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Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart [Paperback]

Tim Butcher
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Jan 2008

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 still.


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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: 2.5 x 13.2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,076 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)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
79 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and relevant 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent read 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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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bold Down The River 5 Nov 2011
By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I didn't like the sound of this book at first, thinking it was an example of macho adventure tourism but I am pleased to say that I was mistaken.

It's true that the author at the outset is driven by a seemingly hubristic ambition: to be the first man (or white man at any rate) to traverse the length of the Congo River since the Victorian explorer Henry Morton Stanley's 1876-77 expedition, which sounds like the sort of thing only a egomaniac with a death wish would undertake. But Butcher is a sober character who carefully assessed and measured the risks beforehand. He could not ultimately have accomplished his feat without the assistance of Congolese on the ground and he accords them the credit due. The snide uttered by one reviewer that the author used dollars the way Stanley used brute force to secure compliance from the locals is ridiculous. Apart from the fact that the author never carried any weapons during the trip, the remark omits to mention that his motorcycle drivers who assisted the author with the first leg refused payment, out of professional pride. Otherwise he did what all journalists do if they want to get close to the ground, using local guides and fixers, entirely legitimate means to go about their trade. There is nothing amiss about that.

By Butcher's own admission, this was an example of ordeal rather than adventure travel but the details of the hardship he experienced are not overdone. They offer you a vivid sense of what it was actually like to do the trip. We don't just get a lucid impression of the hardships of the journey but also the land in which he travels and of the people he meets there. The DRC is the heart of Africa and the Congo River is at the heart of the DRC.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction to Africa's Heart 30 Nov 2012
By Frootle
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars incredible journey 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting and readable
I was fascinated by this combination of exploration and historical accounts of Congo. My father was there in the 1930s and it is sad to compare with his account. Read more
Published 26 days ago by sandgrounder
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely amazing
I heard about this book at lunch one day. And what a luck. It's fluently written and guides you through a hazardous strange country (the congo) with allmost nothing working... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mikael Kirkebaek
4.0 out of 5 stars the Congo
I enjoyed this book immensely especially since I read "Leopold's Ghosts" and since I have watched documentaries by the BBC on the Congo. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Abumimo
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and informative
This book worked for me on two levels -- firstly it is extremely well researched and I am now much better informed about the Congo. Read more
Published 3 months ago by David Treanor
3.0 out of 5 stars NOT IN STANLEY'S FOOTSTEPS
This book was well written, as one would expect from a journalist. However, I felt, regardless of the severe discomfort and bureaucratic difficulties Mr Butcher faced, his journey... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr Sample
5.0 out of 5 stars Book
Everyone should read this book to get their own lives into perspective. I don't know how much things may have changed since Tim Butcher wrote this book.
Published 3 months ago by Cathy Bakewell
5.0 out of 5 stars Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart, Tim Butcher
Anyone interested in world politics and it's affect on this shattered region of Africa should read this book; a remarkable journey.
Published 3 months ago by Barry Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars 'A' Level
I got this book for one of my children who is studying 'A' level English and this is what they are required to read and so far it is helping them.
Published 5 months ago by JENNIFER
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic
Mr. Butcher has penned a modern classic. If you are fond of Africa, intrigued by its politics, awed by its natural beauty and forever wringing your hands at the Big Men who... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Fentele
4.0 out of 5 stars good book
well written , brave man. enjoying the adventure and in insight into another country so far away. very good can reccommend
Published 6 months ago by jaybee
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