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61 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The dramatic life of a towering figure grippingly told
I have rarely read such a riveting book as this one. The story of Stanley's life is extraordinary and dramatic enough in itself, and Tim Jeal tells it with the vividness that we are accustomed to from his earlier superb biographies of Livingstone and Baden-Powell. But the book is not just a gripping read, it is also an eye-opener. Having had access to previously unused...
Published on 9 Mar 2007 by Christopher McIntosh

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars E-book is not the best medium for this readable biog
I picked this because I live in North Wales and Stanley came from Rhyl (much as he tried to deny it). Also it had been well reviewed as a print copy in national newspapers. I'm about half way through and enjoying what I am learning. However I am struggling as my knowledge of African geography is woefully vague. With a print copy I'd be able to flip backwards and...
Published 20 months ago by JUDITH


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61 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The dramatic life of a towering figure grippingly told, 9 Mar 2007
I have rarely read such a riveting book as this one. The story of Stanley's life is extraordinary and dramatic enough in itself, and Tim Jeal tells it with the vividness that we are accustomed to from his earlier superb biographies of Livingstone and Baden-Powell. But the book is not just a gripping read, it is also an eye-opener. Having had access to previously unused documents, Jeal gives us for the first time a full picture of the real Stanley, who emerges as a towering figure of enormous significance in the history of Africa. Jeal's account of his involvement in the Congo, for example, vindicates Stanley from the charges that have often been levelled against him. While we are shown his warts, Stanley comes across as fundamentally decent and likeable human being. This is a book to which I shall return.
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53 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting unputdownable book., 6 Mar 2007
By 
Thomas Beck - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
They don't make heroes any more like the Victorians, but not even they made more than one Stanley. He was bombastic, he lied, he was desperate for love, he created a new identity for himself, he deserted twice from the US forces in the Civil War, he prospected for gold, he became a famous journalist, he thought up the biggest journalistic scoop of the 19th century and then he sorted out the Nile/Congo sources. He went back to Africa again and again even after classic near death experiences. And this was a boy who spent ten years of his childhood in a workhouse which his family never visited. Why didn't he just give up? This is a stunning book about the human will to survive and make something of life. You feel you are with Stanley in the jungle and on the great rivers. You understand what it took to travel aross the continent when malaria killed scores of explorers. No maps, no transport except human porterage, and walking for months and even years and facing more dangers than can be imagined. Yet Stanley needed love like the rest of us and after numerous disasters, eventually found it. A terrific unputdownable book.
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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding biography, 6 Mar 2007
Think you know all about Stanley? He asked, "Dr Livingstone, I presume?" Right? Wrong actually. And lots else is wrong about the usual way Stanley is seen. He tried to oppose Leopold's land grab on the Congo rather than carried it out, and was appalled by what went on there after he left Africa. The author of this book has seen scores of letters no-one else has read and retells Stanley's amazing story as it really happened and not as his enemies later made out. A fascinating and convincing revisionary read.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet the very human Henry Stanley, 5 Mar 2007
This biography is incredibly moving and revealing. It is a miracle that Stanley ever became one of the all time great explorers - perhaps the greatest. He was abandoned by his parents at birth and later dumped in a Welsh workhouse by his uncles from age six to fifteen - enough to wreck any life one would think. But Stanley survived this disaster by re-inventing himself. First he emigrated to America,where he pretended he had been adopted so he could tell his unloving and selfish family that someone else had truly valued him. He then proved his worth to them by becoming a successful journalist and then by carrying out the first and most surprising celebrity interview in history, finding Dr Livingstone in central Africa. With new papers, Tim Jeal tells the story of all Stanley's romances with women - many of them very sad, as when the rich woman who married him did so when really loving another man and only married Stanley for his fame. Stanley comes across as a complicated but trusting man who wanted to believe in people but was often deceived by them. With his great journeys he ended the unsolved geographical mysteries of cenral Africa. Jeal's descriptions of these journeys are detailed and very gripping and show just how brave a man he was. In his greatest journey he traced the Congo to the Atlantic and lost half his expedition -either killed by Africans, or by fever, or drowned shooting rapids. This was a man who was thrown away but through immense courage claimed a place in history. He loved his adopted son as no-one had ever loved him. A moving end to his story.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating piece of Victorian history, 17 Mar 2007
By 
Tobias Steed - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I first came to Tim Jeal's writing when I read his fascinating biography of Baden-Powell. His new biography of the intrepid adventurer and explorer Henry Stanley makes BP look like a boy scout. Stanley had a shockingly bad start in life but went on to have one of the most amazingly varied lives you could imagine. Well imagine no more. Jeal, with the help of new sources in Belgium, paints an entrancing portrait and for the first time gives a reliable and intimate picture of Stanley's private life, and a very exciting description of his journeys. He also shows that Stanley has been unjustly accused of brutality, and always opposed the exploitation of Africans. It is tragic to learn how often Stanley was betrayed, but quite remarkable that through it all achieved so much with his life. It's a big book for a BIG man, just under 500 pages, thoroughly researched, balanced and a pleasurable and fascinating read. What's next?
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Adventure, 29 May 2007
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In one of these reviews a gentleman has said the truth about Stanley should not be known in light of the tragedy of events in the Congo. That man acts as if he has read this book cover to cover. Maybe if he had as I have he would have known that his argument is way off base.

Stanley cared about the African people. He devoted his life to leading the fight against slavery and was beloved by his Wangwana followers. He died just as King Leopold's evil schemes came to light. One can call him blinded by Leopold's rank and lies but to be honest every major statesman in Europe at the time believed Leopold was a good guy and didn't know of his slave labour ideas or the way people in the Congo were being killed and mutilated.

Moreover recent history in the Congo has NOTHING to do with Stanley but again we are reminded that because it is a sad place now it is ok for Stanley's good name to be dragged through the mud. It is precisely because of such injustice that the truth must be told. He was a great man, not perfect but a good man too.

Read it for yourself and don't be put off by people with an agenda of their own. Quite how it is insensitive to rescue a good man's reputation when others suffering was not affected by him in any way is beyond me. Respect the Congo's brutal history, cry for it, but to cry is not to defame the dead who should be honored.

Read it today too, it's a great read, best book ever in my view. But then it's my current flavour of the month. Last month it was Toll's 'Six Frigates' . :)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Redressing the balance, 30 April 2008
By 
Big Jim "Big Jim" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Unfortunately a couple of reviewers have given this book one star based on their own prejudices rather than on the merits or otherwise of this book. So to redress this balance I give a well deserved 5 stars because quite simply this is one of the best biographies I have read for years. I have read The Scramble for Africa, and King Leopold's Ghost, and this book does nothing but add to the knowledge and understanding of this specific period of history. I think this book is remarkably well balanced, trully "warts and all", but it opens Stanley up for inspection in a vivid and detailed manner. Of course with the benefit of hindsight we can instantly pick at all of Stanley's faults, but he was of his time, a remarkable man then and would be now and if we should berate him for anything it is that he seems to be amongst the first to have mastered journalistic "spin". So he wasn't shy in emphasising his "successes" and burying the less wonderful aspects of his experiences and there are passages detailing brutality that still shock but there are more accounts of his bravery, his willingness to alleviate natives' suffering and a genuine wish to "explore" that he surely comes out ahead of the game in that regard. His was a fascinating and endlessly exciting life and this book offers a gripping account of it
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 12 Jun 2007
By 
Minutor (London, Engand) - See all my reviews
As a committed Afrophile I always felt perplexed by Stanley; I generally accepted the negative post-colonial view of Stanley and indeed the view of some during his lifetime. I often wondered if this man from very humble beginnings was indeed the racist monster he was often portrayed as. Tim Jeal's excellent revisionist biography of Stanley is superbly written, very well researched and well balanced. Jeal portrays a man who by the standards of his day was not racist, a man whose toughness and resolve is astounding and a man whose exploration journeys almost defy modern comprehension. Sure Stanley was not perfect and he did live in a more sanguinary time but by any standards it is clear he was not the monster he has so often been portrayed as; Stanley and many of his fellow travellers deserve this biography.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. Clears up the life of the worlds greatest explorer, 6 Mar 2009
By 
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"Dr Livingstone, I presume?". One of the most famous quotes in history attributed to Stanley which, in fact, he never said! This book gets behind the man, discovers what made him become the greatest explorer of his generation and also reveals that despite being painted as a racist brute in latter years, he actually despised slavery and treated his fellow African travellers with the utmost respect. Born into a poor Welsh family, educated in a workhouse, emigrated to America in his early 20's, Stanley (Or John Rowlands as he was actually called) had so many adventures that's it's incredible that just one man lived accomplished so much.

Read this book and you'll discover the truth behind Stanley, the reasons he did what he did and if you ever find yourself surrounded by hostile man eating cannibals (you never know!) ask yourself, would I act any differently ?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb historical rescue mission, 20 Sep 2008
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This really is a magnificent biography. Well written, gripping and shedding new light on a fascinating & complex subject. Most people will know no more about Stanley than "Dr Livingstone, I presume?", but this book expertly cuts through the many myths and misunderstandings that have dogged Stanley's reputation for over a century. What we are left with is a portrait of a unique individual who certainly managed to keep his head while all around were losing theirs. The excesses for which Stanley took the blame are largely shown to have been the work of others, indeed, the utterly dreadful behaviour of some of his British officers during the infamous 'Rear Column' episode only highlights Stanley's own strength of character.
Like the expeditions it describes -- Long, sometimes harrowing, complex but ultimately totally absorbing.
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