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Brazzaville Beach Paperback – 25 Feb 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 108 customer reviews

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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 (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,201,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Utterly engaging. . . . A novel of ideas, of big themes. . . . William Boyd is a champion storyteller."--The New York Times Book Review

Utterly engaging. . . . A novel of ideas, of big themes. . . . William Boyd is a champion storyteller. --The New York Times Book Review" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

In the heart of a civil war torn African nation, primate researcher Hope Clearwater made a shocking discovery about apes and man. . . .

Young, alone, and far from her family in Britain, Hope Clearwater contemplates the extraordinary events that left her washed up like driftwood on Brazzaville Beach. It is here, on the distant, lonely outskirts of Africa, where she must come to terms with the perplexing and troubling circumstances of her recent past. For Hope is a survivor of the devastating cruelties of apes and humans alike. And to move forward, she must first grasp some hard and elusive truths: about marriage and madness, about the greed and savagery of charlatan science, and about what compels seemingly benign creatures to kill for pleasure alone.

" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

By A. Ross TOP 1000 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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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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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 night.....it 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 denouement...read it, you won't be disappointed. "Brazzaville Beach" will definitely enter my list of top 10 all time fave reads.
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Format: Paperback
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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