Book Review: The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

The People in the Trees
Published: 2014-05-06
A thrilling anthropological adventure story with a profound and tragic vision of what happens when cultures collide—from the bestselling author of National Book Award–nominated modern classic, A Little Life “Provokes discussions about science, morality and our obsession with youth.” —Chicago Tribune It is 1950 when Norton Perina, a young doctor, embarks on an expedition to a remote Micronesian island in search of a rumored lost tribe. There he encounters a strange group of forest dwellers…

Hanya Yanagihara’s “The People in the Trees” is a profoundly unnerving and thought-provoking book that tackles themes of ambition, morality and the darker sides of human nature. The tale’s protagonist is Dr. Norton Perina, a bright but morally dubious scientist. After discovering a tribe on a lonely island, he gets fixated on finding the secret to their immortality.

The characters in the book are complex and flawed, which is one of their qualities. Despite his dishonest and frequently despicable behaviour, Perina makes for a captivating protagonist. The other characters in the book are equally well-developed and nuanced, and during the narrative, tension and conflict arise from their interactions with Perina.

A strength of the novel is also Yanagihara’s prose. She has artistic talent.
She has a gift for creating vivid and evocative descriptions of people and places, transporting the reader into the story’s world. Her writing is often poetic, but she doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of the narrative, which can be brutal and disturbing.

The novel’s structure is also noteworthy. It is told through a series of documents, including journals, letters, and court transcripts, which gives the story a sense of authenticity and contributes to the overall impact of the narrative.

While “The People in the Trees” is a profoundly compelling novel, it has flaws. The book’s pacing can be slow, and some readers may find the graphic descriptions of animal abuse and human experimentation too disturbing.

Overall, “The People in the Trees” is a masterfully written novel that is thought-provoking and disturbing. It raises crucial questions about the ethics of scientific research, the exploitation of indigenous cultures, and the darker aspects of human nature. It is a challenging but ultimately rewarding read and is highly recommended for fans of literary fiction and psychological thrillers.

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