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Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  667 Ratings  ·  123 Reviews
A colorful, moving, and dramatic memoir of personal transformation, set against one of the most famous game reserves in the world.

When Nelson Mandela was released after twenty-seven years of imprisonment, he needed a place to recover and adjust to his new life. He went to Londolozi Game Reserve. Founded over eighty years ago by Boyd Varty's great-grandfather, Londolozi sta
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by Random House (first published January 1st 2014)
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Kelli Standish
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My life can be divided into two distinct sections: Living in Africa and Longing for Africa. At present, the latter is my reality, and it's terrible.

For those who've never lived in Africa, that won't make sense. But for those who've experienced an African sunrise, and the way the rays of dawn inch across your skin, seep into your blood, and flood your heart with glory, for those who've been wooed by the songs of the doves in the mango trees, for those who long for red dirt between their toes and
Excellent memoir about growing up in a conservation minded family in South Africa. Gerald Durrell for the new Millennium, where saving animals doesn't necessitate relocating them from their habitats, but rather healing the land and peoples around them. The book could have stalled out as a propaganda piece – after all, Varty and his family run Londolozi Game Reserve, a tourist destination. But there is too much honesty in the book for that, too much compassion and vulnerability. This is a powerfu ...more
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received an advanced reader's copy through Elle magazine.

I was absolutely enthralled Boyd Varty's Cathedral of the Wild. It was almost impossible to put down. Varty's writing style is so effortless and filled with such imagery, I found myself picturing the wilds of Africa in my mind, and imagining this amazing Varty family and the locals who run the Londolozi Game Reserve. Varty weaves in moments of humor, as well as moments of heartbreak. The memoir is also filled with wonderful history on So
Isabel Allende
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A story of transformation that inspires a great appreciation for the beauty and order of the natural world. With conviction, hope and humor, Varty makes a passionate claim for the power of the wild to restore the human spirit. A memoir about growing up in a wildlife conservation park in South Africa and in the Varty family, who are as wild as the wonderful animals they protect.
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received a ARC copy of this book from the Firstreads giveaway, and I could not be more thankful.

I was blown away by this memoir. A stunning testament to the healing power of nature. Boyd tells the story of his spiritual journey, along the way introducing us to his life, living and working on the South African game reserve Londolozi. He describes the loving relationship between his parents, his untouchable bond with sister Bron, and his audacious adventures with quirky uncle John. He walked us
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Boyd Varty’s richly descriptive narrative about life on the South African game reserve where he and his family live is indicative of the rich descriptions of his spiritual journey.

Unlike most memoirs where the author goes off to another land to find their true home, Varty is already there. Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to stay. Having realized at different times in my life that even though I thought I wanted to leave, what I needed to do was stay. I could identify with his awakening/rea
Feb 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Boyd Varty had a very nontraditional childhood, growing up on the Londolozi Land Reserve in South Africa, where encounters with lions, elephants, leopards, crocodiles, and snakes were everyday occurrences. His family's lives were touched by apartheid, elephant poaching, and tribal wars, but only marginally, until two separate crisis unsettle the whole family. As a young adult, Boyd became restless, troubled with anxiety about his family's future, and unsure of where he himself fit in. Through hi ...more
Oct 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: africa, audio
Good on landscape and animals and amusing camp-life incidents, rather unbelievable on the wonderful wonderful people in the crack team, interminable on spiritual connections towards the end. Much of this is pretty pedestrian, despite the spectacular setting, and amidst the adulation and overblown emotion I feel he's sold the family story short. I appreciate the curative value in constructing a narrative of your life, but it's not always palatable.

However they seem to be doing good work at their
Dana DesJardins
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book surprised me. While I will read almost anything that deals with elephants, big cats, or apes, this seemed at first like an idyllic but episodic account of growing up on a wild life reserve. The obligatory story about a pet squirrel getting killed, encounters with mambas and lions, and the self-involved tourists, all seemed like anecdotes, albeit engaging, rather than a coherent whole.
Then Varty experienced a string of encounters with death and violence, like getting over two hundred st
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received this book as an Advance Review Copy.

Cathedral of the Wild is a pretty apt title. All throughout the book runs a ripple of spirituality and deep reverence for nature. It details the story of Boyd Varty, his family, the creation of Londolozi Game Reserve, and offers the tiniest but most poignant of snapshots of post-apartheid South Africa. Varty freely admits his family might be considered a bunch of hippies of the crunchiest variety. But mercifully, the frequent mentions of "trying to
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This was a Goodreads First Reads book and I feel so lucky to have received and read it. An amazing story told by a novice author with such deep insight, humor and humility that it was hard to reconcile with the amazing true adventures he recounts. Varty's deep sense of family, to both his blood relations, the Shangaans he grew up with, and the wildlife protected and preserved on their game reserve is evident in every sentence he writes. Having never left the U.S., I feel like I've visited Londol ...more
Oct 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Boyd Varty grew up on Londolozi Game Reserve, bordering Kruger National Park, in South Africa. Londolozi was begun by his father and uncle as a conservation effort but grew to include areas for guests to stay and take a safari. Boyd learned to track and interpret animal behavior. A series of harrowing and tragic events as a teenager caused him to lose focus. The book recounts his childhood, the events, and his journey back.
An interesting read. His candor about the good times and the struggles
Dec 16, 2014 rated it really liked it

Varty was reared in wild and rural South Africa among the magnificent and dangerous native animals. His parents were committed to protecting the species and maintaining the land. The story is about their joy in their life and the struggles they faced. It was a daring life with opportunity for contemplation and spiritual growth.Varty describes all of it.

Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wonderful memoir of the author growing up on a South African game reserve with an unconventional childhood I'm not sure many could survive. Very well written, holding my attention from beginning to end.
Jan 29, 2014 marked it as to-read
Very excited! ARC copy coming! Can't wait to read!
Roger Rosenberg
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book, if difficult to characterize. It is the story of three generations of a South African family that moved from orgnizing hunts to preserving land and restoring it to provide a habitat for African game animals on the decline. It is a memoir of a young man growing into adulthood, and it is also a description of his spiritual journey. It is an exciting yarn with plenty of adventures that couldstand on thir own as short stories. It is a chronicle of the work of an internationally kn ...more
Nov 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
3.5 stars. Didn't quite touch me the same as it did some of the other reviewers.

excellent memoir of growing up in South Africa. The author stays on the surface of things much of the time, until their little paradise falls apart and he falls into depression, when it gets a little deeper, but also a bit more religious-sentimental. But required a certain amount of suspension of disbelief for me, never having experienced anything like it. At 19 our hero needs to find himself, so he travels all over
Brenda Cregor
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Let me tell you why this book gets 5 stars.

Boyd is a real man. Boyd's family are real people. They are quite honestly some of the most extraordinary non-superhero non-saints I have ever had the pleasure of knowing about.
Their existence on this planet has literally made the world a better place!
This family is "living their truth", and it's powerful.

The stories Boyd ["friendi"] tells are awesome, but Boyd's personal journey to heal from three traumatizing life events is what made this book a piece
Gail Gillespie-Fox
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What an enjoyable book. What first grabbed my attention was the brilliant title. Being an animal lover I loved how the Varty family changed from their grandfather being a hunter to conservationists. As a South African who loves the bush I was impressed by the beautiful way the book describes the reserve and life in South Africa. How so many of us resonate with our own fears and some tragedies of crime, of our strong love for the African soil. In short, a book I definitely recommend.
Aug 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Really loved so much about this book. Some beautiful life lessons shared and fascinating observations on Africa. Really wish the "f" word wasn't so prevalent, however-the absence of it would've compelled me to give this book 5 stars no sweat.
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bios, travel
I thought this was a great book. Boyd does occasionally goes in a self-centered direction, this is an auto-biography and it is not out of line. The stories are very interesting and I couldn't put it down.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Awkwardly written--a young man trying to relate what he discovers about life, while lacking the style to pull it off with skill. The book is episodic--let's say the warp of the book--without a snugly woven weft.
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Growing up in Africa

I loved this book. Boyd's storytelling was never boring and gave a clear picture of what it would be like to grow up in Africa. I felt lie I was right there with him.
Mary Beene
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book to read as we prepare to travel to South Africa
Andrew Clark
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, 2017
3.5 stars
Jardin Martins
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Insightful view into the author's upbringing on a game reserve in Africa, which was initially designed around hunting but now revolves around conservation.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: pop-sugar-2017
I want to give this book 5 stars in the hopes that the Vardy family will then invite me for a free stay at Londolozi, which at $7000+++ US dollars per night/ per person, is a vacation I will never in my life be able to take. Unfortunately, I listened to it on audio, and I have a problem focusing on audiobooks. Also Boyd Vardy, who has a lovely South African accent ( one of my favorite accents, actually) was kind of monotone. I definitely at some point should read this in print. What I loved abou ...more
Marta-Kate Jackson
Cathedral of the Wild was soothing to my soul and earned a 5th star for my personal interest in its themes of family, nature, and human struggle. Varty allows you to experience the awe-inspiring beauty of Africa's landscape and wildlife through his memories and stories which left me longing for more. A trip to Africa just moved itself to the top of my bucket list.
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As a kid growing up in suburban, then rural, Indiana, I was fascinated by wildlife documentaries on television. I daydreamed about growing up to travel around Africa as a wildlife biologist in a Jeep, studying lions or elephants. I wold have loved nothing more than to raise a leopard cub, but had to be satisfied with an orphaned bunny or raccoon here and there. I haven't made it to Africa, but I still love to experience and learn about nature and animals. What I love about Cathedral of the Wild ...more
Sue Perry
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I guess I'm an ageist. As my age advances, my interest in young writers declines. They may have dazzling pyrotechnic writing styles - but I don't care about style, I care about content, and I want to spend my time with writers who understand things that I don't. Generally, that means writers with a range of experiences and insights that can only come from living. Believe me, I'm not saying I know it all. Most of the time I can't even say what it is. But there is something about a young person's ...more
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“Wherever you are, with whatever means you have, if you reclaim a piece of land for nature, your world will grow kinder, more benevolent. Create havens - for animals, for other people, for yourself - and let this reflect into the world. Fight for space in your own backyard, in an acre or a flowerpot or simply an embrace of the longing for company that lingers in your wilting heart. If you take this one step toward them, no matter where you are, the elephants will come to you.” 7 likes
“I was never interested in monuments or official sights; I was always drawn to the secret energy of a place contained in its teahouses or on the street, shorelines, and forests. I wanted to spend the whole day watching a man sell vegetables so I could know a bit of his life.” 2 likes
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