September 2017 - The Last Neanderthal, by Claire Cameron

2017fiction
bookclub

(Penny / Literary Hoarders ) #101

Oh!! I never even considered that!! That has me thinking now! Very interesting @Kim!!!


(Penny / Literary Hoarders ) #102

So interesting!! Ahhhh - this is now becoming much more meaningful - at the end - huh… :thinking: (and how Runt came to be part of the family unit with Girl - he was “found” and Big Mother took him in…

Yes! See - another interesting book club read - great for book club breakdown…


(Jane D) #103

I finished the book and I have to dash off to work, so I will address the questions later.

But I just wanted to say that I say that I too think Runt is not a Neanderthal. He eats ‘green things’ that Girl finds strange. He is not as muscular and she notes his ‘knobby knees’ . In chapter 19 Girls observes Runt’s throwing arm and the way his arm is hinged. He has a strong throw but with little muscle. She finds his appearance ‘unconventional’. At this point in my reading I made a note “Runt isn’t Neanderthal!”.


(karenbrissette) #104

pfft - yeah, because that’s just what she needs - more morale-boosting encouragement that she’s doing the right thing! i have finished the book - huzzah! and i will answer these fine questions hopefully this evening - you are good at coming up with questions, jennifer!


(Jennifer D.) #105

awesome!
and, thank you! :slight_smile:


(Jennifer D.) #106

this morning, the writers’ trust fiction award shortlist was announced.

the last neanderthal is one of the five finalists for the $50,000 prize!

http://www.writerstrust.com/News/News-(1)/Press-Release-Archive/Press-Releases/Rogers-Fiction-Finalists-(Sept-27-17).aspx


(Jane D) #107

Oh wow, this is excellent news!!
But now I have even more book titles that have piqued my interest!!!
#bookishproblems !


(Jennifer D.) #108

i read brother yesterday… so, SO good!! as much as i really liked the last neanderthal and i am happy it’s nominated, brother is my current frontrunner for both the giller and writers’ trust. chariandy is a beautiful writer.


(Jennifer D.) #109

So I think we’ll go ahead and open up the discussion for the whole novel now, no need to worry about spoilers from here forward.

I have not completely finished the summary and questions as of yet, but will get that shared in the next couple of days.

:slight_smile:


(Kim@Time2Read) #110

I finished a couple of days ago. This was a great selection. This book is going to stick with me for awhile!


(Jennifer D.) #111

I am so glad to hear this, @Kim - thanks for saying so!! I feel like it - Girl - will stick with me for a while too!


(Jennifer D.) #112

Welcome to the final summary and questions for this month’s selection.

The Last Neanderthal

Week 4 - Summary and Questions

Chapter 23 through end of novel.

Chapter 23

  • Runt weakened by fat sickness. Girl prepares bone marrow for him, from the bison
  • Girl assessing their tent for winter
  • Runt finds markings on a tree and gets excited - Girl doesn’t know what these markings are. She feels a storm coming so returns to tent. Assumes Runt will follow
  • Runt didn’t follow – he’s gone

Birth

  • Andy’s back gives out while he helps Rose up from dig site - he’s taken away in an ambulance
  • Rose returns to flat in town - goes into labour. Walks herself to the village hospital.
  • During labour, baby’s heart stops - Rose delivers a boy - long pause and commotion, finally baby wails
  • Lactation specialist visits Rose in her room – doesn’t go well
  • Rose feels “like the hero I am”, but weeps and says nothing

Part IV - Chapter 24

  • Runt didn’t come back. Girl follows his tracks all day and night, but eventually returns to camp
  • She digs under a tree’s rootball to create a warmer, more weatherproof winter shelter
  • Storm has started - Girl, alone, missing her family

Chapter 25

  • Wildcat is with Girl. She pretends Runt is there, and tells stories
  • Girl’s shell necklace is with Runt
  • Girl is losing weight, failing
  • Girl kills WIldcat

Chapter 26

  • Girl eats the meat from Wildcat, but it doesn’t go far or last long
  • Girl goes into labour and delivers a boy
  • The baby doesn’t latch on for nursing and is very quiet/weak
  • The next morning, Girl suffocates her son

Survival

  • Rose, after a phone call with SImon, names their son Jacob
  • She feels like she can’t do anything right in the hospital and checks herself out - Jacob has jaundice
  • Simon arrives, and helps as much as he can - he has been given a full course load for the upcoming semester, so financial worries eased a little bit
  • Simon tried to register Rose and the baby for health care near their London home, but finds they cannot be covered as Rose can’t prove she’s been in the country long enough since the previous April
  • Midwife arrives on sunday to check on them - return to hospital for baby’s jaundice
  • Simon hires Maria - a neighbour from two doors down - to help with cooking and cleaning and to get to clinic appointments. SImon returns to London
  • Jacob’s health too risky for a return to London without health coverage
  • Caitlin has called twice to check on Rose
  • Sion leaves
  • Rose has an infection, and is really struggling emotionally. Jacob crying. Rose standing over his cradle “Only one of them could live.”

Chapter 27

  • Girl feels close to death, but a small spark returns
  • She puts on Big Mother’s horns and becomes the Big Mother

Instinct

  • Rose at the cradle in a rage - Caitlin arrives. She takes baby from Rose and tells Rose to rest - gently but firmly said
  • Caitlin saw signs that Rose mentally unwell, apologizes for not doing more
  • Caitlin reveals she lost her baby when she was alone

Chapter 28

  • Girl leaves her burrow - gets water and find a pouch in a tree. It contain deer meat, hazelnuts, and her shell
  • Runt has been here, and there is the scent of another on the pouch too
  • Girl cleans off the bones of the baby, keeps small arm bone for herself, then buries the rest of the bones
  • Girl begins to follow Runt’s tracks

Chapter 29

  • Girl sees two bodies ahead, like Runt’s - a woman and a boy
  • Girl shows she means no threat
  • Woman marvels at Girl, is also afraid. Boy tells Woman how to greet Girl. They press hands together. “We are not alone.”

Human

  • Jacob is 6 weeks old
  • Rose is at the dig site - Caitlin says Guy wants Rose to write the introduction for the museums’ “The Lovers” exhibit – Rose’s interpretation will be what they lead with, and all promotions will be built around this
  • Caitlin notes can be different types of lovers
  • Jacob naps with Andy every afternoon
  • Rose finds a small radius bone from an infant - has a crook deformity
  • In thinking about neanderthals and humans, “all differences drop away… we are so much the same”

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think Girl became part of the family of the Woman and Boy she meets?
  2. So… whose remains do you believe Rose and her team have found at the dig site?
  3. Girl decided to kill both her baby and Wildcat. Did she have any other choices? What outcomes could she have faced had she not made these difficult decisions?
  4. I have heard this novel described as a “strong work of feminist literature”. Did it strike you as such as you were reading?
  5. If Caitlin had not arrived when she did, do you believe Rose could have harmed Jacob?
  6. Have the parallels between Rose and Girl become stronger by the end of the story?
  7. Overall, how did you find this novel? What was your favourite part? Would you recommend this book to others?
  8. Do you have any additional questions about the novel, or thoughts you would like to share in our discussion?

Can’t wait to hear what you all thought about this book!!


(Jennifer D.) #113

I just read this Q & A, from June, with author Claire Cameron.

Her final response was something I thought you might like to consider here at the end of the story:

Q: You said that in addition to your novel being about Neanderthals, it’s also about what it means to be human. What does it mean to be human in your opinion?

A: I think of a novel as a question that takes the length of a book to ask. I hope that’s what The Last Neanderthal does—asks questions. We tend to tell the story of our evolution as a journey from primitive to our current perfect state. But what if this story isn’t true? While I don’t take electric lights or a fridge full of food for granted, there are other things about being a modern human that are difficult. Writing this novel made me question how we live now, particularly when it comes to caring for our families and those we love. I hope a reader has similar questions.

Thought?

:slight_smile:


(Kim@Time2Read) #114

Do you think Girl became part of the family of the Woman and Boy she meets?

I do think Girl becomes part of the family of Woman and Boy. I think that is how Girl’s family survives.

So… whose remains do you believe Rose and her team have found at the dig site?

Well, they could be entirely unrelated to the story…but I believe it is Girl and Runt. The question that remains for me is … what is their relationship? I think it is obvious they are placed that way because they share love, but I’m not sure what kind of love. The placement could indicate only a ‘family’ relationship and the love they share as siblings. But it’s also possible that as boy matured into an adult, they became a couple, had children, and her Neanderthal genes were passed on to the other species, and thus, her family survived…and survives.

Girl decided to kill both her baby and Wildcat. Did she have any other choices?

Well, I guess there is always a choice, but it would not have been a wise choice. I think it is pretty certain that had Girl not killed Wildcat, she would not have survived. First, meager though it was, the meat from Wildcat allowed Girl to survive just a bit longer and that may have been the crucial difference between living until the spring thaw or perishing from starvation.

But I think more important, had Girl not killed Wildcat while she still had strength, Wildcat most likely would have killed and eaten her!

I was sad to see Girl kill her baby, but I understood. The baby was not eating and would not have survived long, and was robbing Girl of her strength. I also think the baby was suffering and Girl could not sit and watch the baby suffer until it died. A sad choice, but probably the right one for that time.

What outcomes could she have faced had she not made these difficult decisions?

See the above answer.

I have heard this novel described as a “strong work of feminist literature”. Did it strike you as such as you were reading?

It really didn’t. I do think Girl was a strong woman, as was Big Mother, but id didn’t strike me as feminist literature.

If Caitlin had not arrived when she did, do you believe Rose could have harmed Jacob?

I definitely think Rose could have hurt Jacob. She was not thinking straight. I’m not sure she WOULD have. I’d like to think she’d have realized what was happening before it was too late!

I do wonder about Caitlin and what she meant what she said she lost her baby when she was alone. Did she harm her baby the same way Rose was about to, or did she simply have no help and support system to help when the baby was weak or ill?

Have the parallels between Rose and Girl become stronger by the end of the story?

In some ways they have. Both women had to make choices about the survival of their babies.

Overall, how did you find this novel? What was your favourite part? Would you recommend this book to others?

I really enjoyed this one a lot. I don’t know if I had a favorite part — I just enjoyed the entire experience. I’m not sure who I’d recommend this book to ; probably other bloggers I interact with. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to my book club, as most of them prefer light, happy reads. So I’m glad I have this group to discuss these types of books!

Do you have any additional questions about the novel, or thoughts you would like to share in our discussion?

Well, I would like to know what happens with Rose and Simon. Does she resume her career and lead the almost separate life from Simon she has been living. How does Jacob fit in?

And a thought I had… If we share … was it 97%…of our genes with Neanderthals…how do we know that it is not the Neanderthal that survived? Maybe 97% came from the Neanderthal and the extra 3% is from the Homo sapiens…wouldn’t that make the Neanderthal the survivors? Just asking…


(Penny / Literary Hoarders ) #115

Okay, so when I was reading it - I thought that Girl met up with the Woman but she was with Runt - that is where Runt ended up - to me - back with his family (homosapien family?). When I finished reading, I originally thought that the remains were those of Girl and Woman…but now I’m wondering - were they Runt’s and Girl’s?

I can totally see this as feminist literature. I know - I should flesh out my reasons why better… With the drama surrounding Rose’s fight to keep herself a primary part of her own research and not be replaced. With the parts about Big Mother and Girl - they were the strongest and the longest survivors, how the chain of command was with Big Mother deferred to…and also with the powerful scene where Caitlin steps in to help Rose - this isn’t a competition - this is someone that recognized the signs of another postpartum crisis - Caitlin probably saw more of herself in Rose than Rose was even aware of.

Another great book club read - this is one where the enhanced discussion helped keep this more in mind after finishing. Still think about it and the Q&A with Claire Cameron - well that just helped to keep it on my mind, constantly going over it in my mind.


(Jennifer D.) #116

thank you for your thoughts on the book, @Penny_Literary_Hoarders and @Kim – i am so sorry for my recent absence, and not being able to reply sooner.

i find i have been thinking on this book a lot – that it post into my mind unexpectedly from time to time.

i am glad you thought this a good pick for discussing here in the book group. i had hoped so much that that would be the case… and - of course! - it’s so hard to know if you haven’ tread the book ahead of time.

:smiley: