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 - and 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, and 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, is more remarkable still.
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©2007 Tim Butcher; (P)2008 W F Howes Ltd
A Richard and Judy Book Club selection.
Glued to a story, but could also be knitting , unknitting, cooking, drawing cats or doing Chinese Calligraphy and learning a language or try
From the very beginning of this nail-biting adventure the listener is gripped and walking step by frustrating step with Daily Telegraph Africa reporter Tim Butcher who, poor man, feels a need to follow in the footsteps of Stanley (also a Daily Telegraph reporter) down the Congo River.
Not only does Tim Butcher takes us back to the days of the beginning of Europe's contact with the Congo but through its more glorious past to the ruined infrastructure of today and the suffering of its peoples. A sad tale, compassionately told of a country gone to rack and ruin, filled with people who have learnt to survive every cruelty imaginable. Remarkable, but scarey to feel the compulsion that drove Tim Butcher to follow his dream of following Stanley down the Congo River.
Although it is a good travel story and Tim Butcher is a good reader it was perhaps read a little too fast for someone (like me) unfamiliar with the names of these people and places.
I thought this book was brilliant,so well written and totally compulsive listening.The author told it how is is,and I felt it was one of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to.Also I looked up and read extensively about the Congo afterwards,it was as gripping as any thriller.
This is not normally the type of book/audiobook I would buy,but I was going on a long holiday and though it would pass some time on the beach.But how wrong was I.
I still think of the authors experiences and the people of the Congo and how good we get it here in the UK.
My older teenage children listened to parts of this book and found it brilliant and asked the question,why do people live like that in 2008? I hope the next generation will be able to change the world.
I first bought 'Blood River' in paperback a couple of years ago. It impressed me then and was/is a riveting read. I must confess I never managed to finish the last quarter due to the hectic pace of life, but I listened to the entire audiobook and was enthralled.
Tim Butcher is obviously a knowledgeable author, but it is the nuances and subtleties in his descriptions of time and place that make this such a pleasure.
I have never been to 'the heart of darkness', instead I have skirted round it, following Livingstone, not Stanley around the Lake Tanganyika region, but nonetheless the descriptions in 'Blood River' are eerily reminiscent of the stories I heard emanating out of the DRC when I was on the border a few years after Tim.
Blood River emphasises the horrific point that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is in a state of continual decay, decline and backwardness, unlike anywhere else on Planet Earth. Why? We begin to see here...
The most depressing fact for me that comes from Tim's account, is that 1200 are murdered every day in the forests of the DRC, that's one September 11th every single day of the year and it continues yesterday, today and tomorrow... no one cares.
I found this both interesting and informative. Tim Butcher really manages to convey a sense of the beauty, danger and sheer remoteness of the Congo. I found it hard to stop listening at times and was often shocked and saddened by descriptions of the extreme poverty and political corruption. Definately worth a listen.
I really enjoyed this book but it's a testimony to the writing that I persevered to the end because I found his narration rather annoying and difficult to listen to. There was a lot of misplaced emphasis, a strange cadence and rhythym to the reading and it sounded as though he was bored and just wanted to get the reading over and done with as quickly as possible.
That said, the actual account was really fascinating and well written. It was quite shocking to hear how the Congo appears to be moving backwards in terms of its development and structure and the impact that has on the lives of the people that live there. I was able to conjure up strong images of what it must be like from the author's description.
... only it didn't quite work for me. not sure why. it's well written but i found that it didn't hold my concentration. also, it's quite downbeat - sounds like a ridiculous comment, but the subject matter is the terrible harsh lives of the people who live and die in the congo. a terrifying place by this account.
"This is a story about a great adventure"
First I need to set the record straight on something - this is a work of non-fiction, it chronicles the journalists adventures as he tries to retrace the steps of the lengendary and shadowy Stanley expedition. It is amazing that this man survived to tell this important story, the condition that this country has fallen to is amazing and a warning to all who read this book. I cannot do justice to this tale in a few paragraphs, but woven inside the adventure of his travels is a history lesson about the Congo and the Stanley expedition that is very well done. This is a book that when finished will leave the reader more informed on many fronts.
Put this one in the cart it is well worth your time.
"Leave narration to professionals!"
A great chronicle of an astonishing journey that every single person told Butcher was "impossible". The most impressive point to me is his emphasis on how much the country has regressed since independence - he passes through deserted areas where colonial maps show thriving towns. Most everything in place in 1960 is now ruined, if still there. Diseases, which the Belgians had largely controlled, are back. An interesting take on colonialism comes from a disgusted Malaysian aid worker who snorts (paraphrased): "We had a colonial past, and got over it!"
Recommended, although Butcher's narration at a gazillion words per minute got tiring often. There were times I wanted to stop listening, and had to wait a while for a pause to do so, rather than stop in mid-torrent.
in today's globalized world everything seems to be rather close. And yet, some places are so far, almost in a parallel reality. Excellent, though a very sad story..
"Wish I were brave enough to attempt this!"
Adventure-travel writing at it's most enjoyable. It's a treat to hear author Tim Butcher narrate his own story, in simple, unpretentious, thought out prose. As if you were right there in the congo traveling with him. He does a fantastic job providing historical context and his own take on things. Only criticism is that I would have liked more vivid description of jungle fauna and flora.
"I agree: Impossible to listen to!"
Ordinarily I prefer books narrated by the author, but this one is awful. Butcher's story is fascinating, but he reads so fast that I get a headache in minutes trying to keep up. Usually I listen to audiobooks in the car, but I think I'd probably have a wreck trying to follow this one. If Audiobooks took returns I'd be returning this one for sure.
"An interesting presentation of a sad history"
This is a fairly interesting presentation of history & geography along the Congo river for anyone wanting to learn more about West Africa, or colonialism-fallout.
Yes, the author's excellent portrayal of *un*development in action... the strange and hard to believe idea that someone's grandparents had reasonably contemporary educations, hospitals, motorized vehicles, etc., but that are missing today. It's like Atlantis existed, and then poof... back to throwing rocks at each other.
"Impossible to listen to!!"
Darn--I really really wanted to read this book. But the narrator talks so fast, its like some sort of joke! How could the company have released this book like this? I tried putting the ipod on that 1/2 speed setting but that just makes it echo and get garbled. Its probably worth a read by reading the hard copy book. You would have to concentrate very hard to understand what's being said in this book! Maybe you have to be British?
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