I was first drawn to this book by its intriguing title and the glowing recommendation it had received from Philip Pullman (one of my literary heroes.) Upon commencing reading, it soon because clear that this was going to be a very special book indeed.
Narrated by the amazing ape (and first engineer), the sea-faring Sally Jones, this beautifully woven tale spans the continents and the years with ease.
When Sally Jones’s captain becomes embroiled in a murder investigation, she becomes a wanted ape. Exhausted, terrified and starving, Sally hides in a pigeon-filled loft until a beautiful voice lures her out of her hiding place and into the home of Ana. Keen to pay her way and to convince Ana to help her prove the Chief’s innocence, Sally sets about demonstrating that she is no ordinary ape.
Sally’s loyalty to the Chief sees her travel from Portugal to India and back again, meeting seamen, scientists and a powerful maharaja. On the way, she learns that not all humans can be trusted but that some will be her greatest allies and lifelong friends.
A complex and truly touching story with adventure, peril and intrigue mixed in for good measure. I was totally engrossed when reading it and could imagine myself alongside Sally on her travels. It was also interesting to have the story told from Sally’s perspective as a mute character herself and to see how many humans treated her as a dumb animal despite her obviously being quite exceptional.
‘The Murderer’s Ape’ was originally published in Swedish and was a bestseller both in Sweden and Germany, as well as winning numerous awards for its author and illustrator, Jakob Wegelius. I think this stunning novel certainly supports the case for translating more foreign books into English as there is clearly a rich seam of children’s literature waiting to be mined.
A definite must-read for confident readers who relish a challenge.
*Many thanks to Pushkin Press for sending me this excellent title to review*