Review

Beyond Innocence: An Autobiography in Letters The Later Years

by Jane Goodall

Read an Excerpt



Jane Goodall is one of those people who are so iconic in this
society that we forget that she's still alive, still working, still
making discoveries that change the face of evolutionary studies
every single day. The second of her autobiographies, BEYOND
INNOCENCE, offers us a running commentary of her adult life, her
work, her personal life, all the elements that make up the full
life of Jane Goodall. Her letters home and those establishing the
precedents of her scientific research are arranged in order of the
events of her life, and the jovial and loving tone of these
missives gives a special edge to the woman as scientist, writer,
wife, mother, lover.

Besides the in-depth discussions about her family of apes, those
who have survived polio (we are that close to apes that they
are infected with the same diseases as man, with much the same
frightening results), there are in-depth discussions about her
family of man --- her first and second husbands, her divorce, but
mostly, her love for her mom and all those back home who support
her in a thousand different ways, and last but not least, her son,
Grub, the "bushbaby" born in Africa, growing up on the Serengetti,
a spry and intelligent rascal who delights his mother at every
turn. It is a wonderful thing about BEYOND INNOCENCE that it can
balance the seriousness and great import of Goodall's work with the
besottedness she experiences through childbirth and child rearing.
It is as if she is yet another example of how apes and humans share
so many characteristics: passages about mother apes with their
young, caring for sick babies, burying their dead, parallel some of
Goodall's accounts home of young Grub's growing up, his successes,
his messes, his wondrous childhood. BEYOND INNOCENCE is also the
diary of a mother, a woman who lives her personal life to the hilt
while exploring new frontiers for science's sake.

There is a great deal of tragedy and drama in BEYOND INNOCENCE ---
some (like the kidnapping of her research team) screaming to be
made into a film, some more personal and moving (her painful
divorce and the death of her second husband). All in all, Goodall's
homey prose and honest portrayals of the days and nights of herself
and her ever-changing team of workers make BEYOND INNOCENCE a
hard-to-put-down read. Hers is a life she could not even have
imagined, and it is remarkable that she has been able to have the
sort of real life and the career together that makes it a
marker for feminists especially --- her priorities in place (family
comes first), she wends her way through her work life without
sacrificing the things most important to her. It is a valuable
lesson for anyone to learn and fascinating reading besides. A
triumphant look inside an important woman's life.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 21, 2011

Beyond Innocence: An Autobiography in Letters The Later Years
by Jane Goodall

  • Publication Date: July 12, 2001
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0618125205
  • ISBN-13: 9780618125203