Sunday, 24 April 2011

Blood River by Tim Butcher

I'm not a huge non-fiction fan, but I've been trying to read 50 pages of non fiction a day for the last two weeks, and managed to read 2 great books, I'm hoping that I can make this a habit and get lots more non-fiction read.

Blood River is Tim Butcher, a British journalist who specialises in reporting from war torn countries, account of his attempt to follow H.M Stanley's journey through the Congo.
Butcher researched and spent years trying to find the right time to enter the Congo, to pass through all the red tape and the problems involved in taking such a journey. Once there he faces yet more red tape and problems. He starts off his journey trying to bike up through a region and ends up having to rely on people from various charities and organisations as there simply is no form of public transport or transport for sale. Transport he finds is the biggest problem, with petrol being scarce and his luggage tied to the bikes with old inner tubes. As Butcher moves on we watch him continously tackle this traffic problem which only seems to get worse when he wants to travel down the river.
Butcher also introduces us to a range of characters, some the shifty locals we hear horror stories of when we go on holiday - trying all the tricks of the trade to rip off the closest foreigner. But others are more honest and hard working, from locals to old expats who moved to the Congo when Belgium ruled the land, charity workers to priests come to deliver their message; all of whom played a vital role in keeping his journey going.
Butcher intersperses his journey with the history of the area, focussing on Stanley and Livingstone and the Belgium rule, as well as local moments of civil war and politics. At the start I found that the history far out-weighed his journey but as the book went on a reversal happened.
I enjoyed this read and it certainly gave me something to think about, as the Congo is somewhere which isn't really reported on that widely, or the centre of charity and awareness campaigns like some of its near neighbours.

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