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Informative, yet Dissatisfying
on 25 September 2015
Three stars is in response to the overwhelming positive reception of this book as much as it is of the quality of it.
As a preparatory travel guide of the Congo this is quite an informative read. Indeed, the primary asset of this book is the tonal information.
Tim Butcher's writing style is generally mechanical and I found that his feigning-passion to be flair's antithesis. This would not be a criticism if I were commenting on a newspaper article -- where I would appreciate objective observation. But in the case of Blood River I felt disappointingly underwhelmed. For here is an account of a man who -- against all odds -- traversed one of the world's most precarious rivers and yet was seemingly only moved superficially; his physical journey had not stirred a comparable inner-journey, or if it had he refrained from sharing it in the book. Perhaps this lack of personal revelation is due to Tim Butcher's trip intentionally being an imitation of Henry Morton Stanley's 1880s expedition.
...as I'm writing this review I'm wondering if I'm being overly critical...but, no...the number of times he goes into trivial details of how he got official permissions and visas and the like, and the triviality of his sanitation etc but never properly raised-up the spirit of the common Congolese people is demonstration enough of the state of mind that accents this book...the clue is in the title, I suppose.