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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 22 September 2012
Having grown up watching documentary series such as Survival and graduating to the modern BBC series of 'Life' and 'Planet Earth' I was keen to read this autobiography of someone so involved in business end of the creation of such films. Alan Root's book gives us a wonderful insight into the adventures of the wildlife cameraman. I like to think that if i'd read this book twenty years ago, i'd have given such filming a shot myself, but am probably not brave enough! His narrative style and understated modisty of what must have been some exciting, and in places, truly terrifying events, result in a readable rendition of enviable adventure stories. The contents of the book seem to resemble an account of the Willard Price adventure books I enjoyed as a youngster. Root's obvious love of the flora and fauna come across in each chapter and I am found it a compelling read. For those who love natural history, the story of conservation as well as adventure, and would like to see 'behind the scenes' of those groundbreaking documentaries, this book is well worth it. My wife is now enjoying the book herself! It should come with a warning that it might make you want to say goodbye to health and safety and head into the wilds yourself to see what spots of bother you can get into. A great read!
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on 21 October 2012
As a keen photographer and lifetime fan of wildlife and associated documentaries I found this book to be a perfect add on to my interest in the subjects. The writer is humorous and honest and tells a good tale. The subject material is treated fairly and with some sympathy. Well worth a read and for dipping into time and again.
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on 12 April 2013
A must read. Breathtaking, enthralling, gripping, thrilling, funny, self-deprecating, laconic, tragic, a veritable page-turner ... think of any term you might use to describe a beautifully written adventure story with larger than life characters and it's not sufficient to do justice to Alan Root's autobiography Ivory, Apes and Peacocks. Household names to my generation like Armand and Michaela Denis, TV Survival programmes, they were only a front for Alan's astonishing wildlife films. Alan and his first wife, Joan, introduced Diane Fosse to her gorillas in the mist; they introduced the world to air balloons for tourists. Alan discovered hitherto unknown characteristics of known and of legendary unseen species. He pioneered so many innovations in wildlife photography all the while honouring and respecting their natural habitat that he has won several lifetime achievement awards as well as the scars of a hippopotamus bite, a hand destroyed by a puff adder bite and life threatening encounters with silverback gorillas and with a motorbike in the vast uninhabited Congo rainforests. And if you want to read more it highlights the two problems with this book. 1: it finishes; 2: there's no promise of a second volume. Please, please somebody make a boxset of Alan's films ... Then we'd have multiple volumes to entertain and educate us. Did I like it? At least as much as you will!
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on 18 June 2014
One of the best wildlife books I have read. If you are a fan of Durrell then read this. He is mention a few times as are the Adamsons and miss Fossey. Shortley after reading i headed to the DRC to see Ivory (well just elephant ung and footprints) apes (bonobos) and peacocks (congo peacock). Alans a great camera man and very inventive. I plan to recreate some of his ideas.
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on 23 November 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed this memoire of those carefree heady days in African learning and enjoying about the fauna and flora of Africa which I have only experienced as a tourist on short holidays.

What a marvellous childhood and young adulthood lead to Alan's immersion in his life as a naturalist and cameraman the product of which we take for granted back in the UK. Thanks so much for this book Alan... marvellous.

I hope Emily the chimpanzee really did clean the house!!!
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on 2 November 2016
My daughter gave me this book as a Christmas present in 2015 and it has been in my bedside locker until now, waiting for the right moment to start reading it. I grew up in Kenya, and have seen most of Alan's films, and he, and his late wife Joan, are legends here. It was wonderful to immerse myself in this book, and re-live so much of what was in his films, and learn more about the making of them and his journey from assistant wildlife photographer to having full control over all his films. His writing style is unpretentious and flows easily, and his rapport with and love for wildlife is very apparent, sometimes humorous, sometimes factual, frequently dangerous, and at times terribly sad, as when he observes the mother elephant returning to mourn over her dead baby. It was also fascinating to learn of the chance meetings with other well-known names in the wildlife field, such as Dian Fossey, and his early involvement with her, showing her the gorillas that she grew to love & know so deeply. This is a must read for anyone interested in African wildlife - or simply to enjoy a delightfully written memoir on a fascinating subject.
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on 31 March 2016
I enjoyed this book from start to finish. A really good tale of the African bush and some about his personal life. I was very interested to read his
version of things after his marriage to Joan fell apart, having just read Wildflower (life of Joan Root)
Such a shame after all he and Joan had done together that Jenny came into his life. And again a shame that Joan wasted so many years of her life waiting and hoping for him to come back. Reading Wildflower I had the hope throughout that he would go back to her....reading Alan's book it was obvious he was never going to. But she eventually turned her life around even though it ended sadly and after Jenny had gone Alan finds love again and starts a family. However much of this book is not about that...but about the amazing bush and life in Africa's Congo and Kenya. Alan was a real young man of Africa..unafraid, daring, modest and funny and led a very exciting life which actually got him somewhere as opposed to many good folks who tried for years to make a success of a life in Africa and got nowhere. As the title suggests--more about Africa's birds and gorillas with less about big game animals.
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on 12 February 2014
This is the best written autobiography I have ever read, full of wit and truth. It is the record of a life spent among the people and wild animals of Africa, filming them for the rest of us to see and appreciate. I have viewed some of Alan's films and they are works of patience and endurance, courage and thoughtfulness, this book has the same attributes.
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on 8 April 2014
I simply could not put the book down especially as I met Alan Root and was working in Kenya at the time a lot of the story was being experienced and can vouch for the authenticity and the air of East Africa that he recreates so vividly.
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on 17 October 2016
Absolutely captivating, written with flair, eloquence and passion. I have always loved the writings of Gerald Durrell and when I read that Alan Root actually knew him (and found him amazing and hilarious too!!) I was even more struck with this book. An EXCELLENT read for anyone who loves the African bush.
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