Review of Through a Window by Jane Goodall


Published: October 1st, 1990 by Houghton Mifflin  | Series: N/A | Length: 278 pages | Genre: Nonfiction, Primatology, Conservation | Source: Bought a copy

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Summary from Goodreads:

Through a Window is the dramatic saga of thirty years in the life of an intimately intertwined community—one that reads like a novel, but is one of the most important scientific works ever published.The community is Gombe, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, where the principal residents are chimpanzees and one extraordinary woman who is their student, protector, and historian.
In her classic In the Shadow of Man, Jane Goodall wrote of her first ten years at Gombe. In Through a Window she brings the story up to the present, painting a more complete and vivid portrait of our closest relatives.We watch young Figan’s relentless rise to power and old Mike’s crushing defeat. We learn how one mother rears her children to succeed and another dooms hers to failure.We witness horrifying murders, touching moments of affection, joyous births, and wrenching deaths. In short, we see every emotion known to humans stripped to its essence. In the mirror of chimpanzee life, we see ourselves reflected.

This semester I’m taking a biological anthropology/primatology course and one of our assignments was to read a book written about studying apes. Because I’ve always kind of looked up to Jane Goodall, I decided to pick up one of her books and this ended up being the one I chose.

I’ll start off by saying that whether you know nothing or know a lot about chimps, this book will definitely have something for you to learn and/or enjoy. I’ve taken several biological anthropology and primatology courses and so I know quite a bit about chimpanzees, but this book was still very interesting to me. There were still things discussed in the book that I hadn’t really known much about and it was nice to get to learn about them.

Goodall has this great way of writing about the chimps she studied that really makes them so human. Of course, chimpanzees are very human-like in a lot of ways. But Goodall really brings them to life as she talks about them and the ups-and-downs of their lives. It makes the book a lot more interesting to read because it’s less a presentation of various facts and more of a narrative story of the lives of several chimpanzees.

Another thing that I really liked was that Goodall takes the last few chapters of the book to discuss what we can learn about humans by studying chimpanzees as well as many of the horrors chimpanzees face because of humans. She talks about the illegal pet trade, for example, and how cruel it is to the primates who are captured or killed because of it. She also discusses the cruelty of research labs and offers some suggestions on how to make those facilities better for the chimps living there. I know Jane Goodall now spends a lot of time doing conservation work, so it was nice to see that incorporated into the book, especially since I know a lot of people don’t think about how harmful things like the primate pet trade can be.

Through a Window was a really great book that made learning about chimpanzees really enjoyable. I think you’ll really enjoy reading this regardless of whether you know a lot about chimps already or are looking to be introduced to our closest living relatives. Goodall does a great job of presenting a lot of information but still making it entertaining and easily accessible for the reader.

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