- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (26 Jun. 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140253882
- ISBN-13: 978-0140253887
- Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,365,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Hanging Tree Paperback – 26 Jun 1997
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The main character, Kathryn, intensified this foreboding with her cautious, regretful, and grave telling of the events that befell her group during their paleontological quest in Africa. The story, despite its presentiment of doom, was beautiful in its descriptions of the African environment, and its insights into human thought and feelings. The author came up with some imagery created by unusual metaphores that delighted me. I was impressed by his knowledge of how a woman feels inside her body, and his many insights into the complex workings of the human mind as it tries to sort out its deeper questions.
As Kathryn dealt with the problems of relationships, and the difficulties of her expedition, her main quest was to discover the source of the murderous evil that exists in humans. Her discovery of ancient fossils provides her team with disheartening answers, yet through all this gloom, Kathryn demonstrates the human ability to resurface, blooming, through the ashes of disaster. The mesmerizing, insightful qualilty of this book is what led me to rate it 5 stars.
Its principal merit is that it touches on themes central to humanity on a grand scale, particularly in this day and age. It does so very ambitiously, attempting to weave together aspects of alchemy, hinduism, Jungian psychology, and the like through the extensive (and perhaps slightly superflous) use of quotes as the introduction to chapters containing gripping parallel tales from past and contemporary Africa. The main character and narrator (Kathryn) is somewhat masculine (purposely so?) and is developed in sudden revelational leaps, but stands out reasonably lucidly towards the end Her second lover Tregallion is excellently conceived with depth and insight, and is inspirational even if somewhat romantically idealized. There are a few characters, such as Sister Mary, the sinister fallen nun, that embody outstanding potential for exploration but fall a little by the wayside, and I regret that the author left her (and also Victor and Chinta) as a loose end. Finally, I regret that the the technical side of paleoanthropology was not pursued in more detail, since this science incarnates humanity's compulsion to search for the origins of its creation, and as such has mythological implications. This would lend itself well to the central themes and generally add literary weight.
My recommendation is: Buy it, and read it with your heart.