Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Hackenfeller's Ape (Brophy)

I have dived straight in with the books that arrived from Awesome books yesterday; it was difficult to decide what to pick first as I was immediately tempted by more than half of the pile (and how easy it is now to ignore the poor languishing VMCs). I was especially gratified to see that some of the books which arrived were really quite short, so having read some chunksters this year, I thought I deserved to make a start with one of the novellas and I picked up Hackenfeller's ape by Brigid Brophy. I had not come across this until my perusal of the Awesome Books website. And what an interesting VMC it is. It is the first one that I have come across where one of the principal characters is an animal.

Percy is a rare Hackenfeller's ape at the London zoo. (We are told that Hackenfeller discovered these apes in the nineteenth century and they are particularly special because they are so very similar to humans). He lives with his fellow-ape Edwina. The pair are befriended by Professor Darrelhyde who is determined to see the pair mate, apparently they have a very beautiful mating ritual and he is also concerned to protect their future. One day The Professor (as he is described) finds out that Percy's owner has arranged for him to be shot into space, and becomes deeply concerned to save him. The rest of the book is about how he arranges the escape; and the end is somewhat bittersweet and not wholly expected.

Really enjoyed this novella; it was certainly not what I was expecting from a VMC, and whilst dealing with the issue of the treatment of animals by humans, it is extremely readaboe.

This title has just been published once by Virago in the italicised green edition. As I checked it off on my spreadsheet masterplan I spotted that Brophy has another VMC, King of a rainy country, which now intrigues me. (Wonder if that rainy country is the UK - you will have seen the rain in the photo I took when the books arrived!).


  1. For some reason I have only just discovered your blog. Great stuff. I love Virago classics so much and think your venture is amazing. But how many VMCs are there? I expect you say somewhere on the blog but if so I've missed it.

  2. Hi Harriet - it's nice that you've stopped by - I hope that you will revisit! There are currently 556 VMCs, but more are continually coming out. I've read over 300 now and am determined to get to 400 by the close of 2011.

  3. My goodness! That's some challenge you've taken on. But what fun, and what a lot of great discoveries still waiting to be made. I shall be keeping an eye on progress, for sure.