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The Lower River Hardcover – 31 May 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (31 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241145325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241145326
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.1 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 475,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Theroux was born and educated in the United States. After graduating from university in 1963, he travelled first to Italy and then to Africa, where he worked as a Peace Corps teacher at a bush school in Malawi, and as a lecturer at Makerere University in Uganda. In 1968 he joined the University of Singapore and taught in the Department of English for three years. Throughout this time he was publishing short stories and journalism, and wrote a number of novels. Among these were Fong and the Indians, Girls at Play and Jungle Lovers, all of which appear in one volume, On the Edge of the Great Rift (Penguin, 1996).

In the early 1970s Paul Theroux moved with his wife and two children to Dorset, where he wrote Saint Jack, and then on to London. He was a resident in Britain for a total of seventeen years. In this time he wrote a dozen volumes of highly praised fiction and a number of successful travel books, from which a selection of writings were taken to compile his book Travelling the World (Penguin, 1992). Paul Theroux has now returned to the United States, but he continues to travel widely.

Paul Theroux's many books include Picture Palace, which won the 1978 Whitbread Literary Award; The Mosquito Coast, which was the 1981 Yorkshire Post Novel of the Year and joint winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and was also made into a feature film; Riding the Iron Rooster, which won the 1988 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award; The Pillars of Hercules, shortlisted for the 1996 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award; My Other Life: A Novel, Kowloon Tong, Sir Vidia's Shadow, Fresh-air Fiend and Hotel Honolulu. Blindness is his latest novel. Most of his books are published by Penguin.

Product Description

About the Author

Paul Theroux's books include Dark Star Safari, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Elephanta Suite, A Dead Hand and The Tao of Travel. The Mosquito Coast and Dr Slaughter have both been made into successful films. Paul Theroux divides his time between Cape Cod and the Hawaiian islands.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Toby Rowland on 17 July 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most of Theroux's more recent works tend to feature a version of the author himself as protagonist: a slightly knackered traveller who visits faraway places that once were joyous and pristine, and have now turned sour. The hero meets wicked people who exploit him as a meal ticket, and is often tempted by exotic young maidens who provide diversion and optimism. The Lower River fully conforms to this pattern, and is the masterpiece of a series that includes great works such as Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town, The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific and further back, The Mosquito Coast. Buy and read this book, because it is one of Theroux's best.

A former Peace Corps volunteer, disappointed with the breakdown of his family life and saddened by the decay of a nondescript inner city in America, returns to the Africa of his hopeful and distant youth. Looking to revisit a time in his life when his contribution to a tiny village had meant something, he finds his way back to the remote outpost but soon finds that time has moved on. Instead of being valued for his contribution, a more cynical attitude now prevails among the locals, and our hero soon finds himself struggling to survive, let alone rediscover his self-worth. The author is masterful in building an atmosphere of brooding menace, of wrongful sex, and bacterial materialism at the most simple level of civilisation.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover
A novel from Paul Theroux is always welcome and I'm pleased to say that The Lower River is well up to his usual high standard.

As the book opens, we find Ellis Hock with his marriage falling apart and the store reaching the end of its economic life. The marriage break-up is painful, and is not helped by his grasping daughter who wants some of her inheritance long before Ellis is ready to die. Malawi had held a place in Ellis's heart all through his years of tailoring and he decides to have done with his wife, daughter and shop and to return to Africa, to visit Malabo, the village he worked in while in the Peace Corps so many years before.

Nearly forty years has passed since Ellis was last in Africa. The cities have been transformed from slow-moving communities with dirt roads and shabby buildings into modern townscapes with a preponderance of Mercedes cars, cell-phones and upmarket nightclubs.

He visits the American consul and manages to arrange transport to Malabo, taking a minimum of possessions apart from several bundles of dollars, but leaving his cell-phone behind. After a long and arduous journey he reaches the village and makes contact with the head-man Festus Manyenga, a young man in his twenties who addresses Ellis as father and treats him as an honoured guest.

As Ellis gets to know the village he occasionally meets people who knew him when they were children, although they are now old men and women, showing the result of non-existent health care and a life of toil. He visits the school he had helped build and had taught in all those years ago but it apparently decayed long ago: "head-high bushes had grown up around the building. The roof of the classrooms was mostly gone, only brittle pieces remaining. Weeds grew in the eaves.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Winsor on 4 Mar. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A return to the dark heart of Africa, this time it is a remote corner of Malawi rather than Conrad's Belgian Congo and our guide is the imperfect Hock rather than the enigmatic Marlowe. Returning to Malawi after the break up of his marriage in Medford, Mass. Elliott Hock carries with him the idealism and the misplaced romanticism that he still remembers from his original visit with the Peace Corps 40 years earlier. His return sees an inexorable unravelling of Hock's benign intentions, beset as he is by the remoteness of the village, the rapacious greed of the new village regime, the intense heat and his inability to stave off the ravages of malaria.Nothing is quite as it seems in this increasingly tense tale with the previously welcoming village slowly revealing that it has become hostile to westerners unless they provide a constant stream of money. Hock encounters a village of forgotten children straight out of 'Lord of the Flies' & his increasingly desperate attempts to escape grip the reader. I was reminded of the sheer terror of the national guardsmen in the disturibing film version of 'Southern Comfort'as Hock contemplates his complete isolation and the process of his mental disintegration begins. To say more would spoil a well-crafted conclusion. I recommend this tale not only as a profound contribution to the 'charity for Africa' debate but also as a convincing account of one man's journey to the heart of Africa and his subsequent realisation of what he is and how human nature can be corrupted.
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