A huge thank you to Book Page, who included me on a list of 10 Women to Watch in 2017: the annual selection of female authors to keep an eye on in 2017 and beyond.
“Claire Cameron’s book is a necessary, brilliantly feminist and intuitive reading of our earliest history. She memorably paints a full world with her Neanderthals and binds it perfectly to our own.”
— Sheila Heti, author of Ticknor and How Should a Person Be?
“A powerful, warm and thought-provoking book, that artfully blends facts with fiction to put flesh on many abstract scientific debates.”
— Yuval Noah Harari, New York Times bestselling author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
“To call this book a historical novel would be a great mistake—The Last Neanderthal goes a lot further and deeper than that. Claire Cameron reunites us with our past, with the beginning of humanity. In this book I lived next to people who populated the earth a very long time ago and have long since vanished completely. To make you feel for them and, what is more, feel with them, is a great achievement. It is one of those novels that opens the world to you in a different way, and after finishing it this world will never look the same to you again.”
— Herman Koch, author of The Dinner and Dear Mr. M
“The women of Cameron’s The Last Neanderthal are fierce, whatever their time period. This meditation on motherhood, passion and survival is lush and lovingly detailed, creating a world that’s frighteningly accurate and reassuringly heartfelt. Couldn’t put it down.”
— Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach and Son of a Trickster
“The Last Neanderthal is a book like no other. Claire Cameron effortlessly inhabits the worlds of two very different and pregnant women – a female Neanderthal desperate to survive and an archeologist who fears losing control of her dig site – and shows us they are not that different after all. A powerful novel that will make you cry. And laugh, too.”
— Marcy Dermansky, Bad Marie and The Red Car
“Claire Cameron’s newest novel, The Last Neanderthal, is fascinating, insightful and poignant; a moving narrative of the last survivors of a harsh and unforgiving environment that is both exotic and achingly familiar. It is a story of our profound connectedness to our ancestors, exploring the ultimate question of what it means to be truly human.”
— Kathleen Kent, author of The Outcasts and The Dime
“The Last Neanderthal is astonishing. With delicacy and tenderness, Claire Cameron imagines the struggles of a Neanderthal family to sustain itself physically and psychologically in the face of extinction. As we follow Girl, her mother and brothers, and a mysterious stray called Runt, we are put in touch with what is most ancient and noble in human nature. At the same time, the parallel contemporary narrative shows us how little, over the eons, the human heart has changed. I’m thrilled by Cameron’s adventurous and deeply empathic tale, an example of what fiction at its best can do.”
— Pamela Erens, author of The Virgins and Eleven Hours
“This rich, literary, science-based imagining of Neanderthal life intrigued me from the start. The parallels between two women navigating complex lives from across time and space– and across a narrow species boundary–is captivating in itself. But more than this, while reading The Last Neanderthal, I felt myself standing with new feet within our human lineage. This book makes me want to pay attention to the senses that are in our blood—an alertness to vision, smell, touch, weather, the presence of other creatures–that can come naturally to us as a Homo sapiens, but have been lost from inattention and lack of use. I find myself walking into the world with a heightened awareness of what it means to be fully human.”
— Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Crow Planet and Mozart’s Starling
There is a fantastic article about the new thinking about Neanderthals in The New York Times Magazine — Neanderthals Were People, Too.
It is a perfect introduction to the science that lies behind my next novel, The Last Neanderthal.
There are many things I love about the article but especially this paragraph, a simple list that says so much:
“Neanderthals buried their dead. They made jewelry and specialized tools. They made ocher and other pigments, perhaps to paint their faces or bodies — evidence of a “symbolically mediated worldview,” as archaeologists call it. Their tracheal anatomy suggests that they were capable of language and probably had high-pitched, raspy voices, like Julia Child. They manufactured glue from birch bark, which required heating the bark to at least 644 degrees Fahrenheit — a feat scientists find difficult to duplicate without a ceramic container. In Gibraltar, there’s evidence that Neanderthals extracted the feathers of certain birds — only dark feathers — possibly for aesthetic or ceremonial purposes. And while Neanderthals were once presumed to be crude scavengers, we now know they exploited the different terrains on which they lived. They took down dangerous game, including an extinct species of rhinoceros. Some ate seals and other marine mammals. Some ate shellfish. Some ate chamomile. (They had regional cuisines.) They used toothpicks.”
I should add that yesterday I did a presentation to the media about my novel. To demonstrate how Neanderthal voices might have sounded, I shouted in high-pitched voice. And yes, I sounded exactly like an angry Julia Child.
The Last Neanderthal appears in The Millions Most Anticipated: The Great 2017 Book Preview.
The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron: Our own Cameron returns with a new novel about two women separated by, oh, only 40,000 years: Girl, the eldest daughter in the last family of Neanderthals, and present-day archeologist Rosamund Gale, who is excavating Neanderthal ruins while pregnant. How these two stories echo and resonate with one another will be just one of its delights. Such an ingenious premise could only come from the writer who brought us The Bear, which O, The Oprah Magazine deemed “a tender, terrifying, poignant ride” and which People gave 4 stars, saying “it could do for camping what Jaws did for swimming.” (Edan)
Mark Medley, Books Editor of The Globe and Mail, names The Last Neanderthal as one of the most anticipated books of 2017.