Mary Kingsley was a truly astonishing woman. She was a Cambridge graduate with a genuine desire to contribute to the store of man;s knowledge. In this book she writes about her trave;s in the 1890s to fulfil a passionate desire to get to know West Africa.
Not only did she succeed in that objective, she made many friends among people she frequently refers to as "savages," she learned to master a canoe made from a hollowed-out tree trunk (falling out of it on a number of occasions), she collected plant and fish species to bring back to England, and she made detailed observations of various tribal customs. And at the end of it all she wrote a book of vivid detail and no little humour. Along the way she befriended many impressive characters, ampng them one Obanjo who liked it pronounced Captain Johnson.
This reader was captivated by the sections of a long book that describe her travels and how she survived swimming dangerous rivers and wading through swamps, or being eaten by the Fans, how she lived to emerge from a pit whose bottom was lined with spiked stakes, how she found snake more edible than goat or chicken, how she used tobacco as a currency, and much besides. The long later chapters of anthopological observation were less gripping.
Mary Kingsley's characterisation of 'savages" and "blacks" would lead her into deep trouble today but as an astonishingly intrepid adventurer 120 years ago she has left us a book that is still alive and kicking today.