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Granted, there are a few times at which this story seems to drag a little. But overall, it's one hell of a story. Darwin, Christians, and the Royal Geographical Society all battle it out to determine who is worth listening to and what is worth believing. Are we descended from apes?? Impossible, man! Amid the hoopla, Paul Du Chaillu doesn't stand much of a chance. He's a sitting duck for groomed academics who can spot a man who hasn't studied the proper prerequisites a mile off. But his lack of pedigree and education make him the perfect "everyman" to stumble into this hotbed of intellectual, social, and spiritual chaos. If this sounds like a novel -- you're right. It "reads" like a novel, but it's non-fiction. Great stuff. Although I am a female, middle-aged listener, I had a great time listening and recommended this book to my spouse who also loved it. The Reader is excellent; the story is unbelievable, true, and relevant even today.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Between Man and Beast is primarily a biography of Paul Du Chaillu: hunter, explorer, scientist, traveler, and controversial figure in 19th century evolutionary debate.
It all starts in the mid 19th century. Paul De Chaillu is a young man trying to make something of himself, and decides that the way to do it is to be the first white man to see, kill, and bring back a gorilla. This may not sound like much in 2013, but back then it was a very big deal.
In the 1800s gorillas were completely shrouded in mystery. They had never been glimpsed by anyone other than the native tribes living in inner-Africa, who feared them greatly and viewed them as borderline supernatural beings. The natives told many gorilla-based legends. For example, it was thought that consuming the brain of a gorilla would give anyone incredible hunting and lovemaking abilities. In that case, who wouldn't want to chow down on some gorilla brain?
This book is largely divided into three sections. I'll do my best to give you an idea of how this book is structured without giving too much away about the plot.
In the first section, Paul heads into West Africa in search of gorillas, and is actually very successful. If you're a gorilla and you see Paul heading your way, then you should watch out because he shows no fear and is deadly. Things go well for Paul and he returns to America with many dead gorillas.
In the middle section, Paul returns and presents his findings to the scientific community. This is a time when Darwin had just introduced his evolution theory to the world, and people felt very strongly about it on both sides of the 'argument' (as they still do today). The evidence Paul brought back did not sit very well with certain people, and his reputation was attacked viciously. He was called a liar and accused of never having actually traveled to inner-Africa.
In the book's final section, Paul arms himself with increased scientific training/equipment and returns to Africa in order to redeem his broken reputation.
All three sections are interesting, well-written/narrated, and seemingly well-researched. I do feel that the middle section drags at times and probably could have been tightened up a bit. The material is compelling, but it just doesn't reach the same excitement levels as Paul journeying through Africa. All in all though, this book is excellent. It's a true tale of adventure and science, gorilla and man. Any fans of this genre should love Between Beast and Man.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful