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The Lower River by [Theroux, Paul]
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The Lower River Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Review

"It's a particular kind of frightening fun to watch evil flexing and spreading its leathery wings, and really feel it. "The Lower River" gives the reader just that." -- "The New York Review of Books" ""The Lower River" is riveting in its storytelling and provocative in its depiction of this African backwater, infusing both with undertones of slavery and cannibalism, savagery and disease. Theroux exposes paternalism in Hock's Peace Corps nostalgia, his 'sense of responsibility, almost a conceit of ownership.' That sense of responsibility, and Hock's modest contribution to the welfare of a people he was once genuinely fond of, has been replaced by a harsher mode of operation, run by coldhearted contractors living apart in impregnable compounds. 'I have to leave, ' Hock pleads. 'I'm going home.' To which the village headman replies, with chilling menace, 'This is your home, father.' " -- "New York Times Book Review" "[Hock] knows he is ensorcelled by exoticism, but he can't help himself. And, as things go from bad to worse and the pages start to turn faster, neither can we. A."--"Entertainment Weekly"
"Theroux's bravely unsentimental novel about a region where he began his own grand career should become part of anybody's education in the continent."--"Washington Post"
"In this hypnotically compelling fiction, [Theroux] wrestles with questions of good intentions and harsh reality...A gripping and vital novel that reads like Conrad or Greene--in short, a classic." -- Booklist, starred "Theroux successfully grafts keen observations about the efficacy of international aid and the nature of nostalgia to a swift-moving narrative through a beautifully described landscape." -- PW, starred "Extraordinary...The suspense is enriched by Theroux's loving attention to local customs and his subversive insights...Theroux has recaptured the sweep and density of his 1981 masterpiece The Mosquito Coast. That's some achievement." -- Kirkus, starred "Theroux's latest can be read as straight-up suspense, but those unafraid of following him into the heart of darkness will be rewarded with much to discuss in this angry, ironic depiction of misguided philanthropy in a country dense with natural resources yet unable to feed its people." -- Library Journal

"It s a particular kind of frightening fun to watch evil flexing and spreading its leathery wings, and really feel it. "The Lower River" gives the reader just that." -- "The New York Review of Books" ""The Lower River" is riveting in its storytelling and provocative in its depiction of this African backwater, infusing both with undertones of slavery and cannibalism, savagery and disease. Theroux exposes paternalism in Hock s Peace Corps nostalgia, his sense of responsibility, almost a conceit of ownership. That sense of responsibility, and Hock s modest contribution to the welfare of a people he was once genuinely fond of, has been replaced by a harsher mode of operation, run by coldhearted contractors living apart in impregnable compounds. I have to leave, Hock pleads. I m going home. To which the village headman replies, with chilling menace, This is your home, father. " -- "New York Times Book Review" [Hock] knows he is ensorcelled by exoticism, but he can t help himself. And, as things go from bad to worse and the pages start to turn faster, neither can we. A. "Entertainment Weekly"
Theroux s bravely unsentimental novel about a region where he began his own grand career should become part of anybody s education in the continent. "Washington Post"
"In this hypnotically compelling fiction, [Theroux] wrestles with questions of good intentions and harsh reality...A gripping and vital novel that reads like Conrad or Greene in short, a classic." -- Booklist, starred "Theroux successfully grafts keen observations about the efficacy of international aid and the nature of nostalgia to a swift-moving narrative through a beautifully described landscape." -- PW, starred"Extraordinary...The suspense is enriched by Theroux s loving attention to local customs and his subversive insights...Theroux has recaptured the sweep and density of his 1981 masterpiece The Mosquito Coast. That s some achievement." -- Kirkus, starred "Theroux's latest can be read as straight-up suspense, but those unafraid of following him into the heart of darkness will be rewarded with much to discuss in this angry, ironic depiction of misguided philanthropy in a country dense with natural resources yet unable to feed its people." -- Library Journal "

From the Back Cover

[Hock] knows he is ensorcelled by exoticism, but he can t help himself. And, as things go from bad to worse and the pages start to turn faster, neither can we. A. Entertainment Weekly
When he was a young man, Ellis Hock spent four of the best years of his life with the Peace Corps in Malawi. So when his wife of forty-two years leaves him, he decides to return to the village where he was stationed in search of the happiness he d been missing since he left. But what he finds is not what he expected. The school he built is a ruin, the church and clinic are gone, and poverty and apathy have set in among the people.
They remember Ellis and welcome him with open arms. Soon, however, their overtures turn menacing; they demand money and refuse to let him leave the village. Is his new life an escape or a trap?
Theroux s bravely unsentimental novel about a region where he began his own grand career should become part of anybody s education in the continent. Washington Post
The Lower River is riveting in its storytelling and provocative in its depiction of this African backwater, infusing both with undertones of slavery and cannibalism, savagery and disease. New York Times Book Review
[AU PHOTO] PAUL THEROUX s highly acclaimed novels include Hotel Honolulu and The Mosquito Coast. His travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, and The Happy Isles of Oceania.
"

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1016 KB
  • Print Length: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (31 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007TB5PE4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #82,431 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ellis Hock is at a crossroads in his life. His marriage has broken down, his daughter is not speaking to him, his business has been sold and many empty years of retirement is looming on the horizon. So he decides to go back to the only place he remembers being truly happy - A small village called Malabo on the Lower River in Malawi, where he taught English while he was in the Peace Corps. Where he fell in love, spent many happy hours in blissful occupation, and lived entirely at peace with his surroundings. Over 40 years ago.

But the homecoming Hock has been anticipating (with some apprehension) is not as glorious as he hoped it might be. The Africa he left behind, a country of community, friendliness, naivety, gratitude and culture has been through a violent change. Capitalism, drought, poverty and disease has changed Malabo into a darker place - And Hock finds the tables have turned in the relationship between the villagers and the rich mzungu; White Man.

Theroux has produced an African setting which is pulsating with white heat, dust and dying vegetation. It is vivid and perfectly pitched, you can almost feel the 'corrosive sun' which beats down on Malabo. The narration is hypnotic, slow, as if sedated by the African heat, always intensely atmospheric. There is a tension in the story which feels like an unnamed menace or dark shadow hidden just beyond view, and it compels the reader to turn the pages. You can't help but get drawn in.

It's not all good though - I found Hock's gloomy defeatism frustrating after a while, his pensive self-pity getting in the way of him helping himself too many times.
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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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