A Forest in the Clouds

A Forest in the Clouds
© 2018 John Fowler
336 pages

John Fowler’s A Forest in the Clouds is his account of studying gorillas alongside famous naturalist Dian Fossey.   Although I picked it up for the gorillas (as one would), the memoir is overwhelmed by Fossey, who by Fowler’s account was an astonishingly eccentric and belligerent woman who viewed the science lab as a necessary evil to allow her to live on the mountain near the wildlife she loved.  Fowler presents Fossey as a  mercurial  control freak who regarded any gathering of students as a potential mutiny and waged a private war against local poachers.  Fowler contends that Fossey had little use for most people, especially the locals who she constantly verbally abused (employing both sounds imitating the gorillas and a polyglot mishmash of profanities to do so), and the amount of time readers spend in this unpleasant company does not make for an enjoyable  book. The narrative is easy to read, but the poor gorillas are nearly relegated to the background;  Fowler writes about what they’re doing often enough, but there’s little to learn about them here, besides the fact that their noses can be used like fingerprints, and they have no qualms about peeing all over a human they’re affectionately holding on to.  I’ve never read anything else about Fossey, so I don’t know if Fowler’s memory is perfect or exaggerating Fosser any. I’ll say this, though: my attempt to find background info on the African setting let me to this stunning photo.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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6 Responses to A Forest in the Clouds

  1. mudpuddle says:

    what a photograph! one can see how mythology got started!

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    I never knew much about Fossey‘s personality. It is both interesting and troubling If is is accurate. I just finished Richard Wrangham‘s The Goodness Paradox. There is a lot in that book about primate behavior. It is a fascinating subject. Too bad that this book fell short in that area.

  3. Stephen says:

    I know the name Wrangham, but hadn't heard of that book before. Thanks for mentioning it! Seems like a must-read for me.

  4. Interesting perspective on Fossey. I know nothing of her except that she studied gorillas, was murdered, and buried in the graveyard with the gorillas she had loved so much. Interesting to read about that side of her, and makes her murder all the more curious.

  5. Stephen says:

    Fowler says he wasn't surprised that she was murdered, given her antagonistic relationship with the communities off the mountain, but I just don't know how much credence to give his account.

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