A Forest in the Clouds
© 2018 John Fowler
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.