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Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart Paperback – 3 Jan 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 363 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Paper Back - 2nd Impression edition (3 Jan. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099494280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099494287
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (176 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tim Butcher is a British best-selling author and explorer whose books blend history with travel.

His latest, The Trigger, tells the story of the young man who sparked the First World War a hundred years ago by shooting dead Archduke Franz Ferdinand on a street corner in Sarajevo. Tim trekked across Bosnia and part of Serbia on the trail of history's greatest assassin, Gavrilo Princip, making a number of discoveries missed by a century of historians.

His first book, Blood River - A Journey To Africa's Broken Heart, told the story of an epic solo journey through the Congo. Translated into six languages, it topped the Sunday Times best-seller list in Britain and was shortlisted for various awards from the Samuel Johnson Prize in London to the Ryszard Kapuściński Award in Warsaw.

For his second, Chasing The Devil, he walked for 350 miles through Liberia along a trail blazed by a whisky-sozzled Graham Greene in 1935. He discovered, among other things, that Greene's life was saved by his indomitable but unsung cousin, Barbara Greene. The book made it onto the longlist for the George Orwell

A former foreign correspondent with The Daily Telegraph, Tim specialised in covering awkward places at awkward times: Kurdistan under attack in 1991 by Saddam Hussein, Sarajevo during the Bosnian War of the 1990s, the Allied attack on Iraq in 2003, Israel's 2006 clash with Hizbollah in southern Lebanon among other crises.

He was awarded the 2013 Mungo Park Medal for exploration by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and in 2010 received an honorary doctorate from the University of Northampton for services to writing. Born in 1967 he is based in Cape Town with his family.

For more details, pictures and contact details please go to: https://www.facebook.com/timbobutcher

Product Description

Amazon Review

JOHN LE CARRE

Quite superb…..a masterpiece

WILLIAM BOYD

Tim Butcher's extraordinary, audacious journey through the Congo is worthy of the great 19th century explorers. Completely enthralling but also a thoughtful and sobering portrait of modern Africa

ALEXANDER MCCALL SMITH

A remarkable, fascinating book by a courageous and perceptive writer. One of the most exciting books to emerge from Africa in recent years.

THE SUNDAY TIMES

Tim Butcher’s book is the latest in a long line, running through Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, VS Nai-paul… his account of a hair-rising trip from east to west, against all advice, by motorbike and then river boat, is gripping and harshly informative…

MAX HASTINGS

Blood River represents a remarkable marriage of travelogue and history, which deserves to make Tim Butcher a star for his prose, as well as his courage.

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

From his adventure he has plundered a wealth of terrific stories, and survived to recite a rosary of unstinting horror.

FERGAL KEANE

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.

HATCHARDS

…unputdownable…

GILES FODEN

An intrepid adventure... 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.

THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

..stirring and thought-provoking.

AESTHETICA MAGAZINE

….a remarkable travelogue of exquisite proportions…. highly emotive, historical and personal…Butcher’s elegant style demands the reader’s attention…….Blood River is nothing short of a modern-day masterpiece.

WANDERLUST

What makes Blood River such a compelling read is the fact that the journey becomes an exercise in mental terror, the author skilfully conveying the exhaustion of six weeks on tenterhooks, wondering what might happen just around the next bend.

THOMAS PAKENHAM

Tim Butcher deserves a medal for this crazy feat. I marvel at his courage and his empathy with the unfortunate Congolese...

ESQUIRE

…gripping…

TRAVEL AFRICA

The past meets present in this enthralling travelogue through the depths of the Congo.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"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 Pakenham)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. C. Dickens on 3 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is not especially well written - it shows signs of haste and lack of revision. However, this is beside the point. Tim Butcher has given us, at great personal risk, an idea of what life is like in one of the worst countries in the world. Possibly Somalia is worse? Or North Korea? Nah, after reading this book, it has to be Congo.
The author has apparently been for years obsessed with the Congo, and his research was prodigious. The tales from earlier explorers (particularly Stanley) and the litany of disasters and atrocities over the years tell us much about this ill-starred country.
I was pleased that Butcher didn't lazily blame the Belgian colonists, appalling though they were, for Congo's current problems. As he says,quoting Ali the riverboat captain, the British, another disreputable bunch of colonists, gave Malaysia a hard time, but now Malaysia is developing fast.

Butcher was lucky to escape with his skin, but deserved his luck.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Frootle on 30 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
Like many people, I kind of 'knew' the Congo: Heart of Darkness, and the horrors of the Belgian Congo, right? What I hadn't realised was what a mess it still was, and to get a sense of the scale of the potential and the waste. I'm not a big fan of travel writing, and this suffers from some of the usual cliches and ticks of the genre: the fact that a lot of travel is essential dull (how much more can you say about travelling huge distances by canoe/motorbike?), punctuated by humbling moments of epiphany. What saves this book is the history that interweaves the travel, the context, and the sense of perspective it gives. I hadn't realised that the Congo itself was so unnavigable at the moment: this made me aware of the shocking chaos - which can only get worse before it gets better, with the recent news...
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81 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Michael Faulkner on 16 Mar. 2008
Format: Paperback
As a fan of writers like Jonathan Raban and Simon Winchester, who weave historical narrative into their own personal quests and journeys, I sent for Blood River after catching the tail end of a radio interview in which Tim Butcher described the various strands which run in parallel through his book.

I found it a compelling and satisfying read. There is the central account of the author's apparently impulsive decision to travel, against all advice, through the Republic of Congo in the first place, while it is in an on/off state of civil war; the lives of the equally intrepid Victorian adventurers who went before him; and as backdrop, the grindingly bleak and heartbreaking history of colonial, post colonial and present-day Congo. Three stories for the price of one - four if you count the heavy-hearted journey through the Congo in the late 1950's, after disappointment in love, of the author's mother.

Butcher's prose style, as you'd expect from a seasoned journalist, is crisp, economical and forward-flowing; but he is not afraid to share his vulnerabilities and his (abundantly justified) fear of what might easily have lain ahead at any point on the journey - `objective dangers', as he calls them, over which he had little control. I warmed to him for that, and for his empathy towards the ordinary Congolese he encounters: for me, they are the heroes of the story, helpless victims of an endless cycle of exploitation, violence and political bankruptcy.

Blood River is a gripping story well told; but beyond that, unlike some have-the-adventure-to-write-the-book yarns, it is highly relevant and by rights should tweak the conscience of those of us in the developed world who looked the other way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jurassic Bark on 7 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback
If you are interested in the Congo and would like to read a book that offers some okay feedback, then by all means read Blood River. If, however, you've been daydreaming about heading off to the Congo (or similar) and need a push, you'll need to look elsewhere. I mean, here we are, in the heart of the tropics, in the Congo, yet not once did I feel any great sense of adventure. This is in part due to Butcher's matter-of-fact style of writing -- a novelist he will never be. I won't say it's drab, but it just doesn't ever get the juices flowing, and I'm shocked to read that some people think it's "gripping" and that it "moves along at a rollocking pace" (are these people friends of Tim, hoping to help boost the ratings?). Even if you're not particularly bothered about a so-called adventure book having a strong narrative, it's clear that Butcher didn't want to be there in the first place (the second half of the journey he covers by helicopter, and gives the most lame excuse for doing so -- I once read someone else's account of that section and they explained it as the easiest bit). Interesting: reasonably. Adventurous: not at all. A combination of the two would have been ideal.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kate O'Brien on 1 Jan. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I very much liked the style of the book, mixing historical facts, cultural observation and social commentary with the author's personal experience and emotional reactions to what he experienced on his mammoth task. It is very well written, not at all patronising or superior, and expert without being alienating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ian Hassall on 25 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
This book is about Tim Butcher's daring 2500 kilometre trip westward down the Congo in 2004, retracing Stanley's epic journey in 1874-1876. One might call it foolhardy, but I was inspired by his willingness to risk everything, viewed against our Western safety and aversion to danger. Without repeating details covered in other reviews, I found the book well constructed, with a journalist's precision, juxtaposing the day's events against Stanley's adventures, the backdrop of colonial exploitation, and poignant mentions of his mother's time in the Congo. The book also rings true for me personally,growing up ten miles form the Congo border, and witnessing the flow of white refugees in 1960, and the fear and dread of collapse.

I entitle my review "apocalypse" because that's what it has been for the Congo, and Butcher amply brings this out in his description of villages with no vestiges of Western products, the discovery of a railway line reclaimed by the forest, redolent of Planet of the Apes, and disappeared highways. You are back with elemental man, exploited by those in power under a cynical government, rampant corruption, and within this, a range of responses, from tribesmen making macabre thoat cutting gestures, to human kindness and honour. Butcher's reportage is powerful and real,he describes his fears, and his respect and care for individual Africans.

The carnage, the biggest war measured in deaths since World War 2,(given scant attention by the world at large, begs for explanation, and Butcher does not shirk this; savage colonial expoitation, cynical manipilation by the USA and Belgium after independence leading to the murder of Lumumba,a kleptocracy under Mobuto with the support of Western mining interests,invasion and exploitation by local African countries.
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