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Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart

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4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  5,303 Ratings  ·  487 Reviews
A compulsively readable account of a journey to the Congo — a country virtually inaccessible to the outside world — vividly told by a daring and adventurous journalist.

Ever since Stanley first charted its mighty river in the 1870s, the Congo has epitomized the dark and turbulent history of a failed continent. However, its troubles only served to increase the interest of Da
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Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 3rd 2008 by Vintage (first published July 3rd 2007)
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Paul Bryant
Dec 22, 2009 Paul Bryant rated it liked it
Shelves: africa
Note :

Tim Butcher is officially a diamond geezer. He's just joined Goodreads and read my review below and still sent me a thank you message today. Rereading the below review, I think some authors could have taken umbrage because, well, it's actually quite cheeky. The word pompous is used. Some fun is poked. Given some of the frankly unsavoury, if not downright ugly, author/reviewer encounters there have been on this site, I therefore salute Tim.


***


A BOOK WHICH DESERVES TWO REVIEWS – FIRST, THE
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Sarah
Jul 31, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: DRC workers
Recommended to Sarah by: Noel
I read this book on the airplane during my epic 42 hour flight from Papua New Guinea to South Carolina. It kept my attention despite my incredible fatigue and anxiety. But I had mixed feelings about it.

At first, it annoyed the hell out of me. He kept going on and on about his fear and how scary the Congo is. The Congo is scary. However, the people in the Congo are amongst some of the most amazingly friendly, hospital, and cheerful helpful people in Africa. While he gradually did give some shout
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orsodimondo
IL FIUME CHE INGHIOTTE TUTTI I FIUMI
Libro che mi è piaciuto molto, ma che prima di iniziare guardavo con scarsa fiducia: copertina mediocre, titolo brutto, retorico, a effetto (il solito effetto che sfrutta Conrad e la tenebra) – il trionfo della banalità.

description
Henry Morton Stanley (28.01.1841–10.05.1904) scrisse: Chi controllerà il grande fiume avrà sotto controllo la grande autostrada per i traffici dell'Africa. Nel 1878 Leopoldo II lo mandò nelle foreste congolesi per stipulare ingannevoli contratt
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Caroline
Mar 25, 2013 Caroline rated it really liked it
Recommended to Caroline by: Mikey B
Shelves: world
In 2004 Tim Butcher realised his dream of crossing the Congo from side to side. It’s an enormous country with hugely challenging terrain. He was following in the footsteps of his hero, Henry Stanley – he of “Dr. Livingstone I presume” fame. They shared a link. Both Butcher and Stanley were journalists working for The Telegraph newspaper in London.

Tim Butcher
Tim Butcher

In some way his trip was every bit as difficult as that experienced by Stanley. Exhaustingly high levels of humidity and heat, matted rainf
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Lars
Oct 10, 2011 Lars rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, africa
I love travelogues. And I am very interested in Africa and its history. Therefore, I was very curious for this book which describes one of the most challenging travels in contemporary Africa: Starting at Lake Tanganjika and ending at the Atlantic Ocean where the river Congo completes his journey of thousands of kilometers. I was very impressed by the speed the author managed to finish his journey. It took him about six weeks – a real sprint compared to the man who went this way first, Henry Mort ...more
Trish
Oct 20, 2009 Trish rated it really liked it
What is it with me and muggy, hot, equatorial places and rivers? Like the book The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann, Blood River recounts the tale of Tim Butcher's crazy obsession to the trace the routes of a great explorer, Stanley in this case, through the Congo. While the rest of the world has become more accessible in the past half century, these two equatorial locales on different continents show that winning a battle (finding a route, establishing a f ...more
Yogi Travelling
Feb 11, 2017 Yogi Travelling rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa
Wow!

Gripping, intense, adventurous!

As someone who loves adventure and travel, I absolutely loved this book!

People not familiar with travel may think the author may have exaggerated with his story but all you have to do is look at Congo today...

Today Congo is a lawless state. The author (for his own reasons) travelled across the country which seems pretty insane given the situation in the country... First overland to the Congo River then across it to its mouth at the Atlantic...

The Congo, deep in
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Tanya
Feb 21, 2017 Tanya rated it really liked it
In 2004 journalist and historian Tim Butcher set out to retrace the 1874-77 route of legendary explorer Henry Morton Stanley (of "Dr. Livingstone, I presume" fame) across the Congo to the mouth of the river on Africa's west coast. A few years ago I read King Leopold's Ghost which spells out the horrifying years of King Leopold of Belgium's rape of the region. The history presented in this book largely picks up where that one left off, with the 1908 Belgian annexation of the region which was prec ...more
Tom
Mar 07, 2015 Tom rated it it was amazing
Amazing read of Butcher's journey Westward to the mouth of the Congo River, following Dr. Stanley's trip from the 1870s. It starts with a 700km bike ride through footpaths to the Eastern starting point, and then follows him as uses canoes, UN ships, and cars to navigate to the starting point over several months.

Along the way he includes history about Dr. Stanley's journey, which he is tracing. Because of the 50 years of instability (more often chaos), in the Congo, Butcher may have been the fir
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Apratim Mukherjee
Oct 23, 2016 Apratim Mukherjee rated it it was amazing
This book doesn't deserve less than five stars in my opinion because Mr.Butcher,while completing this dangerous assignment,never forgot he was a journalist too. He made me see DRC through his eyes.His writing style is awesome and often when you feel its too monotonous, he pauses and writes about the days when Stanley was there in his place.The only thing I missed were the photographs of his adventure.
It is sad to note that DRC is 'undeveloping'.The author also asks some serious questions to the
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Gail Kirby
Sep 12, 2015 Gail Kirby rated it it was amazing
Excellent. The text was clear and had enough reference material to give it serious credibility. It was compelling enough that I reread Heart of Darkness while reading Blood River, I rented the movies Blood Diamonds and Rawanda, pulled out my copy of Poisonwood Bible and bought a copy of Dancing in the Glory of Monsters.

Although billed as a travel book, it's also a political commentary by the author. His passion is sincere and mildly contagious. I don't think the answer is as simple as elections
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Mikey B.
Nov 21, 2012 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing
This is a very engaging, but at the same time, disturbing story of this man’s journey on the Congo River.

Mr. Butcher gives us many moving impressions of life in this part of the world – and it is for the most part not very pretty. He meets a wide array of characters, most of who have been deeply affected by the violence and poverty in the Congo. There are many enduring images from this book. The four Africans who took him by pirogue (a type of canoe) up a part of the Congo left a very forlorn fe
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Huw Turner
Jun 04, 2015 Huw Turner rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-paperback
For lovers of Africa, travel writing or sheer adventurism. Tim takes the reader on a vividly narrated journey into the heart of the Congo. Partly recreating Stanley's original expedition, and expertly intertwining that great undertaking with his own adventures, Tim takes on challenges, extreme adversity and genuinely uplifting experiences. Fast paced but with great attention to detail, this is a terrific read.
Henna Pääkkönen
Jun 04, 2014 Henna Pääkkönen rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
I love travel books in general and liked this one in particular as this is not simply cultural exposure but rather a combination of history, politics and adventure faced by the author.

Tim Butchers book was a very insightful and vivid writing about the authors promise to follow Stanleys footsteps and trek across the DRC. Great reading and learning about the history of this country and about the adventure that Butcher had there. His account shows the backward spiral that this country, full of natu
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Katy Larkman
Apr 29, 2015 Katy Larkman rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Blood River, Tim Butcher's account of his travelling the Congo river in a 21st century recreation of Stanley's journey, has plenty of interest. There is a brief history of the Congo; an introduction to Stanley's journey & its legacy; a brief examination of the implications of colonialism; an astonishing & gruelling personal journey; & vignettes of people he meets during that journey.

Tim's outrage at so many people living lives that could be snuffed out so easily (from disease, viole
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Jim
Nov 21, 2010 Jim rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I was surprised by the lack of blood in the book to be honest. Despite the author's continual expressions of fear and terror on his journey, he somehow fails to convey it other than by just saying so. The dreaded Mau Mau are glimpsed but not engaged with, and the massacres that often happened in the past aren't rendered in a way that makes much of an impact. I also became a bit tired with the subtext that seemed to say all the Congo's problems are rooted in the problems laid by the Belgian Empir ...more
Wendy Unsworth
Feb 15, 2012 Wendy Unsworth rated it it was amazing
This is the story of the re-tracing of Henry Morton Stanley's crossing of Africa; it makes for fascinating reading. The journey is interspersed with sections going back to Stanley's epic journey, so it is part history, part travelogue.
There is no doubt about the dangers of undertaking such a journey and this is very evident in the account. It tells of the Congo's history of colonialism, dictatorship and war and a country in horrifying present-day decline.
I particularly enjoyed the encounters wi
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Alex
Jan 26, 2008 Alex rated it liked it
Journalist Tim Butcher makes the improbable journey overland from the Great Lakes to the Congo River and down to the coast in 2004, as the various wars in the Congo continued sporadically despite the formal end to hostilities. If you want to understand IRC's recent figure of 5.4 million excess deaths in the Congo since 1997, read this book. Butcher stumbles onto dying villages stranded in the forest as roads built in the 1950s are reclaimed by the jungle, settlements freshly burned down by milit ...more
ATJG
Jun 22, 2015 ATJG added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
"And we fled into the bush."

Last night I finished Blood River. This morning I requested a dozen books on the History of the Congo at the library. Tim Butcher is an excellent introduction to a complicated place. What works so well in this book is that Butcher fashions the narrative of his own journey through the DRC around an elegantly retold history. The final sixty or so pages are the finest in the book and the end is surprisingly affecting.
Katrina Baumann
Jun 06, 2016 Katrina Baumann rated it really liked it
A very interesting look at the extremely difficult and dangerous journey following in Stanley's footsteps through the Congo.
Fiona Hurley
Oct 14, 2016 Fiona Hurley rated it it was amazing
Some years ago I came across the term resource curse, "the paradox that countries with an abundance of natural resources, specifically non-renewable resources like minerals and fuels, tend to have less economic growth, less democracy, and worse development outcomes than countries with fewer natural resources" (thank you wikipedia). Perhaps the most obvious example of resource curse is the Democratic Republic of Congo. The DRC is insanely rich in mineral wealth and yet one of the poorest and most ...more
Evelyn Howatt
Feb 05, 2017 Evelyn Howatt rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book but did find it to be rather sensationalized. I have been to many of these places (i live in Congo) including Kasongo, Kindu, and Kisangani and they really aren't all that ominous and miserable as he makes them out to be in this book.
Margaret Murray
Nov 11, 2011 Margaret Murray rated it it was amazing
""A masterpiece," John Le Carre writes about Tim Butcher's journalistic travel memoir and I agree. Prepare for your heart to be wrenched when you read Blood River, A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart. But you may not notice it in the excitement and danger of the ride. There's the magnificent and ominous Congo River landscape, the present terror, the valor of the victimized native people, the greed of the exploiters of the river's resources (native and colonizers alike) and the intrepid European e ...more
Louise
Apr 16, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing
Tim Butcher is to be saluted for making and recording this extraordinary trip. It was every bit as dangerous as Stanley's, if not more. He faced the same diseases and supply problems as Stanley and his men. While armed enemies haunted Stanley, Mr. Butcher is vulnerable to more powerful weapons and is traveling essentially alone.

Descriptions of the former civilization are striking, especially coupled with the author's observations of time going backwards. Mr. Butcher describes hotels, roads, func
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Norbert Mbu-mputu
Sep 16, 2013 Norbert Mbu-mputu rated it it was amazing
A century after the memorable journey of his Daily Telegraph colleague Henry Morton Stanley who mapped the Congo basin and then the now Congo country from its source to its mouth at Boma, Tim Butcher made the same journey, from Lubumbashi to Boma. This time, he chose the after war period. It was a real challenge and this book is in fact the celebration of such achievement. The journalist, like his former fellow, become the voice of the voiceless (what about those millions of the Rwandese refugee ...more
Alicia
Dec 29, 2013 Alicia rated it really liked it
After several days of reflection, I will increase this rating to four stars. I read this book as I was reading Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild . It proved to be an interesting comparison and contrast, which I hadn't expected. This book is about a man's obsession to recreate Stanley's 19th century expedition through the Congo's interior.

As for comparisons: both books were written by journalists, and reinforced my belief that journalists do not make good writers. Tom Wolfe may be an exception to th
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Arno
Jan 18, 2015 Arno rated it really liked it
Books like Tim Butcher's "Blood River," wherein an intrepid foreign correspondent traipses into the "broken heart" of "Africa" have a tendency to fall into the tired and often offensive cliches that mark the Western media's depiction of a wildly diverse continent. Indeed, the blurb on the back of my edition of the book describing Butcher was possibly the last Victorian-era style explorer seemed as much a curse as a blessing. But in the end, the book skirted these risks and delivered a highly ent ...more
Ka Wing
Mar 30, 2016 Ka Wing rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Many have followed the travel routes of famous explorers in recent years: Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan, and the many attempts to follow the Silk Road or Wilfred Thesiger's Empty Quarter. Few, however, have attempted Stanley's route across the Congo, and the reasons were simple: It was too frustrating, too physically demanding, and most importantly - too dangerous.

This is most likely to be one of the best travel accounts about the Congo for a long time, and this is not just a piece of g
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Tom Collin
Nov 13, 2013 Tom Collin rated it it was amazing
Awesome yarn that combines the fantastic account of the author's trek down the Congo river, and a brief history of Congo free state/Congo/Zaire/DRC. The historical anecdotes are effortless weaved into the narrative, making this an extremely enjoyable and informative read.

I read this whilst in-country, which added to the experience, as I continuously sought to find aspects of Butcher's tale in what I saw myself, 6 years after the publishing of the book. Things have somewhat improved, but I don't
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James Martin
Nov 09, 2016 James Martin rated it really liked it
I found Tim Butcher's Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart in an English pub in Bangkok, and ended up reading most of it on a series of flights around the Middle East (far more interesting than anything available on Qatar Airways' in-flight entertainment system). I really enjoyed Butcher's honest style of writing and the mix of history, current events, and personal experience detailed in this book. He does not pretend to know how to solve all of the Congo's problems, but instead descr ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: sorting out glitches in an author ppage 10 161 Jul 30, 2014 02:18AM  
  • Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey into the Heart of Darkness
  • No Mercy: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo (Vintage Departures)
  • In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo
  • The Black Nile: One Man's Amazing Journey Through Peace and War on the World's Longest River
  • Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles To Timbuktu
  • Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa
  • Travels into the Interior of Africa
  • The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari
  • The Zanzibar Chest
  • Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe
  • A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa
  • Malaria Dreams: An African Adventure
  • Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria
  • Tropical Gangsters: One Man's Experience with Development and Decadence in Deepest Africa
  • Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles
  • The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda
  • Travels in West Africa
  • House of Stone: The True Story of a Family Divided in War-Torn Zimbabwe
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Tim Butcher is a best-selling British author, journalist and broadcaster. Born in 1967, he was on the staff of The Daily Telegraph from 1990 to 2009, covering conflicts across the Balkans, Middle East and Africa. Recognised in 2010 with an honorary doctorate for services to writing and awarded the Mungo Park Medal for exploration by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, he is based with his fam ...more
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“….So much crueller than any British colony, they say, so much more brutal towards the local Africans, so much more manipulative after begrudgingly granting independence. But the history of British colonialism in Africa, from Sierra Leone to Zimbabwe, Kenya to Botswana and else-where, is not fundamentally different from what Belgium did in the Congo. You can argue about degree, but both systems were predicated on the same assumption: that white outsiders knew best and Africans were to be treated not as partners, but as underlings. What the British did in Kenya to suppress the pro-independence mau-mau uprising in the 1950s, using murder, torture and mass imprisonment, was no more excusable than the mass arrests and political assassinations committed by Belgium when it was trying to cling on to the Congo. And the outside world's tolerance of a dictator in the Congo like Mobutu, whose corruption and venality were overlooked for strategic expedience, was no different from what happened in Zimbabwe, where the dictator Robert Mugabe was allowed to run his country and its people into the ground because Western powers gullibly accepted the way he presented himself as the only leader able to guarantee stability and an end to civil strife. Those sniffy British colonial types might not like to admit it, but the Congo represents the quintessence of the entire continent’s colonial experience. It might be extreme and it might be shocking, but what happened in the Congo is nothing but colonialism in its purest, basest form.” 19 likes
“the normal laws of development are inverted here in the Congo. The forest, not the town, offers the safest sanctuary and it is grandfathers who have been more exposed to modernity than their grandchildren. I can think of nowhere else on the planet where the same can be true.” p141” 8 likes
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