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Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd
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Brazzaville Beach (1990)

by William Boyd

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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Despite its heading trappings, I couldn't say I was moved by the novel and its examination of nature and science, its flourish of systems and the inexplicable margins where our emotions have left us stranded.

My wife was listening to RadioLab and I mentioned this novel. We discused territory and trespass. The consequences explored in the novel are grim. There's some terror in the feral. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
This is the story of a chimp researcher, Hope, who relocates to Africa after her husband succumbs to mental illness and they separate. She goes to Africa and dives into her research but another crisis develops which threatens her career and her life. She is watching chimp behavior when she discovers behaviors that conflict with her boss's research. No one believes her when she reports her finds, and soon she finds her life and her career being threatened by the researchers around her.



While we are thrown into Hope's story as a researcher, the story also travels back in time to the beginning of Hope's relationship with her husband and his dissent into madness. These two stories together help the reader discover why hope came to Africa in the first place, and what makes her return to London in the end.



This was a pretty good book. I really enjoyed the sections about the chimp research and chimp behaviors. It also helped push the story along when the author gave us the background of Hope and what lead to her work in Africa. The transfer from past to present flows easily in this book.



I definitely would recommend this one. It isn't a large book, and it isn't a hard read. Check it out. ( )
  JenMat | Jan 10, 2019 |
Excellent novel of Africa, chimps and human nature -- this novel has it all. Includes lots of action and suspense as well as love interests and sex. Boyd's novels read best sipped at like fine wine as they are full-bodied and multi-layered. Despite a few awkwardly frustrating moments, this book rates very high because it touches on so much in a very clear, subtly disciplined way and because our female narrator's perceptions ring so true. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
This is a well written gripping story which I read some time ago. It's one of my all time favorites. I've read other works by Boyd but personally I find his early works like this one and A Good Man in Africa to be his best. ( )
  SUS456 | Jul 27, 2015 |
The chief complaint I see in reviews of this book is that Hope isn’t very feminine. Seriously, what was she supposed to do, cry a lot and paint her nails? Other than not being worried about rape when captured at the end, I thought Hope was portrayed well. I’m not a particular girly girl. I know about guns. I lift weights. I don’t scream when I see a bug/bat/snake. I’m heartlessly pragmatic about a lot of stuff. Just what kind of narrow-minded idea of femininity are we dealing with here? Hard to say.

So leaving that aside, I tore through this book very quickly. It weaves two timelines in Hope’s past, connected by her present state which is living on Brazzaville Beach. Boyd skillfully builds each story, dropping hints, moving the action forward with just the right amount of tension. For me, the parts that tore my heart were the ones about the chimps. I’ve long known that chimpanzees aren’t the platonic ideal of great apes. They’re crafty and violent when needed. Hope wonders about whether they’re also cruel after witnessing what seemed to be an egregious attack on a weakened and already injured chimp. She decides yes and with the escalating skirmishes between the groups of apes and the final scene between her and Mallabar, it shows just how close we are as species.

One thing that bothered me to no end was that Hope didn’t take pictures of these awful events. She wasn’t the only one with a camera, but like UFOs, the chimps seem to evade photography. All down the line she’s being balked and sabotaged because her research doesn’t support the accepted model of chimp behavior. Instead she invites the chief denier to join her in the field and witness the savagery first hand. Even this doesn’t work though. I’m a little baffled at her decisions in this area.

With the story of her marriage, things are less clear, as they always are when love is concerned. At first I thought the problem would boil down to infidelity and it does, but it’s a minor threat. The real threat is insanity. John starts acting nutty out of a desperation to achieve a mathematical victory. I don’t know if it’s an indictment on the field of mathematics itself or another on academia as a whole, but when John can’t reach his goals he cracks up and electroconvulsive therapy seems like a good idea. I wrote a quick note in my ebook copy of when Hope cottons to the final idea about John and races outside to find him; I was right and she was wrong so only one of us was surprised by the outcome. ( )
  Bookmarque | Feb 10, 2015 |
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'The unexamined life is not worth living.'
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For Susan
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I live on Brazzaville Beach. Brazzaville Beach on the edge of Africa.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0380780496, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:19 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Hope Clearwater lives alone in a beach house in an unnamed African country, trying to patch together her shattered life. An ecologist, she had come to Africa to participate in primate research and to heal the deep wounds of her marriage to a brilliant English mathematician; but she soon found herself plunged into another crisis, one that threatened not only her career but also her life. In a book packed with scientific and mathematical metaphors, Boyd explores how people create, defend, ignore, or subvert the belief systems that govern their lives. If on one level this is an intellectual thriller, on another it is very much an exciting and riveting adventure story, and on yet another a subtle examination of the power grid of personal relationships.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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