Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Blood River

The Terrifying Journey Through the World's Most Dangerous Country

by Tim Butcher

“The day of the solitary intrepid traveler is not over. Tim Butcher’s extraordinary, audacious journey through the Congo is worthy of the great nineteenth-century explorers. Completely enthralling but also a thoughtful and sobering portrait of modern Africa.” —William Boyd, author of Restless

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 384
  • Publication Date September 15, 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4433-1
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 384
  • Publication Date October 14, 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-1877-6
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $25.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date October 14, 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1-5558-4909-2
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

Published to rave reviews in the United Kingdom and named a Richard & Judy Book Club selection—the only work of nonfiction on the 2008 list—Blood River is the harrowing and audacious story of Tim Butcher’s journey in the Congo and his retracing of renowned explorer H. M. Stanley’s famous 1874 expedition in which he mapped the Congo River.

When Daily Telegraph correspondent Tim Butcher was sent to Africa in 2000 he quickly became obsessed with the legendary Congo River and the idea of recreating Stanley’s legendary journey along the three-thousand-mile waterway. Despite warnings that his plan was suicidal, Butcher set out for the Congo’s eastern border with just a rucksack and a few thousand dollars hidden in his boots. Making his way in an assortment of vehicles, including a motorbike and a dugout canoe, helped along by a cast of characters from UN aid workers to a pygmy-rights advocate, he followed in the footsteps of the great Victorian adventurers.

An utterly absorbing narrative that chronicles Tim Butcher’s forty-four-day journey along the Congo River, Blood River is an unforgettable story of exploration and survival.

Praise

“Quite superb . . . a masterpiece.” —John le Carré

“Less an adventure tale than a journalistic investigation of what has gone wrong in the Congo, and why . . . Butcher’s breadth of knowledge is both impressive and eclectic.” —Washington Post

“Some travel is inspired, some courageous, some insane. And every now and then someone undertakes a trek that is all three, as happened when Butcher traveled the length of the Congo River . . . a gripping account of [Butcher’s] perilous journey through the heart of Africa and its embattled people.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Devastating yet strangely exhilarating . . . [Butcher’s] tale is chock-a-block with gruesome details about the brutal Belgian rule of the late 19th century as well as the casual disregard for life on the contemporary scene. Part travelogue, part straight-forward reportage, Butcher’s story is a full-throated lament for large-scale human potential wasted with no reasonable end in sight.” —Publishers Weekly

“A somber, eye-opening journey into the definitive heart of darkness . . . a brilliant account of a broken land, one that certainly deserves the attention this excellent book brings.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Tim Butcher deserves a medal for this crazy feat. I marvel at his courage and his empathy with the unfortunate Congolese when he re-enacted Stanley’s appalling journey across the continent.” —Thomas Pakenham, author of The Scramble for Africa

“This is a terrific book, an adventure story about a journey of great bravery in one of the world’s most dangerous places. It keeps the heart beating and the attention fixed from beginning to end.” —Fergal Keane, author of Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey

“It’s a fine book, and I greatly enjoyed it. It’s a story of the extraordinary courage, tenacity and endurance of two men: H.M. Stanley, and Tim Butcher, who wrote it. The DR Congo is one of the most dangerous and unpredictable countries on earth, and to have penetrated into the depths of its darkness and described it so fully is a great achievement. It even left me with more of an affection for Stanley than I have ever felt before. As for Butcher, I have nothing but admiration for him.” —John Simpson, author of Simpson’s World: Dispatches from the Front Line

“A grim and gripping read.” —Christopher Hart, Sunday Times

“Gripping.” —Esquire

“From his adventure, [Butcher] has plundered a wealth of terrific stories and survived to recite a rosary of unstinting horror.” —Nicholas Shakespeare, The Telegraph

“Butcher’s 21st century eye gives a whole new slant on [Stanley’s] African expedition.” —Sunday Express

“Both stirring and thought-provoking.” —Anthony Daniels, Sunday Telegraph

“What makes Blood River such a compelling read is the fact that the journey becomes an exercise in mental terror, the author skillfully conveying the exhaustion of six weeks on tenterhooks, wondering what might happen just around the next bend.” —Jim Blackburn, Wanderlust

“A remarkable travelogue of exquisite proportions . . . nothing short of a modern-day masterpiece.” —Aesthetica Magazine

“It throws light on a place that lives in such extreme darkness, most of us have lost sight of it completely. In doing so it reminds us that travel writing can still be exciting, uncompromising and politically relevant.” —Anthony Sattin, Spectator

“Butcher’s account of his journey down the “Blood River” is terrific in every sense . . . It is an extraordinarily compelling book by a talented writer with something to say—and I suspect that Conrad would have liked it very much indeed.” —Geographical Magazine

“A remarkable, fascinating book by a courageous and perceptive writer. One of the most exciting books to emerge from Africa in recent years.” —Alexander McCall Smith

“This is a terrific book, an adventure story about a journey of great bravery in one of the world’s most dangerous places.” —Fergal Keane, author of Season of Blood

“An intrepid adventure. In making and describing this journey, Tim Butcher has followed in the footsteps of Stanley and Conrad. It takes a lot of guts to yomp through the Congo and he obviously has plenty of those. But it is the wit and passion of the writing that keeps you engrossed.” —Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland

“The day of the solitary intrepid traveler is not over. Tim Butcher’s extraordinary, audacious journey through the Congo is worthy of the great nineteenth-century explorers. Completely enthralling but also a thoughtful and sobering portrait of modern Africa.” —William Boyd, author of Restless

“Tim Butcher deserves a medal for this crazy feat. I marvel at his courage and his empathy with the unfortunate Congolese when he reenacted Stanley’s appalling journey across the continent.” —Thomas Pakenham, author of The Scramble For Africa

“Tim Butcher has written a wonderful adventure story about one of the least known regions of modern Africa—because it is among the most dangerous. Blood River represents a remarkable marriage of travelogue and history, which deserves to make Tim Butcher a star for his prose, as well as his courage.” —Max Hastings, author of Armageddon: The Battle For Germany

Awards

A New York Times Bestseller

Excerpt

I stirred in the pre-dawn chill, my legs pedaling for bedclothes kicked away earlier when the tropical night was at its clammiest. I could hear African voices singing to a drum beat coming from somewhere outside the room, but my view was fogged by the mosquito net and all I could make out around me were formless shadows. Slowly and carefully, so as to not anger them, I reached for the sheet balled next to my knees. It stank of old me and insect repellent as I drew it over my shoulders. I was not just looking for warmth. I wanted protection. Outside was the Congo and I was terrified.

Explorers who first took on the Congo in the nineteenth century brought with them small armies bearing the latest European firearms and the best available medicines to protect against ebola, leprosy, smallpox, and other fatal endemic diseases. The only protection I carried was a penknife and a packet of baby wipes.

I was in a large town called Kalemie, but all was dark outside.

It lies on the Congo’s eastern approaches, a port city on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, once connected by boat with Tanzania, Zambia, and the world beyond. Forty years of decay have turned it into a disease-ridden ruin and its decrepit hydroelectric station could barely muster a flicker. As with the rest of this huge country, the locals in Kalemie have long since learned to regard electrical power as a rare blessing, not a permanent right.

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