It’s hard not to get sucked into the feel good factor that is animal stories though. No matter what creature, from wild, gregarious, promiscuous Bonobos to charismatic commuting kitties, they worm their way into your heart with their antics and uplift the spirit – something I desperately needed at times in the first month of the year when my Dad took ill suddenly.
So the highlights?
What. A. Star.
I started with her recently released Bonobo Handshake: a memoir of love and adventure in the Congo and was instantly hooked. Vanessa is warm, witty and totally smitten with the Bonobos of the Lola La Bonobo sanctuary in Congo where she works, and it’s nigh on impossible not to fall a little for these rare apes that share 98.7% of our DNA - making them human’s closest relatives. I mean what’s not to love: Bonobos are an extremely peaceful, female dominated species that the term promiscuous was made for – even the orphaned babies, who have been taken from their mothers at tragically young ages, have sex. Yikes!
After being mesmerised by the Bonobos, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her Vanessa’s first book “It’s Every Monkey For Themselves,” this time dealing with the Capuchin monkeys of South America. For 14 hours every day, Vanessa and a host of other researchers chased tribes of monkeys through thick, unforgiving jungle, charting their every squabble, squeak and spiteful backstabbing. Allegiances shift within the blink of eye…and that’s just the monkeys.
Yes, before long life amongst the researchers begins to bizarrely echo that of the Capuchins as they vie for favourite status and the rewards that come from being “alpha monkey”. For Vanessa it’s a journey of self discovery punctuated with friendships, enemies and an abscess the size of a melon on her face.
An honourable mention from January has to go to Tales of a Bondi Vet by Chris Brown, he of the telly show of the same name. Chris is ridiculously good looking; with luxurious, floppy blonde hair that would make any American soap opera star jealous, a rippling chest, toned arms and a Colgate perfect smile, he is the Adonis of the vet world. And of course, animals fall for his charms just as much as their human owners. Well, most animals.
His book is a quick easy read - snap shots of his practise in Sydney’s super hip, surfy Bondi suburb, some of which I remembered from his telly show.
Gripes? I really enjoyed parts of “Casper the Commuting Cat” by Susan Finden – he was clearly quite a character! And I would have loved it if this story had a happier ending, but life isn’t always like that huh? But that’s not what annoyed me about this; rather it was the inclusion of chapters supposedly written by Casper himself. They really didn’t add anything to the book – they merely recapped everything Susan had previously said in her own voice. It was all rather patronising, childish and a little bit silly, not befitting this clever, well travelled kitty.