4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating but flawed experiment,
This review is from: The Inheritors (Paperback)
'The Inheritors' is Golding's attempt to reconstruct the prehistoric world as experienced by a family group of Neanderthals, who come into contact with modern humans during the story. It's a readable, poignant story on an unusual topic.
In many ways, it is an incredibly impressive work due to the clear effort the author has gone to in order to put the reader in the mind of our closest, but very different relatives. You won't read much else like this. Mostly, it's convincing enough as an artistic representation to be fascinating and entertaining.
Where it fell a bit flat for me was that the depiction just isn't entirely convincing. Golding has to switch between the internal voices of the Neanderthals and an all-seeing, eloquent narrator to really make it readable. He switches without flagging that he is doing so, in order to maintain the flow of the story, and it works most of the time but there are many moments where it is awkward or leaves glaring anachronisms or holes in the reasoning. Most glaringly, his Neanderthals have trouble thinking abstractedly when it is convenient for the plot, but demonstrate great intuition at other times.
One also suspects, knowing a little bit about Neanderthals, that Golding's info might have been very different in the fifties to what it is now. His Neanderthals seem too primitive (there's lots of evidence for Neanderthal tool making and even building dwellings). Also, Golding depicts them as hunter-gatherers who only eat meat they find from animal kills, whereas in reality they were extremely able hunters.
Some of that might seem like quibbling, of course. This is a book worth reading for its uniqueness and its poignant vision of how modern humans might have appeared to our closest cousins, but the experiment doesn't quite come off as a great novel.