by JanineS (Michigan): In reviewing my TBR bookshelf, I found this book and what an excellent choice it was to read as it was interesting, exciting and harrowing story of the Congo. The author, a British journalist for The Daily Telegraph, set out to follow the 1874-77 route of Henry Morton Stanley used in charting the Congo River. Set in 2004 shortly after a peace breakdown in the region, the journey itself over land and on the river was frightening (possible rebels lurking everywhere and corrupt officials demanding/trying to extort money), exhausting (heat, bugs and lack of drinkable water or living conditions), and complicated (finding transportation in an area destroyed by war and climate deteriorations required strategy). Loved the history behind Stanley’s exploration as well as the colonial and current history (as of 2008 book publication). Having read King Leopoldo’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild, I was familiar somewhat with what he did to colonize the Congo – and exploit and treat the natives inhumanly – so re-reading aspects of this period was enjoyable. Also, it was interesting to read about the filming of The African Queen (the author cited excerpts from Katherine Hepburn’s diaries of her time in one part of the author’s Congo trip). To read of the deterioration of colonized cities due to the corrupt Congo regimes who exploited the country’s natural resources for personal gain (sound familiar?) when they took over the Congo after it gained independence from Belgium in 1960 was sad. The conditions of life are so primitive and the people so poor, it would seem that their lives are doomed. Then there is the violence of the bloody revolts between 1960-2002 which was chilling to read. I marveled too at what the author put up with physically. It was no picnic to journey in this underdeveloped part of the world where electricity and sanitary living conditions were few and far between. I think I was exhausted when I was finished reading the book and I didn’t do the trek (LOL)! But I was saddened by the poverty and neglect of the Congolese people by their leaders and fellow neighbors. As an example of this, at the end of Chapter 10 when one of the author’s contacts on his journey, Oggi, asks him to take his 4-year-old son with him because Oggi knew that his son’s life was not one of a future filled with promise or hope. This was heart-wrenching to read. Overall, though, I’m very glad I read this book. Highly recommend.