The African Queen
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The African Queen

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  3,753 ratings  ·  187 reviews
A classic story of adventure and romance - the novel that inspired the legendary movie starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart

A fast-moving tale and a very good yarn...Mr Forester again and again proves himself a master of suspense - New York Times Book Review

As World War I reaches the heart of the African jungle, Charlie Allnutt and Rose Sayer, a dishevelled trader...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 30th 1984 by Back Bay Books (first published 1935)
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Community Reviews

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Algernon
[7/10]
The launch hardly seemed worthy of her grandiloquent name of African Queen . She was squat, flat-bottomed, and thirty feet long. Her paint was peeling off her, and she reeked of decay. A tattered awning roofed in six feet of the stern; amidships stood the engine and boiler, with the stumpy funnel reaching up just higher than the awning.

Two people are thrown together into this derelict boat by the fortunes of war. It is 1914 and the events in Europe are echoed in the middle of Africa as t...more
Nancy Oakes
If you do a quick scan through reviews for this book, quite a number of them read something like this:

...this is one case where the movie was better.
...I should have just stuck with the movie and not bothered with the book
...The book pales in comparison with the movie
...and so on

That's all fine and well. Yes, the movie is excellent. Yes, books brought to life are often much more interesting than the original work itself. But can't books just be reviewed on their own, without having to compare th...more
Ed
Oct 04, 2013 Ed rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: adventure fans
Recommended to Ed by: Saw the movie.
I really got into this wartime adventure romance even if it is sometimes on the corny side. I saw the Bogart and Hepburn movie version years ago, and I don't remember enough if it faithfully follows the novel. Rose Sayer, the thirty-three-year-old missionary's sister, is a tough heroine, sort of an early twentieth-century Laura Croft with a British accent. She and Charlie Allnutt make a great pair of protagonists in their far-fetched mission to take out the German warship on the African lake. Th...more
brian dean
The only example I can think of where the movie is, hands down, better than the book.

Forrester can describe boats and nautical stuff better than anyone but he cannot write romance at all.
Betty
May 30, 2009 Betty rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes adventure
The African Queen by C.S. Forester

What can I really say about the book The African Queen that isn’t already well-known as an award-winning movie? Originally published in 1935, this exceptional book was fairly closely reproduced in the movie in 1951 with relatively minor changes, the most obvious being that the main male character, Charlie Allnutt, was (and is) written as a Cockney character, whereas Humphrey Bogart, who played the role, was unable to carry this accent off and the character was r...more
Susan
What a good book! Once I sat down and really started reading, I was sucked in to Africa in 1914 and could not put it down.

World War I has just started and Rose Sayer's brother, Samuel, has just died of a combination of malaria and having his mission ransacked by the German Central African army. Missionaries from Britain, their mission is now basically extinct, as all their local recruits have been swept up by the Germans.

Enter Charlie Allnutt on his little boat, the African Queen. What follows...more
Misfit
The basic set up:

Missionary Rose Sayer is left high and dry after the Germans kill the villagers and her brother Samuel. Cockney boat owner Charley Allnut lets her ride along with him on his creaky old boat and Rose gets the brilliant idea to use the explosives on the boat to torpedo the Königin Luise and convinces Allnut to go along with it. Why he goes along with this is any one's best guess (I was sure scratching my head over it). But to get to that point, they must travel the river, avoidin...more
Jamie
The African Queen is a romantic adventure by C.S. Forester. It's one for all to read and enjoy. His descriptive details of the African jungle makes you believe you are in the story along with the main characters, Allnut and Rose. Their struggles down river to find the German enemy are rigid. With every twist and turn of the river, comes another problem for the two. They crash and fix their boat with limited supplies in the heat of the jungle. They have to deal with the problems of the outdoors:...more
Rebecca
I'd always loved the Horatio Hornblower books; separately, I loved the Bogart/Hepburn film The African Queen. I had no idea that the latter was based on a book by the author of the former.

The majority of this book is charming. At the same time, it's an adventure tale and a romance. Rose the missionary's sister is a passionate, ingenious, and courageous woman who always smothered her own spirit in service to her brother's dreams. Allnut is a bit lazy, a bit of a coward, and not all that bright. I...more
Sue
May 09, 2009 Sue rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
I have mixed feelings about this book, but overall I enjoyed it. It is set during the First World War, and as such the narative drills home the attitudes toward women of the time (weaker sex, subject to the authority of any man, etc.). However, the lead female character breaks out of that mould on a regular basis, which makes the story not only tolerable but inspirational.

The writing is so vivid that it was easy to visualize the exotic scenes, and the characters so fleshed out that you really c...more
Corinne
Have you seen the movie, the one with Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart? I remember watching it with my mom several times when I was younger, so when I saw a fabulous old version at a used book sale, I grabbed it.

Rose is the adult sister of a Christian missionary. She's been in Africa for years, working alongside her brother as his housekeeper and companion. Allnut is a man-of-all-work, engineer and "captain" of the tiny boat The African Queen. When the German army has conscripted all their...more
rabbitprincess
Jul 08, 2012 rabbitprincess rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who have seen the movie and/or who like adventures
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: the movie
Shelves: bibliotheque, 2012
* * * 1/2

The First World War has broken out, and the German forces are collecting all of their troops in German East Africa and seizing as many supplies within that territory as possible. This puts a significant dent in missionary Samuel's ability to minister to the local population. In despair, he eventually succumbs to a fever, leaving his sister, Rose, on her own except for the Cockney ship captain, Charlie Allnutt, who delivers their mail. Rose, furious with the Germans for indirectly killin...more
Tweety
I have not been this disappointed by an author I liked in a Long, Long time

Warning, I have a spoiler below that I don't intend to hide

Forester created a magnificent adventure, a roaring river, beautiful waterfalls and a run-down old boat called The Africa Queen. I wanted the best for Allnutt and Rose. I really did. But I didn't want them to be immoral! I cant finish it, not if they are to keep on as they are. Okay, so they make a mistake I understand. But why make it sound like what they did was...more
Bev Hankins
It seemed absurd that there was nothing two people with a boat full of explosives could do to an enemy in whose midst they found themselves, and yet so it appeared. (pp. 22-3)


In 1935 C. S. Forester published his World War I adventure story, The African Queen. It begins with missionaries, Samuel and Rose Sayer (brother & sister), deep in Central Africa (Tanzania). They have been working diligently with the African people for ten years when WWI begins and the Germans come and conscript the vi...more
La Petite Américaine
The African Queen is one of those few ass-kicking novels that comes along and reminds me that there is the occasional sparkling gem of genius buried among the massive dung heap of contemporary fiction.

It seems impossible to write about the book without mentioning the movie. If I must, I must. Look. The book and the movie are two different things. The film features Katharine Hepburn in varying states of gorgeous as she travels wild-eyed down a river with the inimitable Humphrey Bogart in an oppo...more
Amy
I thought that The African Queen was a story about the male-female relationship. It was a story about how when men and women work together (as seen between Rose and Charlie) the two genders are at their best. When there is partnership and equality the couple can overcome powerful odds. But when one leads and the other follows (as seen between Rose and Samuel), no one benefits. The river that Charlie and Rose travel seems to be a metaphor for life, and Rose and Charlie navigate it together and as...more
Rick Davis
The book is always better than the movie.

Except when it's not.

This is one of those exceedingly rare cases (the only other that immediately comes to mind is "Blade Runner") where the movie is far better than the book. There were some gripping action sequences, but the main focus of the plot, the human interaction, falls flat. I never believed in either of the characters or their motivations. I find it very hard to believe that a girl like Rose could live with her missionary brother for so long an...more
Kimberlyhdm
Thanks to my Goodreads Buddy Fred C, I finally paid attention to this wonderful adventure. The descriptions of the action (rapids, swamps, DIY boat repair are so compelling. The ending was a little anti-climatic, but I enjoyed this more than the great Hollywood version.
Sandi
A good listen but not what I had expected. I thought there would be more humor but this was really a straight ahead adventure. The audio version was read by Michael Kitchen who kept the pace lively.
Colleen Moore
First of all, I had no idea this was a book until recently let alone that it was written by an author I like. I'm not sure how I missed it all these years.

This book should be read with a grain of salt keeping in mind the time when it was written (1930's) and when it was set (1914). Women certainly were not expected to achieve much back then beyond raising a family and running a household. Rose grew up with a conservative, religous household eventually going with her brother the missionary to Cen...more
Stephen
May 21, 2014 Stephen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Hornblower fans
I saw this movie decades ago and didn't really recall the ending so I was quite unprepared for the ending in the book. Now I'll have to re-watch the movie and see if it ended as I thought that I recalled that it did.

Either way... It's a great story and C.S. Forester has a way of describing actions and environments that makes you really feel like you are there. You can't help pulling for his all-too-human heroes and heroines and this tale is no exception. After reading this book I felt the need...more
Batsap
Reading Forester's novel of Cockney mechanic Allnut's and missionary's sister Rose's journey down an African river wore me out! Set during the First World War, von Hanneken raids African villages for recruits. The devastation of having his flock taken from him kills Rose's sickening brother. It is Rose's tireless quest for vengeance against the Germans that keeps this novel driving forwards. Her and Allnut work ceaselessly to get the steamboat The African Queen down the river to torpedo a German...more
Lionel
Every bit as good as Forester's Hornblower books, but very different as well, despite the fact that most of the action takes place on a boat (a river boat in this case, rather than a ship of the line).

Rose and Charlie are both distinctly drawn characters, and both really far from the norm for adventure story or romance protagonists. Both of the characters are middle aged. Charlie is wonderfully described at one point as a man who wasn't self-analytical enough to realize that most of the troubles...more
Kami
- This was an enthralling and adventurous story! I loved the story about two people and their journey down the Ulanga river!

- There were some thrilling moments and calm moments. I liked the part where they navigated the rapids. It was exciting, and the thrill from adrenaline that Rose and Charlie had after the rapids made me excited.

- I liked that Rose and Charlie found joy in working and working together. They worked well together, and it was nice to see that in a man and woman.

- The romance wa...more
Elizabeth S
3 1/2 stars. I saw the movie years ago, so after reading all the Hornblower books by Forester, I thought I'd try this one. The biggest thing that was interesting to compare was Alnutt. I just cannot see the Alnutt character in the book as Humphrey Bogart. It has been so long since I've seen the movie that I'm not sure I'm remembering it correctly, but surely at least Alnutt is a little different. For example, can you see Bogart as a man who was just made to be henpecked?

The book is a marvelous d...more
Divya
Rose Sayer and Charlie Allnut. The first is the uptight spinster English missionary, and the other is a "Cockney engineer working in mines". They are thrown together in a wild, dangerous, insect-filled, yet exhilarating journey through Africa, on a rickety launch : The African Queen.
Why? Because Rose, rootless after losing her brother (a Reverend), wants to do her bit for her country and "strike a blow for England".
And so begins the wild adventure. Bit by bit Rose throws of her inhibitions, and...more
Marty
Hornblower: strange name, awesome book series. C.S. Forester: not as strange a name, but still an awesome author. Which is why, hearing about The African Queen, I knew it was a must read for me. Boy, was it nice to be back in Forester territory again. The man can write exciting fiction in a manner so realistic it hardly seems fair to call it fiction. Whether it is the characters and their psychological development and interaction, or whether it is the boat with its intricate machinery and moveme...more
Courtney
"Whether or not they lived happily ever after is not easily decided". Thus ends The African Queen, and I too cannot really decide. My thoughts don't wrestle with the ambiguous ending, but rather the eternal question that always comes up with some books: was the film better than the book? I must be very ambitious with my answer because I feel, as cliche as it sounds, that both the book and the film were special in their own ways.
Let's look at the classic Hepburn and Bogart film adaptation of Afri...more
Kali
You might know The African Queen as an excellent old movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. This is the book that film is based on, and it’s every bit as good--even without Bogie and Kate. They play the characters of Charlie Allnutt and Rose Sayer, a burned-out trader with a beat-up old steamboat and a stern, no-nonsense missionary’s sister. Rose is indignant with anger at the World War I German threat to the British way of life (even in the heart of the African jungle), and Mr. A...more
Dave
Nov 07, 2009 Dave rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of old-fashioned adventure stories
I have seen the movie version of The African Queen many times, and enjoy it thoroughly, so I thought I should finally read the source novel by C. S. Forester. I enjoyed the novel immensely, too. It gives much more detail of the trip down the Ulanga river, and gives possibly a more realistic picture than the movie does of the interaction of two people sharing a small boat for a long, dangerous voyage.
I was somewhat disappointed in the ending, which I will not divulge here, so as not to spoil it f...more
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Cecil Scott Forester was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith, an English novelist who rose to fame with tales of adventure and military crusades. His most notable works were the 11-book Horatio Hornblower series, about naval warfare during the Napoleonic era, and The African Queen (1935; filmed in 1951 by John Huston). His novels A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours were jointly awarded t...more
More about C.S. Forester...
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #1) Lieutenant Hornblower (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #2) Beat to Quarters (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #6) Hornblower and the Hotspur (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #3) Hornblower and the Atropos (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #5)

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