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Brazzaville beach
Publisher: Harper Perennial | ISBN: 0380780496 | edition 2005 | PDF | 320 pages | 887 ko

In the heart of a civil war-torn African nation, primate researcher Hope Clearwater made a shocking discovery about apes and man . . .

Young, alone, and far from her family in Britain, Hope Clearwater contemplates the extraordinary events that left her washed up like driftwood on Brazzaville Beach. It is here, on the distant, lonely outskirts of Africa, where she must come to terms with the perplexing and troubling circumstances of her recent past. For Hope is a survivor of the devastating cruelities of apes and humans alike. And to move forward, she must first grasp some hard and elusive truths: about marriage and madness, about the greed and savagery of charlatan science . . . and about what compels seemingly benign creatures to kill for pleasure alone.

    Summary: Engrossing
    Rating: 5

    Engrossing story, likable heroin, written by a man in the viewpoint of a woman! setting on a beach in africa. Great, great read. Not all action either, addresses themes of morality, decadence of mankind, etc.

    Summary: Only a few DNA strands short of a perfect match
    Rating: 5

    Man vs chimpanzee: Boyd takes the wonderfully named Hope Clearwater's experience as a chimp-sanctuary research scientist in Africa and interleaves it with her crumbling marriage to a failed mathematical genius/lunatic, John.

    Hope suffers from an unerring scientific passion to tell the truth about her empirical observations, a quality not always shared by her colleagues or bosses, whose agendas and motives grow darker as the book progresses.

    Boyd jumps seamlessly across time and place to make this an easy one-day read and a very rewarding one. Brazzaville Beach blends a depth of detail, well-juxtaposed mathematical theories and the realisation that chimps can be just as brutal as human beings.

    This is an intelligent, quality novel from an intelligent, world-class novelist.

    Summary: A Perfect Novel
    Rating: 5

    If someone had given me a basic description of what this novel was about, I probably would not have read it. I don't really have any interest in reading about the life of a scientist studying primates in Africa. But William Gibson is a masterful storyteller and I became enthralled with this book. It's truly moving and exciting and yes, even thrilling and hilarious sometimes. I read this book shortly after it was published and it's with me all these years later. They don't come much better than this.

    Summary: A great book
    Rating: 5

    I just read Boyd's latest, "Restless," and went back to re-read Brazzaville Beach which I first discovered 15 years ago. (Whoever recommended that, thanks!) Brazzaville still retains an intriguing set of themes, and somehow sets the scene to the troubles that west and central Africa have suffered in the past decade and today.
    I won't go over the plot, but would suggest that Boyd's use of language is something that other reviewers have not stressed. It is very economical, and very rich; sometimes you have to read a sentence over to find the nuances of comedy, despair, cynicisms, and then go back to the purely narrative description that pulls his stories along.
    Kudos to Boyd, and Brazzaville remains my favorite of the many novels of his that I've read. Will Hollywood wake up and make a film of this?

    Summary: Out of Africa
    Rating: 4

    Since many readers have reviewed this book before me, I will not summarize its plot, or plots. I found both interconnected stories quite interesting. The account of the central character's life among the chimpanzees and in an African civil war was clearly based on first-hand experience as other readers have noted, and the tale of her troubled marriage to a mathematician in the John Nash mould (A BEAUTIFUL MIND) had personal resonance for me as the son and father of mathematicians. Although I found the methods by which these two stories are interlinked to be cumbersome or even pretentious at times, there is an extensive tissue of ideas knitting the book together into a whole. Among these are the values and limitations inherent in the pursuit of knowledge, and the dynamics of comradeship and friendship in closed societies. But the stories are connected most of all in the character of Hope Clearwater, who emerges as a strong but fallible woman, and entirely human.

    The book also makes an interesting comparison with Russell Banks' more recent THE DARLING, whose female central character also works with chimps in a country torn by civil war. In that book, too, sections set in Africa are set off against a portrayal of the heroine on her own ground. I happen to prefer the Banks, but this may only be because I read it first.

    Is there are trend to construct contemporary novels out of separate stories which are only loosely connected? Within a six-week period, I have also read David Mitchell's CLOUD ATLAS (billed as a novel) and Joan Silber's IDEAS OF HEAVEN (billed as a "ring of stories," but with at least as much interconnectedness as the Mitchell). Also Anne Michaels' FUGITIVE PIECES, which introduces an entirely new life-story in the last quarter of the book in order to cast oblique light on the subject of the first three-quarters; Michael Ondaatje uses a similar technique -- marvelously -- in DIVISADERO. The multiple story is also a favorite technique of W. G. Sebald (THE EMIGRANTS and VERTIGO), whose novels are closer to memoirs anyway. But you also see it in more popular works, such as Jennifer Haigh's MRS KIMBLE and the opening at least of Kate Atkinson's CASE HISTORIES. It is an interesting and potentially powerful trend -- provided only that the various tales ARE connected in significant ways. The test, I think, is whether any one of the stories would lose by being told on its own; in this particular case, I think it would lose something, but not much; hence my reluctant reduction of my vote from 5 stars to only 4.

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