Note about my Reviews

Dear Authors: The reviews in this blog are only personal opinions. I have absolutely no background in literature, writing or reviewing. I am a Librarian (actually a Library Technician for those who care OR know the difference) with a love for a good story. The opinions in the reviews are ONLY my OPINIONS. I am not commenting on the writers ability since well -- I am not a writer and never will be. If you are the author of any of the books reviewed here, my opinion is just that and not a judgment against you!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Crossing the Heart of Africa by Julian Smith: Book Review

Crossing the Heart of Africa
by Julian Smith
ISBN: 978-0-06-1873478
Buy from Indigo

Description: 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.

The Good Stuff

  • Fascinating and unusual story
  • Loved how the story goes back and forth from Julian's journey to Grogan's - even if Julian's journey isn't as harrowing, but was impressed with Julian's honesty and emotional growth
  • Historical information interspersed within the story, and done in such an intriguing and interesting way
  • Grogan was a fascinating man and would be interested in reading more about him
  • Mentions one of my favorite movies "The African Queen" and I learned a little more about the facts that inspired the book - must go watch again this weekend - I LOVE that movie!
  • Enjoyed Julian's description of his experience with the Gorilla's
  • Julian travels through Rwanda and discusses his experiences and how the country has changed since the horrific events of the genocide.
The Not so Good Stuff
  • It was a little dry at times
  • Seriously disturbed and grossed out during the scenes with the Cannibals
  • The story of Grogan is so fascinating and mesmerizing that Julian's journey sort of pales in comparison
  • I know it was the time, but I still can't understand why men feel the need to stalk and kill such majestic animals as Lions and Elephants
  • Cannibals -- sorry that description was nasty!
Favorite Quotes/Passages

"Vicious animals, biblical weather, ferocious native tribes, incurable diseases unknown to science. There were more ways to die in Africa than there were crocodiles in her rivers on lions on her savannahs."

"Grogan thought missionaries upset Africa's traditional cultures more than they helped. Such men should be caged, or at least prevented from running loose amongst the natives."

"I think of Bogart and Hepburn at the end of The African Queen, getting married by the captain of the Luisa, the fictional version of the Graf van Gotzen. They're about to be hung as spies by the Germans, but they're beaming.  What matters is that they're being joined forever, even if their lives are about to end. Romeo and Juliet, Heathcliff and Catherine, Roxanne and Cyrano--death always seems to shadow true love in fiction, as if the only way to earn the perfect partner is by paying the ultimate price."

What I Learned
  • I accidentally requested this one, and wasn't really into reading it, but was pleasantly surprised 
  • Tons of fascinating historical information about Africa
  • How horrific the AIDS problem is in Africa
Who should/shouldn't read
  • I would recommend that you read this one over a period of time in order to enjoy it more
  • Fans of travel memoirs will enjoy

3.5 Dewey's

I received this from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review -- don't remember requesting it, bet you I put the X in the wrong spot ; )

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