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The River of Doubt: Theodore…

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey (2005)

by Candice Millard

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The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

The River of Doubt is about an exploration of a 1,000 mile tributary of the Amazon through dense rain forest and hostile native tribes. However, the most notable part of the exploration is that one of its leaders was former President Teddy Roosevelt. Shortly after loosing his bid for re-election when Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate, Roosevelt wass persuaded to go to South America where he would speak to various heads of state and tour the Amazon. However, Roosevelt soon transformed what was originally conceived as being more of a pleasure cruise into something much more adventurous - an exploration of one of the unmapped waterways in the Brazilian interior.

Millard, who is an excellent writer, explains how the idea then spun out of control with plans being made for an expedition by people who did not understand what exploring this part of the world meant. Meanwhile, Roosevelt who had a long history of adventure seeking and challenging himself, failed to grasp until very late in the process that the organizers to whom he had entrusted the details did not really understand the undertaking well enough. Moreover, Roosevelt himself comes across as foolishly confident of his ability to persevere, especially considering his age.

The story of the expedition makes clear just how dangerous the journey truly was and how close Roosevelt came to dying in the attempt. The idea of an ex-President disappearing into the wilderness for months today in order to explore unknown lands is unthinkable today. Of course, the modern world also has fewer blank spaces on our maps too. There are no 1,000 mile rivers that lay undiscovered and it has now become a challenge to avoid contact with the rest of the world for months, even in remote places.

Millard's book was a fascinating read for her discussion of Roosevelt's character and the events of the trip itself. I will say that much of the description of the perils of the rain forest read a lot like the descriptions in Jungleland and the Lost City of Z but I suppose there are only so many ways to describe the environment. Ultimately though it is the involvement of Roosevelt that elevates this well done book of exploration into a unique historical event.
1 vote Oberon | Nov 27, 2015 |
After his failed bid for re-election as a third party candidate in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt decided to go on a trip to South America. The cobbled together expedition changed from politics & pleasure (visiting his son Kermit, for example) to an expedition down what was then known as the Rio da Duvida - the River of Doubt. Previously only a portion of it was known, and this exploration would literally put it on the map - but at what cost to Roosevelt and his contingent?

Teddy Roosevelt is an interesting character, and a president with whom I should be more familiar, but I'm afraid before I read this book the only things I could remember about him was the Rough Riders and "Speak softly and carry a big stick." The book sets the stage deliberately with information about the Roosevelts, American politics and more, but once it moves into the expedition it's a rip-roaring survival story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The information about Brazilian Indian tribes, rainforest ecology and more was fascinating. ( )
  bell7 | Nov 17, 2015 |
Historical account of Roosevelt's trip to Brazil to chart the River of Doubt. An engaging account that brings to life the historical period, lives, politics, science and adventure of Roosevelt and his companions. ( )
  wvlibrarydude | Sep 6, 2015 |
Top-shelf story telling. Loved it. Hope Candice will have a new book magically appear (soon!) so I can sink into it.

Mrs. Millard is 2-for-2 and on my automatic purchase and read list. ( )
  Industrialstr | Aug 7, 2015 |
Theodore Roosevelt's exploration of the uncharted River of Doubt, a tributary of the Amazon, had serious planning problems even before it began. Candice Millard's account is edge-of-your-seat armchair adventure.

The author brings to life the brutality of the jungle and the river. As well as learning of the journey, the reader learns of the animals of the jungle, the unpredictable nature of the river, the ferocity of the native people, the strengths and weaknesses of the exploration party. She does it without being flowery or verbose – just a magnificent telling of the tale.

Of course, the president, who had recently lost his bid for reelection, was a major part of the story, as was his legendary toughness. But just as important on the expedition were his son Kermit and the other key players. And, of course, the hired men who did the worst, most dangerous tasks. At times, the men had to right not only the jungle, the river, and the indigenous people, but also one another.

The epilogue told of the explorers after the journey ended. Some good, some quite sad.

I am a fan of this author, and loved her book Destiny of the Republic just as much as this one. She brings history to life, and anyone who thinks history is dull has not read her books. This book is not a new one, I'm a bit late to the party, but it is timeless.

I listened to an unabridged audio edition of this book, and the narrator, Paul Michael, added to the story. His voice as Teddy Roosevelt was terrific. ( )
  TooBusyReading | Jul 11, 2015 |
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Series (with order)
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Original title
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Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
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First words
The line outside Madison Square Garden started to form at 5:30 p.m., just as an orange autumn sun was setting in New York City on Halloween Eve, 1912.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
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Book description
Haiku summary
Teddy takes a trip
Murder, illness, starvation
Sloop John B was right

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0767913736, Paperback)

At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth.

The River of Doubt—it is a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon that snakes through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world. Indians armed with poison-tipped arrows haunt its shadows; piranhas glide through its waters; boulder-strewn rapids turn the river into a roiling cauldron.

After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find, the first descent of an unmapped, rapids-choked tributary of the Amazon. Together with his son Kermit and Brazil’s most famous explorer, Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Roosevelt accomplished a feat so great that many at the time refused to believe it. In the process, he changed the map of the western hemisphere forever.

Along the way, Roosevelt and his men faced an unbelievable series of hardships, losing their canoes and supplies to punishing whitewater rapids, and enduring starvation, Indian attack, disease, drowning, and a murder within their own ranks. Three men died, and Roosevelt was brought to the brink of suicide. The River of Doubt brings alive these extraordinary events in a powerful nonfiction narrative thriller that happens to feature one of the most famous Americans who ever lived.

From the soaring beauty of the Amazon rain forest to the darkest night of Theodore Roosevelt’s life, here is Candice Millard’s dazzling debut.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:15 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Chronicles the 1914 expedition of Theodore Roosevelt into the unexplored heart of the Amazon basin to explore and map the region surrounding a tributary called the River of Doubt, detailing the perilous conditions they faced.

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