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Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and…

by Monte Reel

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2611385,950 (3.68)1
Documents the story of mid-19th-century explorer Paul Du Chaillu, who after three years in the equatorial wilderness of West Africa emerged with definitive proof of the existence of the mythical gorilla, only to be swept up by the heated debate about Darwin's theory of evolution.

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Very fascinating history. If the description sounds in any way interesting to you, by all means give it a read. The book is exceptionally well-written. ( )
  usuallee | Oct 7, 2021 |
The book's Title and sub-title provide a basic description of what's to follow, but Monte Reel's story of Paul Du Chaillu and his African explorations surprised me in several ways. I'd never really thought about when and where the gorilla became known to the industrialized nations, but I would have guessed it was hundreds of years earlier than this book revealed. The reluctance of many in the Royal Societies of England to accept the validity of Du Chaillu's discovery of the gorilla is both amusing and sad. Reel describes the difficulty of many Christian fundamentalist's in England in accepting the controversial theories of Darwin regarding evolution, and the near simultaneous discovery of a potential "missing-link" only added fuel to the fire. Also, "Between Man and Beast" gives the reader a taste of what central African exploration was like, and the hardships of the explorers is hard to fathom.

( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
First, a note: I received a galley of this book from the publisher. An engaging, well-crafted nonfiction account of an explorer who has been largely lost to history (at least popular history). This is pitched as a book that David Grann's fans would appreciate, and as a fan of David Grann, I was riveted. Reel is clearly a writer who understands that a great narrative, with tension, conflict, and uncertain outcomes, can propel a reader through material (like a great adventure story) and I think he's done an admirable job of doing this here. But this is popular history--anyone looking for a discussion about why the discovery of the gorilla threw the evolution conversation into disarray won't find much depth here, and given the subtitle, I was a little disappointed in that. But Reel has rehabilitated Du Chaillu's reputation, given the reader a glimpse into the rarefied world of the uniquely British hierarchy of science and science minds, made historical figures come alive, and ended with an exceptionally poignant image. ( )
  bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
This book has a lively style, and is written in short chapters. It fails on the front of promising to delve into the evolution controversies of the 19th century in some depths, and then doesn't. But as a narrative of the life of Paul Chaillu, the explorer of Gabon, and the discoverer of the Gorilla, it does an adequate job. It also has short bios of many of the figures of the evolution struggle, but not much depth on them. It does give an example of the general shape of academic conflicts, so has some value there. I'd call it good summer reading. the picture are adequate, and there could have been better maps.
Du Chaillu provided sensationalist fiction with two stereotypes, The Great White Hunter and the Crazy Scientist. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jun 17, 2015 |
An unknown story (to me) of a Victorian African explorer (Paul Du Chaillu) who seems to have been missed after Livingston, Stanley, Speke, Burton, et al. It fuses the Victorian ideal of the civilized explorer with the resulting changes in thoughtt/philosophy fro the additional scientific knowledge that these great explorations brought back to Europe. This book focuses on the discovery and capture of the great gorilla, its display in Europe and America, and the debate that it brought between Darwin and his detractors. A well written, poignant story of a man who rose to great heights and then fell back to earth. ( )
  cyclops1771 | Nov 11, 2014 |
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(Prologue) He'd been hunting in the forest's depths for months, but he'd never known such silence.
Late in 1846, near the end of the rainy season, a group of men reached the Atlantic coast of Africa after weeks of slogging through the waterlogged interior.
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Documents the story of mid-19th-century explorer Paul Du Chaillu, who after three years in the equatorial wilderness of West Africa emerged with definitive proof of the existence of the mythical gorilla, only to be swept up by the heated debate about Darwin's theory of evolution.

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