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Brazzaville Beach Paperback – 25 Feb 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (25 Feb 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014014658X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140146585
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 586,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Boyd is the author of ten novels, including A Good Man in Africa, winner of the Whitbread Award and the Somerset Maugham Award; An Ice-Cream War, winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Brazzaville Beach, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; Any Human Heart, winner of the Prix Jean Monnet; Restless, winner of the Costa Novel of the Year, the Yorkshire Post Novel of the Year and a Richard & Judy selection, and most recently, the bestselling Ordinary Thunderstorms.

(Photo credit: Eamonn McCabe)

Product Description


'As intelligent as anything you're likely to read... slips by like a thriller' Time Out 'A brilliant storyteller... a book which stretches, tantalizes and delights' Financial Times 'A most extraordinary parable about mankind... quite unlike anything else I have ever read' Sunday Express 'Brazzaville Beach exudes confidence; Boyd has grown in authority from book to book. Things are by turn hilarious and edgy but always under control' Sunday Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

William Boyd was born in Ghana in 1952. He was brought up there and in Nigeria. He was educated at the universities of Nice, Glasgow and Oxford. He is the author of a number of acclaimed and hugely popular novels and three volumes of short stories, and the recipient of many prizes, including the Whitbread First Novel Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award. He is married and lives in London

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 61 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Nov 2003
Format: Paperback
Once again Boyd brings together unrelated topics, interesting settings, and full characters to create a story that's utterly absorbing and hard to pigeonhole. Narrated by Hope Clearwater (an unfortunately clunky name for a protagonist), the story looks back at two traumatic times in her life, as she attempts to make sense of them. One of these storylines begins with the completion of her dissertation and her subsequent marriage to a brilliant but troubled mathematician. The other storyline concerns her work some years later at a chimpanzee research center in an unnamed African country (presumably Congo). Both of these threads revolve around the quest for knowledge and the mania that quest can result in, and both are compelling. The latter is especially gripping, containing elements of a thriller within its arc, and the backdrop of civil war. Boyd consulted extensively with Jane Goodall in his research for the book, and the result is a vividly realistic portrait of a tiny international scientific community, complete with petty jealousies and massive egos.
It's difficult to write about this book and do it proper justice. So much of it is about Hope's internal struggles about her life, and the difficulties of being married to someone who is greatly flawed. She makes a good feminist character, strong but not pushy, intelligent but not snobby, often conflicted about what the best course of action is, and sometimes mistaken. Her struggle for respect in both the personal and professional realms is at the heart of the book, and is a theme with wide resonance. It's one of the best cases of a man writing in a woman's voice I can recollect. All the characters that surround Hope, even the most insignificant, are carefully crafted and rich in texture.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 Mar 1999
Format: Paperback
I cannot believe I'm the first person to review such an excellent book which really should be on any list of potential modern classics
The book follows the life of ecologist Hope Clearwater and is simultaneously set at three different stages in her recent life - her marriage to an egg-head boffin mathematician whilst she studies ancient hedgerows, her time studying chimpanzees in a major African ecological project and finally her life 'on the beach' reviewing her life.
Interspersed between these three layers are occasional insights into the world of higher mathematics.
If that sounds confusing be assured that it isn't. I found this a fascinating read and was most surprised that the author managed to keep the links between all layers running so smoothly without causing confusion.
The mental breakdown of her husband and her relationship with him, finds numerous parallels in the breakdown of relationships between the two rival tribes of chimps. In all cases Hope is battling against others who don't respect her work or, in the case of the head of the chimp project, are actively seeking to discredit her findings.
The characters are beautifully portrayed especially her husband who finds solace and inspiration digging ditches in unlikely places, her lover who builds horsefly aeroplanes (well worth the read for that alone) and the 'rebel leader' and his band of volleyball playing 'soldiers' who inadvertently kidnap Hope (and find it quite difficult to get rid of her).
I recommend this highly
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kitten on 9 Aug 2002
Format: Paperback
A friend of mine lent me this over a year ago, and it had been gathering dust. The synopsis on the cover didn't entice me at all....not many people would be into primates, higher maths, Africa. To cut a long story short I picked it up because I had nothing else to read. I had to stay up all is a fantastic storyline, pure and simple. There are so many threads to this, and even the seemingly highbrow mathematical references weave in and out of the story seamlessly. The chimp storyline has a shocking and distressing it, you won't be disappointed. "Brazzaville Beach" will definitely enter my list of top 10 all time fave reads.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Cooper on 5 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
Those interested in chimpanzees and their complex social behavior are urged to read BRAZZAVILLE BEACH, where the powerful alpha-male Darius, starved for female companionship, leads patrols of knuckle-walking extermination in the territory of a neighboring chimp clan. In the novel's final pages, the story of these murderous chimps culminates in a surprising act of rescue and revenge, which is satisfying but impossibly pat. Nonetheless, this monkey-business is definitely within Boyd's narrative reach and he produces a troubling story, suggesting there is brutality and evilness innate in the hominid family, which forces people to choose.

In contrast, Boyd's handling of his major human characters is less satisfying. IMHO, two of these characters--Eugene Mallabar, a primate research star, and Dr. Amiclar, a civilized soldier and boyish nationalist--are transparent from the get-go and never evolve. This means that, as narrative presences, they never really surprise.

Meanwhile, Boyd never quite delivers with Hope, a novice primate researcher, and John, a genius mathematician. Reason: Their issues and natures clearly emerge only after they are labeled by other characters. John's plight, for example, clarifies when a physician provides a diagnosis. What am I saying? Boyd never fully animates these characters; they depend on commentary to attain clarity.

In fairness, I acknowledge that Boyd does offer a character--the pilot Usman--who is not transparent and whose actions are not explained until the novel's very end. But Usman, a schemer and contrast to Dr. Amiclar, surprises through a plot twist, not because Boyd finds new depth in his character.

BRAZZAVILLE BEACH is a highly balanced literary machine.
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