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Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure

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Overview

The amazing true story of Julian Smith, who retraced the journey of legendary British explorer Ewart "The Leopard" Grogan, the first man to cross the length of Africa, in hopes of also winning the heart of the woman he loved.

In 1898, the dashing young British explorer Ewart “the Leopard” Grogan was in love. In order to prove his mettle to his beloved—and her aristocratic stepfather—he set out on a quest to become the first person to walk ...

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Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure

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Overview

The amazing true story of Julian Smith, who retraced the journey of legendary British explorer Ewart "The Leopard" Grogan, the first man to cross the length of Africa, in hopes of also winning the heart of the woman he loved.

In 1898, the dashing young British explorer Ewart “the Leopard” Grogan was in love. In order to prove his mettle to his beloved—and her aristocratic stepfather—he set out on a quest to become the first person to walk across Africa, “a feat hitherto thought by many explorers to be impossible” (New York Times, 1900).

In 2007, thirty-five-year-old American journalist Julian Smith faced a similar problem with his girlfriend of six years . . . and decided to address it in the same way Grogan had more than a hundred years before: he was going to retrace the Leopard’s 4,500-mile journey for love and glory through the lakes, volcanoes, savannas, and crowded modern cities of Africa.

Smith interweaves both adventures into a seamless narrative in Crossing the Heart of Africa: the story of two explorers, a century apart, who both traversed the length of Africa to prove themselves . . . and came back changed men.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Smith, who writes for Outside and National Geographic, offers a perilous saga of commitment and cannibals in this travel memoir. Saying farewell to his bachelorhood, Smith prepares for his trip to the altar with a trip through Africa, retracing a little-known 4,500-mile route from the Cape of Good Hope to Cairo first traveled on foot in 1899 by explorer Ewart Scott Grogan. In Grogan, Smith sees a man who tackled the arduous for love and fortune, one with answers for his own self doubt; in Smith, readers find a thoughtful, observant commitment-phobe who uses Grogan's adventures as both reference and inspiration for a picturesque narrative. In Malawi, just south of where Grogan hired intrepid Watonga helpers, Smith finds Madonna and adoption the hot topic. Grogan knew isolation; Smith has a cellphone. Integral but less compelling is Smith's romance with his girlfriend, Laura. His happy moral--"compared to making a marriage work, crossing Africa is easy"--may seem more a reprieve than a revelation. (Jan.)
Boston Globe
“Grogan would have been a fitting protagonist for Shakespeare ... an insightful and often uproarious romp. ... memorable ... sheds light on Grogan’s monumental feat, which is worthy of a revisit.”
No Source
AMERICAN SOCIETY OF JOURNALISTS AND AUTHORS AWARDS BEST-BOOK WINNER: MEMOIR
Washington Post
“Julian Smith, a talented travel writer, evokes Grogan, his adventures and his world with both insight and panache.”
GoNomad.com
“An extraordinary love story . . . [an] absolutely fascinating adventure”
Library Journal
Feeling anxious about his impending marriage, award-winning journalist Smith went on an extreme version of a last bachelor road trip. He attempted to follow the route of Ewart Grogan, an Englishman who traversed the African continent from south to north, starting in 1898 and ending in Cairo in 1900. Grogan undertook his journey in order to prove himself worthy of the love of his intended, and the author essentially set out to do the same for his fiancée. Of course, Smith's two-month trip was the easier endeavor (fewer encounters with cannibals, anyway), and he writes thoughtful impressions of present-day Africa as he contemplates Grogan's trip. Drawing heavily on published sources, he tells Grogan's story in vivid descriptions of the hardships and grave danger he faced from animals, humans, and the landscape. VERDICT Like David Grann's best-selling The Lost City of Z, this is two stories, of an explorer and of the author's search for him, and both are compelling. Recommended for travel readers and anyone who has ever been or wants to go on a quest.—Megan Hahn Fraser, Univ. of California Lib., Los Angeles
Kirkus Reviews

An award-winning travel writer embarks on an African expedition to prove his love.

In 2007, Smith began a monumental trek walking the length of Africa, mirroring the trail that British explorer Ewart Grogan had taken more than a century ago. Grogan's purpose was to prove his worthiness to the stepfather of his wealthy sweetheart Gertrude, who saw him only as an unemployed university dropout. Smith's mission was to assess the current state of Africa—and to satisfy his obsession with Grogan—and also to alleviate a few last-minute, nagging reservations about his upcoming marriage to fiancée Laura. For both men, the exhaustive march from Cape Town to Cairo offered a physical token of commitment. Smith creatively dispenses Grogan's history—parentless by age 19, he traveled the world while harboring an obsession with Africa. In reimagining the uniqueness of Grogan's solitary journey up the Zambezi River, Smith dexterously interweaves it with his own turbulent courtship of Laura and the life-changing odyssey he hoped would quell his feelings of ambiguity about marriage. He sought to discover "some kind of equanimity in the tangle of self-doubt and hesitation I've woven in my head." The author's troubles along his journey—a "stifling" private cabin while crossing a massive lake, flirty locals, mountain gorillas—hardly compare to Grogan's, who had limited and comparably antiquated means to battle swarming insects, frequent fevers, parasites, malaria, larceny and cannibal tribes. Employing an affable, conversational tone and including generous photographs, Smith provides an engrossing story that runs parallel to Grogan's history. Most impressive is the author's stark honesty. Even after completing the 4,500-mile journey, marrying the girl of his dreams less than a month later and fathering a daughter, Smith still admits to the sadness of "old freedoms fading" and realistically ponders the longevity of true love.

Smoothly written chronicle that's part travelogue, part contemporary relationship commentary, and all heart.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061873478
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/7/2010
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 955,287
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Julian Smith is an award-winning travel writer whose work has appeared in Outside, National Geographic Adventure, National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian, Wired, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications. He is the author of guidebooks to El Salvador, Ecuador, Virginia, and the southwestern United States, and he has been honored by the Society of American Travel Writers for writing the best guidebook of the year. He lives with his wife and daughter in Portland, Oregon.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 15 of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2012

    ok

    it was a neat story but kinda boring

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