Review: ‘The Last Neanderthal’ by Claire Cameron

The worlds of archeology and anthropology are absolutely fascinating to me. I would love to be able to go on an archaeological dig some day, but for now I’ll have to live vicariously through the books I read. I was really excited to read The Last Neanderthal because there are so few books out there that try to explore this particular time period.

Synopsis: Archaeologist Rosamund Gale has found the discovery of a lifetime, but is racing against the forces of nature as she works well into her pregnancy to excavate newly found Neanderthal artifacts. Her story is linked to that of Girl, the lone survivor of a Neanderthal clan that died off more than 40,000 years ago, who is faced with the daunting task of making her way to the annual meeting place while caring for a foundling child.

I think the most obvious comparison people are going to make is Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series, which has been a favourite of mine for many years. Right away we are introduced to a family of neanderthals who have taken in a child who looks and acts differently. I couldn’t help thinking of those books when I started reading, but the originality of Cameron’s story soon made me forget to look for similarities. I really enjoyed the back and fourth of the two narrators, but found myself drawn more to Girl’s tale. This is not a saucy romance disguised as historical fiction. There are so many difficult moments in this story, but that is what makes it all the more compelling to read.

When you are close enough, press the skin of your palm against hers. Feel her heat. The same blood runs under the surface of your skin. Take a breath for courage, raise your chin, and look into her eyes. Be careful, because your knees will weaken. Tears will come to your eyes and you will be filled with an overwhelming urge to sob. This is because you are human.

I truly think this will be a big hit with book clubs when it comes out in paperback. There are so many interesting things to discuss, from the unique relationships between members of the Neanderthal family, to the blatant sexism that Rosamund faces in academia. It is obvious that Cameron did a great deal of research on the subject of Neanderthals to write such an interest account of one small family.

I think that Cameron missed out on expanding our knowledge about how Neanderthal families lived, which is why I can’t give this book a higher rating. While the beginning of the book was very detailed, as the story progressed it felt a bit rushed. The Girl’s story became lost behind Rosamund’s, and I felt my interest lagging. I still finished the book in just a couple of days, and I genuinely look forward to suggesting it to friends, but I really wanted more.

LC Rating: 3-stars

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher as an employee of Indigo Books & Music.


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