memoir of Dr. Goodall’s first years in Africa, observing the chimpanzees of Gombe. Anyone with any interest set could read this book as such and find it to be an adventure as well as an emotional roller coaster. Dr. Goodall knows all of her chimpanzee subjects as well as we might know friends. You can tell she holds so much respect for them, and while they are, in the end, the subjects of her research, her esteem for these creatures are what sets this book apart from other works. We experience her grief when things go wrong, her amusement at her subjects’ antics, and her admiration for their accomplishments. This alone makes this a book worth reading. There is also the adventure of discovery, and Dr. Goodall’s experiences as a young Englishwoman in Africa, a place that is torn by conflict, are fascinating.
The book, however, is classified as an animal science book, and indeed, it is also that. I have never read such an engaging account of animal behavior that is as thorough as this. Dr. Goodall’s voice is sincere, she isn’t trying to be entertaining, exactly, but her enthusiasm for her subject, the love and respect she has for the chimpanzees, really carries through and brings the reader in, even if they were reading it for clinical reasons. I learned a LOT of new things while reading this book, yet at the same time, I found myself emotionally invested in the lives of the creatures she describes. The chimpanzees’ behaviors can be sweet, shocking, devastating, and Dr. Goodall captures it all.
I absolutely recommend In the Shadow of Man to any and every one. It is a master work of animal science, behavior, and conservation. It’s also a beautiful and inspiring memoir. This is not a book I will forget soon.