Blood River

Blood River : A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart

4.04 (5,571 ratings by Goodreads)
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When Daily Telegraph correspondent Tim Butcher was sent to cover Africa in 2000 he quickly became obsessed with the idea of recreating H.M. Stanley's famous expedition - but travelling alone. Despite warnings that his plan was 'suicidal', Butcher set out for the Congo's eastern border with just a rucksack and a few thousand dollars hidden in his boots. Making his way in an assortment of vessels including a motorbike and a dugout canoe, helped along by a cast of characters from UN aid workers to a campaigning pygmy, he followed in the footsteps of the great Victorian adventurers. Butcher's journey was a remarkable feat, but the story of the Congo, told expertly and vividly in this book, is more remarkable more

Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 128 x 194 x 28mm | 299.37g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • w. figs. and sketch maps.
  • 0099494280
  • 9780099494287
  • 32,835

About Tim Butcher

Tim Butcher is a best-selling author who blends travel with history. His first book, Blood River, was a number one bestseller, a Richard & Judy Book Club selection and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, while his next, Chasing the Devil, was longlisted for the George Orwell Prize. A journalist with the Daily Telegraph from 1990 to 2009, in 2010 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Northampton for services to writing. Born in Great Britain, he is based in Cape Town with his more

Review quote

"A remarkable, fascinating book by a courageous and perceptive writer. One of the most exciting books to emerge from Africa in recent years" -- Alexander McCall Smith "An intrepid adventure. In making and describing this journey, Tim Butcher has followed in the footsteps of Stanley and Conrad. It takes a lot of guts to yomp through the Congo and he obviously has plenty of those. But it is the wit and passion of the writing which keeps you engrossed" -- Giles Foden "This is a terrific book, an adventure story about a journey of great bravery in one of the world's most dangerous places. It keeps the heart beating and the attention fixed from beginning to end" -- Fergal Keane "A masterpiece" -- John le Carre "Tim Butcher deserves a medal for this crazy feat. I marvel at his courage and his empathy" -- Thomas Pakenhamshow more

Review Text

"Tim Butcher deserves a medal for this crazy feat. I marvel at his courage and his empathy"show more

Rating details

5,571 ratings
4.04 out of 5 stars
5 34% (1,920)
4 42% (2,327)
3 19% (1,052)
2 4% (197)
1 1% (75)

Our customer reviews

Tim Butcher makes a perilous journey into the heart of Africa and finds it broken. The former Daily Telegraph scribe became fascinated by H.M Stanley's crossing of the middle of Africa in 1874 and made an audacious decision to attempt to retrace Stanley's epic journey, carrying with him little more than a packet of baby-wipes and a penknife. In doing so, he encounters a destroyed country he memorably describes as being in a state of 'undeveloping' as opposed to being undeveloped. During the journey he loses nearly a stone in weight and is often disorientated, sick and sometimes barely concious. Butcher's evocation of the decay of the infrastructure built during the Belgian period, is both harrowing and compelling. His prose is economic and lacks the emotion of Paul Therox, yet his power of observation is acute and engaging. His empathy for the people he encounters in this wrecked country, as they desperately try to cling to what remains of the old order as an antidote to the chaos and tragedy that surrounds them, is intense and moving. In one instance he recounts meeting a railway station master who diligently attends his station every day even though no train has passed in years. In Kisangani, he describes the market traders who await tourists who will never arrive. Butcher's odyssey begins in Lake Tanganyika. He moves rapidly, riding pillion on a motorbike, through a lush and steamy landscape destroyed by war, disease and poverty, always trying to stay one step ahead of the ever present Mai Mai gunmen. Eventually he reaches Kasongo, once described as an African version of the lost city of Atlantis, but now virtually unrecognisable as the place once visited by Evelyn Waugh in the 1950's, its buildings empty shells slowly being overtaken by the surrounding jungle. After a brief pause here, he attempts a descent of the Congo River in a traditional dugout canoe. In truth, there is possibly little difference between the Congo encountered by Stanley in the late Nineteenth Century compared with that experienced by Butcher. The development of the Belgian colonial period, which also came at horrendous cost to the Congolese people, appears as but a blimp on a timeline that is dominated by darkness and chaos. The empty and blackening shells of its colonial period structures crumble as the graves of those who built them are are rendered invisible by the dripping vegetation. Tim Butcher's, Blood River will not appeal to the bleeding hearts whom Paul Therox describes as the Afromantics and the Mandela sniffers, nor can I imagine the reader completing the book and feeling compelled to call their travel agent and book a ticket to Kinshasa, but the author has written a gripping and raw portrait of this terminally damaged place and in doing so has given us an African travel more
by Christopher Rimmer
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