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The Pale Abyssinian: The Life of James Bruce, African Explorer and Adventurer Paperback – 5 Mar 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New edition edition (5 Mar. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006387403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006387404
  • Package Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 735,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

How is it that James Bruce is not better known? His is the most extraordinary life story, a tale of adventure and derring-do in the grand old tradition. We think of the 19th-century David Livingstone as a great African explorer but Livingstone himself called Bruce "a greater traveller than any of us", a man who explored the sources of the River Nile a hundred years earlier. Near the beginning of this marvellous biography Bredin summarises his subject's travels: "Bruce had crossed the Nubian Desert, climbed the bandit-bedevilled mountains of Abyssinia, been shipwrecked off the North African coast and sentenced to death in Sudan. He had lived with the rulers of undiscovered kingdoms and slept with their daughters, been granted titles and lands by barbarian warlords and had then returned--more or less intact--to the place of his birth, a small town near the Firth of Forth. So extraordinary were Bruce's adventures that he was widely disbelieved by polite British society on his return and stigmatised as a liar. Yet Bredin has been able, by travelling Bruce's way, to demonstrate just how much of this fantastical adventure story is actually true.

Bredin's wonderful enthusiasm for his subject and his subject's odyssey shines on every page of this biography. Some of the emphases perhaps stray a little into the realm of the cranky. His chapter 5, for instance, speculates about the lost Ark of the Covenant, believed by some to be in Abyssinia (Bredin concedes that he has drawn heavily on Graham Hancock's The Sign and the Seal: A Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant for this section). But in general the reader is swept along by Bruce's overpowering personality and his amazing adventures. --Adam Roberts --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


’A wonderful story, splendidly retold’ Anthony Daniels, Sunday Telegraph

’Bruce emerges from this penetrating and original study as one of the toughest, bravest, most effective and learned of British African pioneers’ Robert Carver, Times Literary Supplement

’An excellent account of the man and his travels… James Bruce was a larger-than-life character whose exploits deserved retelling and whose reputation sorely demanded rehabilitation. The Pale Abyssinian does both of them proud’ Michael Thompson-Noel, Financial Times

’The purpose of Bredin’s book is to restore Bruce’s reputation, but he does much more than that. He allows us to glimpse the barbarous splendour of a still-medieval Ethiopia’ Giles Milton, Mail on Sunday

’An interesting story dashingly told’ Philip Hensher, Spectator

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on 3 June 2002
Format: Paperback
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on 8 April 2001
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Format: Hardcover
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on 24 November 2002
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