Between Man and Beast

  • by Monte Reel
  • Narrated by Bob Walter
  • 10 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 listenable, 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.


What the Critics Say

"Reel provides a robust intellectual history by embedding Du Chaillu's story within the debate over evolution, the relationship among the human races, the rise of Christian fundamentalism, and the nasty backbiting that was common in the scientific arena of the time. He expertly probes the history of the enigmatic Du Chaillu, someone who purposefully shrouded his past from scrutiny....In Reel’s hands, Du Chaillu’s adventures in Africa, including his discovery of Pygmies and his part in a smallpox epidemic, were no less harrowing than his interactions with many of the world’s leading scientists and explorers.” (Publishers Weekly)
"Adventure, history, nature, big ideas - what more could you want?" (Library Journal)
"Fascinating....A lively footnote to the debate between science and religion and the exploration of the African jungle in the Victorian era." (Kirkus Reviews)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Extraordinary book! Masterpiece.

A wonderful book; meticulously researched, yet compulsively readable.

Brings you from Victorian England to the jungles of the Africa in search of Europe's first glimpse at the gorilla. An absolutely true story of an adventure that demonstrates the biting world of science in the Victorian era. Sound boring? Not even a little: included in this adventure are Queen Victoria, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, the wild uncharted land of the Africa, wildlife never seen before, many native African tribes and even a large group of "cannibals".

I loved this story, and it inspired me to read Darwin's work again and other writings of the time. It seems that being a great scientist in Victorian times could make you as famous as being a Hollywood actor during the golden age of film. Unfortunately it was just as cut throat and competitive and FULL OF CONTROVERSY.

The story of the young French Explorer, Paul Du Chaillou and all he accomplished is truly extraordinary.

If you believe in creationism vs evolution, this might not be the book for you. Though it does deal with the struggle for many that age, including prominent scientists, to find god in the many archeological and biological findings of the time that completely contradicts the biblical belief of creation.
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- Benoibe "audio addict! Mostly interested in history and some historical fiction. Will Durant is my all time favorite. Loving the Great Courses too."


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.
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- S. Blakely

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-12-2013
  • Publisher: Random House Audio