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Blood River

Narrated by: Tim Butcher
Length: 9 hrs and 41 mins
4 out of 5 stars (211 ratings)

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Summary

Shortlisted for the British Book Awards, Richard and Judy Best Read of the Year, 2008.
A Richard and Judy Book Club selection.

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

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A Richard and Judy Book Club selection.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Africa's Broken Heart - a September 11th every day

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.

Ben Waddams

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • R
  • 08-09-08

fantastic and addictive

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.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Blood, sweat and tears

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.

9 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

the guy reads too fast... fascinating nevertheless

very interesting story even though already 14 years old. one thing I kept wondering about was what the purpose of the trip was! the book is a beautiful result and tells an important story, but somehow I felt the need for a purpose beyond that of solely following Stanley's trail.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Fascinating insight into the heart of darkness

Tim Butcher, a journalist who's served his time in South Africa and elsewhere, attempts to follow the journey his mother took in 1958 when his mother crossed the Congo on a holiday, travelling in relative comfort on river boats and trains and enjoying the final days of the colonial legacy of hotels, plumbing, decent roads, trains and most important of all, law and order. Now that is all gone: anarchy rules, the railways and roads are covered in jungle and Congo's citizens live at the mercy of whichever tribe or militia is in the ascendant at the moment. It's fascinating, informative and deeply depressing at the same time.

Recommended reading for anyone who's heard about yet another outbreak of war or violence in central Africa and wonders what it's all about and whether there is any hope that one day it will cease.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Well worth a listen

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.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

An Enjoyable Book

I have enjoyed listening to this book and Tims enthusiasum for the book is unquestionable. My only problem was the speed in which it was read, causing me to check if I had changed the reading speed in the settings, I hadn't!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Excellent book, poorly narrated

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.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

should have been brilliant.

... 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.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Blood River - Crossing The Congo

Tim Butcher showed almost foolhardy bravery in taking this journey. I have travelled ( as a heavily armed soldier ) in neighbouring countries and my heart was in my mouth ,reading some of his exploits. A well written , well read book. The state of the Congo is dire and they need help. THIS is what we should be protesting about , how to save the lives of millions of innocent Africans. Tim Butcher has endured and risked his life in highlighting the problems.

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  • Dennis
  • 11-11-11

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.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Bill Hepburn
  • 16-02-17

Even better the second time around.

I read this book about a year ago and I was so impressed by it that I recommended it to my book group for this months book. As a refresher I got the audio book through Audible. It was great the second time around and Tim Butcher does a wonderful job of narration. I have also read and recommend Tim Butcher's other books.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Aaron
  • 03-10-13

Wish I were brave enough to attempt this!

What did you love best about Blood River?

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.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kazadi
  • 26-02-17

Inspiration

Butcher really inspired me in his story about Congo river and its people. As a son of Congo this really put a lot in perspective for me and motivates me to want to do more for humanity and suffering people of Congo who don't even ask for more than a safe place for them to live their lives.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Victor N.
  • 03-11-16

priceless insights

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..

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • greg
  • 30-05-13

An interesting presentation of a sad history

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

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.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • John
  • 23-05-11

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.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-07-17

helped me understand Congo

Any additional comments?

Wow. tough book. It really helped me understand Congo, a tragic country. The protagonist could leave when the trip was over, so many millions there cannot.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Admiralu
  • 21-01-20

Bloody River and Country

This was an interesting account of a British journalist's trip to travel a previous expedition a century before. It was indeed a terrifying journey and many friends, colleagues and contacts did not believe it possible. While the journey through Africa was frought with danger, what makes the book most fascinating is the history described and the author's insights into the people and places he visited. Filled with armed rebels, death and despair, there is not much to be hopeful for in the Congo during this period. He did find a number of wonderful people who aided him along the way. The saddest part of the book was when the author had to turn down a request to take a four year old because his father wanted a better life for him. I read this book using immersion reading while listening to the audiobook, which was read by the author in a beautiful Queen's English accent.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Christoph
  • 16-11-19

Great book but read very fast

Liked the book because it explaines a lot of the problems Kongo and other African countries are facing, Alternating between particular experiences and historical or political information it creates a feelig for the place which is based on sympathy.
The very fast reading of the author however got on nerves.