cover image Africa in My Blood: An Autobiography in Letters

Africa in My Blood: An Autobiography in Letters

Jane Goodall. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $28 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-395-85404-4

No one, perhaps, has done more for great apes than Goodall, whose decades of work with Kenyan chimpanzees showed the rest of the world how chimps live--how they use tools, eat, sleep, have sex, raise their young, fight, make peace--demonstrating that they deserve further study as well as human protection. Here, in a follow-up to last year's spiritual autobiography Reason for Hope, are displayed the roots of that work, in a thick, fun, enlightening, somewhat diffuse compilation of letters that Goodall wrote to relatives, friends and colleagues over the first 32 years of her life, now amplified by Peterson's introduction and annotations. The earliest letters show the preteen Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall at school in England, chattily inviting her best friend to see her collection of ""quite a lot of caterpillars."" Later batches describe life in ""Chimpland,"" where Goodall and her co-workers have set up their ongoing project. We see a mother chimp and her neighbors react to a baby; we also see Goodall, then-husband Hugo van Lawick and a cast of dozens handle the practical problems of running a jungle encampment, from parasites to postage and publicity. Goodall describes her work with her mentor, paleontologist Louis Leakey; shows her continued affection for her family; keeps up with U.S. and European animal-behavior researchers such as Konrad Lorenz; and narrates ""the proudest [day] of my whole life to date"": the chimpanzee ""David G--yes--he has TAKEN BANANAS FROM MY HAND."" This volume covers only the ""early years"" (1934-1966); readers who care about animal behavior--or who enjoy the collected letters of a fascinating, friendly and dedicated woman--will hope for a sequel. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Apr.)