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Between Man and Beast by Monte Reel

15780172

The unbelievably riveting adventure of an unlikely young explorer who emerged from the jungles of Africa with evidence of a mysterious, still mythical beast—the gorilla—only to stumble straight into the center of the biggest debate of the day: Darwin’s theory of evolution

In 1856 Paul Du Chaillu marched into the equatorial wilderness of West Africa determined to bag an animal that, according to legend, was nothing short of a monster. When he emerged three years later, the summation of his efforts only hinted at what he’d experienced in one of the most dangerous regions on earth. Armed with an astonishing collection of zoological specimens, Du Chaillu leapt from the physical challenges of the jungle straight into the center of the biggest issues of the time—the evolution debate, racial discourse, the growth of Christian fundamentalism—and helped push each to unprecedented intensities. He experienced instant celebrity, but with that fame came whispers—about his past, his credibility, and his very identity—which would haunt the young man. Grand in scope, immediate in detail, and propulsively readable, Between Man and Beast brilliantly combines Du Chaillu’s personal journey with the epic tale of a world hovering on the sharp edge of transformation.

My Review

This is a work of non-fiction that covers man quest into the unknown, his exploring and discovering of a great beast. A white man had not traveled as far as our explorer in here across dangerous territory tribal controlled regions in remote areas of Gabon. The public, the critics at first did not believe in his discoveries but time would tell and all would eventually talk of his expeditions and cash in on the discoveries. The black and white movie King Kong has many of the explorers footsteps used in done ways. I did feel that I was amidst the King Kong movie, especially the recent remake, minus the great fiction figure of King Kong himself in here you are in company of a great mammal a Gorilla. A Gorilla that was hardly known of to the masses of the metropolis of U.S and U.K.
There was quite a hard time had by the explorer during a passage of a smallpox outbreak, the villagers and his expedition crew were all struck with this ugly head of outbreak of disease and he was the sole guilty party in bringing this danger to the people. In some ways ironically they were in search of a beast but they presented themselves as white beasts to the locals, in bringing death by disease to their community.

I found the book interesting and educating, the amusement at the masses unknown of gorillas memorable. The killing and bringing home Specimens of Gorilla tragic and in history a great achievement and triumph was undertaken in the action of it outlawed.
A memorable research in the journey to the heart of the Gorilla and the people around it.

“Of all the stories Wilson told, however, none fascinated the boy more than the story of the njena. The creature was shrouded in obscurity, spoken of by the locals as if it were a mythical monster, not a real animal. The njena was a mystery just waiting to be solved.”

“Audubon himself shot most of the birds he drew-a necessary compromise that inspired generations to refine their own appreciations of nature and, in some cases, to work to protect such species from endangerment. In twentieth century, that compromise became unnecessary. Hunting lost whatever scientific, academic, and artistic authority it once claimed. But in the mid-nineteenth century, naturalists felt little moral pressure pushing them away from hunting. If anything, they were pushed toward it by scientists and academic institutions with a wolfish demand for specimens.”

“While he waited in Olenda, the pox continued to tear through the community.”Not a day passed without its victims,” he later wrote, “each fresh death being announced by the firing of guns, a sound which each time pierced through me with a pang of sorrow. From morning to night, in my solitude, I could hear the cries of wailing, and the mournful songs which were raised by the relatives round the corpses of the dead.”

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 05 March 2013