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The People in the Trees Paperback – 5 Feb 2015

3.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (5 Feb. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857898973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857898975
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 32,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


An absorbing, intelligent and uncompromising novel which beguiles and unnerves. The first memorable novel of 2014 is already here - Independent

Told in the form of a memoir in the voice of the extremely unlikeable Perina, it is impossible to resist being drawn into the mind of this brilliant but depraved man. And to feel a little disturbed at having enjoyed such a strange but brilliantly told story. The book is packed with a symphony of complex themes made accessible by the sheer poetry of the author's prose - Daily Mail

Power and its abuses are at the heart of this beautifully written debut... Striking and highly satisfying. Yanagihara's ambitious debut is one to be lauded.


Feels like a National Geographic story by way of Conrad's Heart of Darkness... the world Yanagihara conjures up, full of dark pockets of mystery, is magical. - The Times

Suspenseful... Thanks to Yanagihara's rich, masterly prose, it's hard to turn away... Yanagihara is a writer to marvel at - New York Times

A standout novel, a debut as thrilling as it is disturbing... So exciting... Haunting

--Wall Street Journal

Yanagihara's enthralling debut... is at once learned, morally serious and deeply entertaining... In Perina, Yanagihara has created a perverse and spellbinding narrator

--San Francisco Chronicle


“Haunting ... A standout novel ... thrilling.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“Exhaustingly inventive and almost defiant in its refusal to offer redemption or solace. ... As for Yanagihara, she is a writer to marvel at.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“Captivating―and thoroughly unsettling.” (Vogue) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I ordered The People in the Trees based on a positive review of it in The Express newspaper some time ago. When it arrived I popped it in my book pile and forgot all about it. I picked it up to read soon after Christmas with some apprehension based on other reviews I had read on the US Amazon site and the Goodreads website. However, the book turned out to be a surprisingly good, if somewhat troubling, read.

In the book we follow the life of acclaimed scientist Norton Perina from his humble beginnings living on a farm as a young boy, through to a stunning discovery he makes wholly by chance, to his ultimate downfall for sexually abusing one of the children he eventually adopts in droves. Some time in his mid-twenties, disillusioned and disliked by most of his laboratory colleagues, Perina is offered the chance to spend a number of months on the isolated islets of U'ivu and Ivu'ivu searching for a lost tribe of hunter gatherers. Soon he and his companions meet up with the intended lost peoples but their existence is soon eclipsed by their apparent longevity. Perina links the tribe's long-livedness to the consumption of a previously unknown turtle species, the opa'ivu'eke. He smuggles some of the turtle flesh back to the US and earns his fame (winning a Nobel prize) whilst at the same time dooming the island's unique culture. As time passes and the population of the prized turtle is eradicated by ravenous pharmaceutical companies and the island's existence is irrevocably altered for the worse, Norton resorts to adopting the native children as a way of penance for his actions. His treatment of the wards in his care is the eventual reason he finds himself in prison and writing the memoirs that make up the book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A Gripping read, beautifully written,.Perhaps too many issues raised.The ;'hero' is a most unpleasant man , a very male book wrillen by a woman.
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Format: Kindle Edition
The adjectives I have studded on the review title for this tome is to mirror the sometimes irreconciliable dualism central to our humanity and for me, the most explicit theme in the recently disgraced Doctor-explorer Norton Perina’s memoirs released by his champion, friend and peer to put the spotlight back to his achievements in science, namely the discovery of ingesting a rare turtle’s meat that makes one immortal (and on cue with the said duality: irredeemably demented).

I’d first like to applaud the book for its sophisticated construction and the elaborate framing that recasts the Unreliable Narrator into something more potent and concentrated: the Unreliable Narrator and his Editor friend. For the reader, the resultant memoir comes doubly parsed and needs an intellectual Enigma machine to read into the commissions, omissions (confessed and unconfessed), sequence of presentation of facts, footnotes to champion or contradict, tone of various justifications and the length of each of these elements. This is, at once exhausting but somewhat rewarding for the reader because it brings to fore the fallacy and tragedy that remains at the core of every autobiography (and biography), not least the ones written with intention to invoke empathy: they remain a mere shadow of the real person who lived, behaved, acted honourably and committed misdemeanours. While the outsiders might confer, hypothesise and conflate from observed external behaviour, the insider is equally handicapped with blind-spots in his/her insight that renders every recounting of life a mere penumbra (and this when we haven’t even begun to account for the mind’s propensity to biases, predilection to creating stories and narratives, linearity etc).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Looking back, I wonder why I pre-ordered (and paid full price for) this novel. I guess the marketing blurb must have worked. I like to think that I can be enthused about "challenging and visionary literary fiction", that an "astonishingly gripping and accomplished first novel" would excite me, that "an anthropological adventure story that combines the visceral allure of a thriller with a profound and tragic vision of what happens when cultures collide" would be the sort of book I could enjoy.


Part of the problem is the way all the major plot points are revealed in advance. If you read the blurb and the prologue / preface / start of the framing of the story, you will know every significant story development before the first bit of narrative starts. That is not the way of thrillers, and it is not the best way to tell of adventures. (Some adventure stories do give you a gist in advance - but they leave enough details for the main story to thrill you with. This book does not leave such room for excitement: it really does give you everything that's interesting in advance)

So, forget about narrative tension, forget about wanting to find out what happens next: you already know what happens next, pretty much all the way to the final page.

Fine. It must be the writing voice, then, which bewitches and seduces you, takes you away from your own life and into another. Right?

Well, our narrator is a scientist. He's a callous, hard-to-like, arrogant and judgemental man. But his tone of voice is matter-of-fact and the reading experience is roughly comparable to reading a very long Wikipedia article. (A summary at the start, and then fact upon fact upon fact).
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