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Dark Safari: The Life Behind the Legend of Henry Morton Stanley

Dark Safari: The Life Behind the Legend of Henry Morton Stanley

by John Bierman

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A savagely deprived childhood rendered John Rowlands something of an emotional cripple, yet this unloved illegitimate son of a housemaid became Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the celebrated African explorer. Evasion, suppression and falsification were his defenses against the abandonment, rejection and betrayal that haunted his life--and it is the reality behind these Walter Mitty-like defenses that is the subject of this stimulating, well-documented biography. Until he ``discovered'' Livingstone in 1871, Stanley was essentially a ruthless, driven reporter on the trail of a scoop, but after their meeting he became a searcher for rivers and mountains, lakes and deserts, in a quest for self-esteem. This is an epic tale of epic journeys by a swaggering little man who, at his worst, writes Bierman ( Righteous Gentile: The Story of Raoul Wallenberg ), was ``a bully, a braggart, a hypocrite and a liar'' and at his best was ``steadfast, brave, enduring, resourceful, and an inspired leader.'' Photos. BOMC and History Book Club alternates. (Nov.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Stanley has always been something of an enigma, thanks in part to his own considerable efforts to distort his life's story--his Autobiography is about as much fiction as it is fact--and also because the early biographical endeavors focusing on his life were either inept or hagiographical. Richard Hall changed all of that with his splendid Stanley: An Adventurer Explored ( LJ 3/1/75), a work which rightly recognizes that explorers are a breed apart, and should be considered accordingly. Now this welcome trend--a bit of Lytton Strachey but with deeper research and less venom--continues with two fine lives of Stanley. Both are well researched, written in lively fashion, and of considerable importance. While neither gives Hall's pioneering effort quite the credit it deserves (nor fully supplants it), there is much here worth pondering. As his title suggests, Bierman's work includes a fair bit of psychobiography, while McLynn takes a more traditional approach. Both authors rightly note that Stanley studies suffer from a shameful situation whereby a Belgian scholar, Marcel Luwel, and his government have denied others access to the family papers. Still, these books do a fine job of circumventing the problem. Overall, McLynn's work is more solidly documented, although Bierman does make good use of little-consulted material at the Smithsonian, etc. McLynn's book is also the better balanced treatment of the two; Bierman focuses on that portion of Stanley's life between 1841 and 1877--the ``dark safari'' of his title. Both books will be greeted with enthusiasm by students of exploration, British imperialism, and African history, and are highly recommended for most libraries. Dark Safari is a BOMC alternate.-- James A. Casada, Winthrop Coll., Rock Hill, S.C.

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University of Texas Press
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6.08(w) x 9.22(h) x 1.07(d)

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