Blood River : A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart, Paperback Book

Blood River : A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart Paperback

4 out of 5 (7 ratings)


When Daily Telegraph correspondent Tim Butcher was sent to cover Africa in 2000 he quickly became obsessed with the idea of recreating H.M.

Stanley's famous expedition - but travelling alone. 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 vessels including a motorbike and a dugout canoe, helped along by a cast of characters from UN aid workers to a campaigning pygmy, he followed in the footsteps of the great Victorian adventurers.

Butcher's journey was a remarkable feat, but the story of the Congo, told expertly and vividly in this book, is more remarkable still.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Travel writing
  • ISBN: 9780099494287

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Showing 1 - 5 of 7 reviews.

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An engrossing, informative, often terrifying travel book about a journalist's retracing of the steps of Stanley along the river Congo, "the broken heart of Africa". Compelling.

Review by

Whilst it was great to learn about the Congo's colourful history, the book tends to be over-sentimental and repetitive, particularly towards the end. Additionally, the author's journey was surprisingly uneventful and relatively drama free.

Review by

Tim Butcher, a journalist for The Daily Telegraph decides to recreate H.M. Stanley's famous expedition in the 1870's. (Stanley had been also sponsored by the same newspaper!) He was also curious to see the country that his mother had visited in the 1950's as a tourist. He was told that by just about everyone he contacted that the journey was impossible, but against the odds he manages to enlist the help of aid workers (including a pygmy human rights activist and the Malaysian commander of a vessel working for the UN) and others. Each stage of the journey is uncertain, and he's constantly in danger of his life and in great discomfort. But he does manage in the end to find the transport he needs (motorcycles, dugouts, a UN barge) and the journey continues. It's impossible not to salute his courage.Blood River : A Journey into Africa's Broken Heart is a fascinating account, not just because it takes us into a part of the world we wouldn't normally venture into and lets us share the journey (from our comfy armchairs!), but also for the historical perspectives which are woven into the narrative.In the space of half a century, Congo has gone completely backwards - it is not "a developing country", or an "underdeveloped country", so much as an "un-developing country", going backwards so fast that almost nothing remains of the infrastructure left under Belgian rule due to the greed and incompetence of its leaders. It's a terrifying portrait of how quickly things can unravel. You also come to realise that putting things right isn't a matter of throwing financial aid at the problems, but in establishing the rule of law.It's impossible not to really pity the ordinary people of this failed country, but that there is such potential for economic growth (minerals, fertile land) turns this missed opportunity into a grand tragedy. The book was chosen as one of the reads for the Richard and Judy bookclub and of course made the shortlist for this year's Samuel Johnson Prize.

Review by

Brings to life all the ills of Africa under Africans

Review by

I don't read a lot of non fiction but this is one of those that reads like fiction. Butcher's journey to follow the path of Stanley up the Congo was fascinating. He gives you background history about the Congo as well as details of his own perilous journey in an easy to read narrative style. Well worth reading.

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