Customer Reviews for

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

Average Rating 4.5
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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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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2013

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