“The Yanomamö call it heitä bebi, the place that was created when the sky fell. Like ours, it is a world where souls are stolen and eaten by ghosts.”
Shocking and incredibly disturbing in parts, Fierce People could be the lovechild of J. D. Salinger and Bret Easton Ellis. Part coming-of-age story, part satirical observation of the jaded rich, I promise you’ll love it if you have a taste for the dizzyingly dark.
Another fond read from the time I was a regular train traveller, I devoured this book quickly, but not through passenger boredom. I was charmed by fifteen-year-old Finn and the uber-rich world in which he found himself entangled.
He didn’t belong and would have been safer if he’d remained as an observer.
Mirroring the life of his absent father (a famous anthropologist, living with the Yanomamö tribe – ‘the fierce people’), Finn is wooed by the residents of Vlyvalle and the strange behaviour they indulge in. Crossing the line and becoming accepted into the fold is his biggest mistake.
The rich live by their own rules. High society have nothing on the savage tribes that fascinate Finn’s father. Incest, rape and drug abuse stomp through the pages and kick you in gut when they appear.
Wittenborn is an excellent story-teller, the rhythmic rise and fall of tension keeps up the momentum of the novel. It’s crisp and to the point, which emphases the shocking parts of the story. They’re sprung upon you, the story continues; you recover quickly.
Finn’s innocence is what reminds us that the narrator is a fifteen- year-old boy. Vlyvalle is almost an ageless place (aside from old man Osborne) – the adults don’t behave much better than the kids. No-one behaves well.
Stripping back the privilege, the rich are the same as their primitive counterparts. Social class isn’t a scale, it’s a circle.
Perhaps we’re all the fierce people.