Customer Reviews for

Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure that Took the Victorian World by Storm

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

In the height of scientific expansion, exploration and experimen

In the height of scientific expansion, exploration and experimentation of Victorian England, the establishment, Church and Society often clashed as theories were debated, proposed, proven and dismissed.  A fascinating study of the politics and societal tolerance (or lac...
In the height of scientific expansion, exploration and experimentation of Victorian England, the establishment, Church and Society often clashed as theories were debated, proposed, proven and dismissed.  A fascinating study of the politics and societal tolerance (or lack thereof) of the day is provided with details of interactions and studies by luminaries of the scientific community.  Add to that a beautifully detailed narrative of the expedition into Gabon lead by Paul du Chaillu, in which he discovered the gorilla. 




Paul du Chaillu is a name lost in history; the resistance met to his discoveries is detailed with exacting precision.  Reel has interwoven the narrative of his journey and discoveries with the discussions and debates in the scientific communities at the time, a particularly satisfying technique that helps the reader follow the ever changing landscape in both stories.  In each narrative, the scientific, personal and even religious prejudices all come into focus: du Chailu is particularly honest about his nervousness regarding his safety when surrounded only by natives. With du Chaillu’s discovery of the gorilla, the debate surrounding evolution became even more divisive and heated, requiring his return to validate his findings amid great skepticism and even greater obstacles to recognition.




Monte Reel has created a compelling work that provides readers with a fully researched factual book that reads more like a novel, and provides readers with an interesting view into one of the great debates of the time, that still resonates today.  Additionally, the information that credits the expeditions and life of du Chaillu as inspirational for literary scions like Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack London, Edgar Rice Burroughs and even the film King Kong help to place du Chaillu into the mind of readers familiar only with Livingstone, Stanley and Speke.  




I received an eBook ARC copy from Doubleday via Eidelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 

posted by gaele on March 12, 2013

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Interesting But Dry At Times

In a time when the world seems to have shrunk and all corners are easily reached, when the bright light of science and technology seem to eliminate any dark shadows from our world, it is hard to imagine the mystery, anticipation, and indeed fear that surrounded the expl...
In a time when the world seems to have shrunk and all corners are easily reached, when the bright light of science and technology seem to eliminate any dark shadows from our world, it is hard to imagine the mystery, anticipation, and indeed fear that surrounded the exploration of Darkest Africa. In the mid-eighteen hundreds most of the African continent was an unknown mystery to the people of Europe. It would be an age that spawned noted European explorers and scientists such as Stanley and Livingstone, Richard Burton and John Spence. Charles Darwin's theories were beginning to rock the foundations of science. One explorer who would contribute greatly to the opening of Africa and it's secrets was Paul Du Chaillu. While little known today, he had a great impact on adding to the knowledge of West Africa and more specifically on one species of animal in particular, the almost mythical gorilla. Scientists in Europe had never before had reliable specimens of the gorilla until Du Chaillu, who grew up in West Africa, brought more than a dozen carcasses to Europe and the United States. The story here lies not so much in his explorations, but in the uproar he caused in the scientific community. Many noted scientists chose not to believe Du Chaillu had actually explored West Africa and shot the gorilla's himself. After all many noted European explorers had tried and failed to bring back this legendary beast. He was alternately revered and ridiculed for years as he tried to convince everyone of the truth of his adventures. His detractors besmirched him not only in print by attacking his accomplishments, but also attacked him personally, casting aspersions upon his mixed heritage. This book is an interesting investigation into the life and trials of a man who rose from obscurity to the summit of the scientific community only to be reviled and forced into attempting to recover his reputation by returning once again to the land whose secrets he had helped reveal.

posted by Ronrose on January 14, 2013

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  • Posted March 12, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    In the height of scientific expansion, exploration and experimen

    In the height of scientific expansion, exploration and experimentation of Victorian England, the establishment, Church and Society often clashed as theories were debated, proposed, proven and dismissed.  A fascinating study of the politics and societal tolerance (or lack thereof) of the day is provided with details of interactions and studies by luminaries of the scientific community.  Add to that a beautifully detailed narrative of the expedition into Gabon lead by Paul du Chaillu, in which he discovered the gorilla. 




    Paul du Chaillu is a name lost in history; the resistance met to his discoveries is detailed with exacting precision.  Reel has interwoven the narrative of his journey and discoveries with the discussions and debates in the scientific communities at the time, a particularly satisfying technique that helps the reader follow the ever changing landscape in both stories.  In each narrative, the scientific, personal and even religious prejudices all come into focus: du Chailu is particularly honest about his nervousness regarding his safety when surrounded only by natives. With du Chaillu’s discovery of the gorilla, the debate surrounding evolution became even more divisive and heated, requiring his return to validate his findings amid great skepticism and even greater obstacles to recognition.




    Monte Reel has created a compelling work that provides readers with a fully researched factual book that reads more like a novel, and provides readers with an interesting view into one of the great debates of the time, that still resonates today.  Additionally, the information that credits the expeditions and life of du Chaillu as inspirational for literary scions like Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack London, Edgar Rice Burroughs and even the film King Kong help to place du Chaillu into the mind of readers familiar only with Livingstone, Stanley and Speke.  




    I received an eBook ARC copy from Doubleday via Eidelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2013

    I'm a fan of Lost City of Z, so when I saw the review from David

    I'm a fan of Lost City of Z, so when I saw the review from David Grann, I knew I had to read. This is a very different book (period, setting, characters) but just as gripping. Very well-written/researched. Filled with fascinating details and interesting intersecting lives (Charles Dickens, Lincoln, Sir Richard Burton). The scenes in the Gabon jungle are atmospheric, thrilling and heart-pounding, adjectives that can equally be applied to the sections taking place in Victorian London. The author moves through the issues that preoccupied scientists of the day and their vicious infighting, but also widens the scope to explore how the discovery of the gorilla pervaded popular culture at the time. The portrait of Paul--his fears and hidden motivations--and the issues of evolution and race are what tipped this over the edge for me and gave it lasting resonance. A thrill-ride with complex issues at its core.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2013

    Riveting narrative non-fiction. You feel like you're in the hear

    Riveting narrative non-fiction. You feel like you're in the heart of the jungle, but at the same time, this is not just an adventure story. As the subtitle says, Paul is an unlikely hero, and his past (deliberately shrouded in mystery) adds another layer of suspense. The Victorian scientific establishment's explosive reaction to his discovery , questions about Paul's background and the wider implications of both still reverberate today.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 14, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting But Dry At Times

    In a time when the world seems to have shrunk and all corners are easily reached, when the bright light of science and technology seem to eliminate any dark shadows from our world, it is hard to imagine the mystery, anticipation, and indeed fear that surrounded the exploration of Darkest Africa. In the mid-eighteen hundreds most of the African continent was an unknown mystery to the people of Europe. It would be an age that spawned noted European explorers and scientists such as Stanley and Livingstone, Richard Burton and John Spence. Charles Darwin's theories were beginning to rock the foundations of science. One explorer who would contribute greatly to the opening of Africa and it's secrets was Paul Du Chaillu. While little known today, he had a great impact on adding to the knowledge of West Africa and more specifically on one species of animal in particular, the almost mythical gorilla. Scientists in Europe had never before had reliable specimens of the gorilla until Du Chaillu, who grew up in West Africa, brought more than a dozen carcasses to Europe and the United States. The story here lies not so much in his explorations, but in the uproar he caused in the scientific community. Many noted scientists chose not to believe Du Chaillu had actually explored West Africa and shot the gorilla's himself. After all many noted European explorers had tried and failed to bring back this legendary beast. He was alternately revered and ridiculed for years as he tried to convince everyone of the truth of his adventures. His detractors besmirched him not only in print by attacking his accomplishments, but also attacked him personally, casting aspersions upon his mixed heritage. This book is an interesting investigation into the life and trials of a man who rose from obscurity to the summit of the scientific community only to be reviled and forced into attempting to recover his reputation by returning once again to the land whose secrets he had helped reveal.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 20, 2013

    An excellent book, from start to finish. Don't let the size of i

    An excellent book, from start to finish. Don't let the size of it daunt you, half the bulk of the book is the exhaustive acknowledgements and references for the incredible amount of research that Monte Reel put into this book. From the moment I picked it up I was entranced, yes there may be some lengthy historical side trips and details, but that is what really puts in you the place and time of this novel. I say novel even though it is superb piece of non-fiction work, but it truly reads like an adventure novel and dramatic tale of discovery and loss. A glimpse into the world in the Victorian period of great scientific advances and a fair amount of the compelling back story to the drama that occurred with Darwin's release of Origin. The book is at once entertaining, informative, educational, and heartbreaking. Truly should be working it's way into a screenplay for those unwilling to lift a book these days. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2013

    A gripping, cinematic account of one man's fervent desire for ad

    A gripping, cinematic account of one man's fervent desire for adventure, scientific fame and self-acceptance, set against the jungles of West Africa and Victorian London. The cannibalistic natives, poisonous snakes and of course, the "terrifying" gorilla are perfectly balanced by the underlying issues of race, science and identity. A lot of fun to read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2013

    Great Scientific Adventure

    Great Scientific Adventure

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2013

    An unexpected tie in to Springheeled Jack

    Others will comment on the content of this book about the gorilla. I claim that this book is an excellent companion to Mark Hodder's Springheeled Jack series. As an American, I am less aquainted with the British 19th century notables. Reading this book makes the other series clearer to me, even it is steampunk fiction.

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  • Posted April 20, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A quick and engaging read. I'm not quite finished with it (about

    A quick and engaging read. I'm not quite finished with it (about 30 pages still to go), but Paul du Chaillu fit the bill as an underdog full of spirit and determination. You could say he was destined to gain recognition in England, having no success displaying his gorilla specimens in the U.S. and considering the recent publication of Darwin's book. Of course there were numerous detractors and some did all they could to discredit him, so back to Africa he went for a more scientific, facts-and-figures oriented mission that was a fiasco in terms of relations with the native tribes. Will finish it today!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    Rather sloggy at times but worthwhile

    I found the well-reseached sociological Victorian descriptions of the day fascinating, as well as the post-mortem forensic evidence as to Paul du Chaillu's past plausible. After reading "The Devil Drives" (a far more exciting book about a far more exciting character), Paul comes across as the milk toast of African explorers. Yet, his discovery of the gorilla as well as many other specimens of African flora, fauna and geography were remarkable. Monte Reel's (how's THAT for a great name for the biographer of an explorer?) thorough research takes us through Paul's many ups and downs as he struggles for recognition by the scientific and geographical societies of the day. Be patient. The payoff is worth it.

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  • Posted April 10, 2013

    This true story almost reads like a novel. I read approx 3 to 4

    This true story almost reads like a novel. I read approx 3 to 4 books a week & this is one of the best I've read in a long time!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    Hello

    Sounds goos but what age??????????

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2013

    I would have thought gorillas were well known by the 1800s (prim

    I would have thought gorillas were well known by the 1800s (primates in general were familiar by then) but imagine the awe these specimens must have inspired, looking somewhat like man, especially in the wake of On the Origins of Species. The timing made Paul duChaillu's discoveries a perfect storm for all the issues of evolution to rise to the surface and lends a lot of drama to the unknown explorer's attempts to establish himself as a serious scientist.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2013

    A fantastic tale of scientific infighting and jungle adventure.

    A fantastic tale of scientific infighting and jungle adventure.
    Paul du Chaillu claimed French ancestry but grew up in Gabon, where he came across an animal skull that bore some resemblance to man. He decided that he'd leave his mark on the world by finding this beast (basically considered Gabon's Big Foot, even by the natives) and goes on a harrowing adventure. But when he brings it back to London, things get really interesting. Darwin has just published Origins and the scientific community is in the midst of one of the most volatile debates of the day--one that continues to reverberate today. Paul and his gorillas became pawns in these debates. The book is fast-paced, accessible but filled with fascinating details about race, class and of course, evolution.

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  • Posted March 15, 2013

    first-rate non-fiction that reads like a novel

    first-rate non-fiction that reads like a novel

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    Posted May 23, 2013

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    Posted April 12, 2013

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    Posted October 6, 2013

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    Posted January 9, 2014

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    Posted June 14, 2013

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