Monday 11 April 2011

The Forest People by Colin M Turnbull - Book Review

Title: The Forest People
Author: Colin M Turnbull
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication Date: 1987 (1961)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Source: Bought

The Forest People -- Colin M. Turnbull's best-selling, classic work -- describes the author's experiences while living with the BaMbuti Pygmies, not as a clinical observer, but as their friend learning their customs and sharing their daily life.
Turnbull conveys the lives and feelings of the BaMbuti whose existence centers on their intense love for their forest world, which, in return for their affection and trust, provides their every need. We witness their hunting parties and nomadic camps; their love affairs and ancient ceremonies -- the molimo, in which they praise the forest as provider, protector, and deity; the elima, in which the young girls come of age; and the nkumbi circumcision rites, in which the villagers of the surrounding non-Pygmy tribes attempt to impose their culture on the Pygmies, whose forest home they dare not enter. The Forest People eloquently shows us a people who have found in the forest something that makes their life more than just living -- a life that, with all its hardships and problems and tragedies, is a wonderful thing of happiness and joy. (Goodreads Synopsis)

Only once in my recollection have I ever put a book aside unfinished (Tristram Shandy), but I nearly made it twice with this one. The only thing that kept me reading till the end was the fact that it was for a book club I've just joined and I felt compelled to finish - especially as it's my first book with them.

What didn't I like? I can't really put my finger on it to be honest. I am always interested in other cultures etc so this should have been one I'd enjoy, but I simply found it dull. Nothing inspired me to turn the next page and I found myself skim-reading chunks of it.

That said, I didn't hate it and the odd chapters made me smile, but I just couldn't muster much enthusiasm for the book as a whole sadly.

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