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Brazzaville Beach [Paperback]

William Boyd
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

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Brazzaville Beach Brazzaville Beach 4.2 out of 5 stars (66)
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Book Description

25 Feb 1999

‘A most extraordinary parable about mankind … quite unlike anything else I have ever read’ Sunday Express.

'I live on Brazzaville Beach ... I am here because two sets of strange and extraordinary events happened to me ... One in England, first, and then one in Africa.’

On Brazzaville Beach, on the edge of Africa, Hope Clearwater examines the complex circumstances that brought her there. Sifting the details for evidence of her own innocence or guilt, she tells her engrossing story with a blunt and beguiling honesty that not only intrigues and disturbs but is also completely enthralling.

Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (25 Feb 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014014658X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140146585
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 566,158 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Excellent Book From Boyd 12 Nov 2003
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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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A stunning multi-dimensional read 1 Mar 1999
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding 9 Aug 2002
By Kitten
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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful and poignant book about Hope 31 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Boyd really came into his own with this book - a multi-layered exploration of the nature of relationships, mental health and higher maths, mixed with African scenery and painful memories. We follow the life of Hope Clearwater, a biologist/botanist who falls in love with a tortured mathematician - an all too believable character whose limited glimpses into the deeper truth of maths sends him into despair when the glimpses become more fleeting and incomplete. Written as an interconnected series of memories and events, you are effortlessly transported to a different country and a civil war that encompasses the ludicrous nature of some African conflicts. The characterisation and dialogue is effortless and complete, leaving you with the events and personal histories of Hope swirling around your mind for a long time after you put the book down Mixed into the pot is the enormous ego of the head of the chimpanzee research project for which she works,(often mirrored by the behaviour of the researchers themselves) a thought-provoking insight into animal group behaviour, and poignant explorations of the nature of despair and ultimately redemption. Finding a degree of hapiness with Osman, a fighter pilot for hire who creates insect and paper flying machines, and who ultimately disappears, leaves Hope on Brazzaville Beach, pondering the nature of her strange and often beautiful life. I defy anyone to read this book and not be carried along by the wonderful and elegant prose style, the content and the wonderful story. A page turner that conceals a lot of deeper meanings, and my most borrowed (and recommended) book. Buy it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not on 'my favourites' list.
Did not enjoy as much as William Boyd's other books.
Published 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Boyd up to standard as usual
Really good to be back into reading again with really great William Boyd. A great author who includes just the right level of detail to help you to get to know the characters... Read more
Published 22 days ago by Manda Moo
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Good read, good value.
Published 24 days ago by Ab
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I really enjoyed thisand don't know how I missed it when it came out.
Published 1 month ago by R. catling
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Struggled to put it down
Published 1 month ago by chris forrest
2.0 out of 5 stars Gender problems
I'm sure this novel ticks many literary boxes but, as with other William Boyd novels, the female narrative voice is unconvincing. Hope is female in name only. Read more
Published 3 months ago by heather s
5.0 out of 5 stars A bloke who can write good female characters
And good stories. I love WB: his female characters are intelligent, three-dimensional, active, decisive, independent and individual. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jill Hubbard
2.0 out of 5 stars Slow with dull, two dimensional characters
It took a while before I could build up any interest at all in the story line. The dialogue doesn't ring true and the characters were vapid and unbelievable. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Belinda
4.0 out of 5 stars Usual quality but a strange mix !!
I have been working my way the William Boyd's novels, and got slightly stuck to start with. As usual a wide variety of
situations is presented to the reader , and as usual I... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Old pharmacist
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner
A terrific novel from a superb writer. I don't describe the plot in my reviews because there are plenty of such reviews. Read more
Published 5 months ago by John S
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