Africa Reading Challenge. 5. Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone
If there was ever a heyday for journalism then it must have been in the latter part of the nineteenth century. As pre-festive season memos circulate newsrooms warning that Christmas party expenses must be kept to a minimum, reading about Henry Morton Stanley’s instructions to travel the world for a year writing travel features before turning his attention to finding Livingstone somewhere in Africa is enough to send the modern reporter green with envy.
The parting words from his editor were: “Draw Â£1,000 now, and when you have gone through that, draw another Â£1,000, and when that is spent, draw another Â£1,000, and when you have finished that, draw another Â£1,000, and so on â€” BUT FIND LIVINGSTONE!”
By the time he had set off on his epic journey, Stanley needed 200 porters to carry his supplies, which included eight thousand yards of calico (for bartering), two collapsible boats, dozens of 62lb bags of beads, and a bottle of Champagne to be opened once Livingstone had been found. (None of it had to be approved by the beancounters upstairs.)
He needed it all, for his journey would take him through malarial swamps, a companion would die from elephantiasis and crocodiles snatched donkeys. Slaving wars hampered his progress and disease stalked his massive caravan.
This is the sort of adventure tale that tells itself. But Martin Dugard has managed to set the rescue mission in the context of British and American rivalries – the decline of one empire and the emergence of a new world power – as well as joining the dots to reveal the very human characters behind the story, while never falling behind the pace of what is ultimately a riproaring adventure yarn.
My previous reviews in the Africa Reading Challenge
- Warriors by Gerald Hanley
- The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer
- A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul
- The Wizard of the Nile by Matthew Green