I am here because two sets of strange and extraordinary events happened to me...
One in England, first, and then one in Africa.
On Brazzaville Beach, on the edge of Africa, Hope Clearwater examines the complex circumstances that brought her there. Sifting the details for evidence of her own innocence or guilt, she tells her engrossing story with a blunt and beguiling honesty that not only intrigues and disturbs but is also completely enthralling.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Maddy on 02-02-12
Disappointing despite 4 stars
I loved Restless and Any Human Heart, listened to it that order and although I enjoyed this, it's not as good as the other two and I can't put my finger on the reason. I wonder if it's the reader? Harrier Walter reads beautifully, the voices are very well done and yet ... and yet... She has a very distinctive voice and the very clarity of her diction and the rather clipped vowels create a brittle feel to Hope Clearwater, who is anything but brittle or fragile; like the women in Restless she is independent, strong and resourceful. I think Harriet Walter would be brilliant reading Jane Austen or PG Woodhouse - the crisp accent just letting through the emotions, humour and wit - but I thought she was a bit too posh for this and maybe, oddly, too good for it too. She would be more suited to writing with more depth to it. The editing has also been severe with the break between chapters often non existent so, especially near the beginning before I realised this was the case, I was floundering as the story moved backwards and forwards in time and place without any perceptible pause to indicate a new chapter. But I decided to give it 4 stars - 3 seemed really too mean for what was still a very enjoyable listen.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
By Anthony on 15-06-16
Scientific misconduct in unstable idyllic setting
Beautifully researched and written - a story of scientific endeavor in tropical Africa. A young, resourceful and sharp researcher, Hope, heads to Africa in part to escape her own domestic woes. Joining a team researching chimpanzee behaviour she engages enthusiastically - in the field with the chimps and research team - off the field with other expatriate adventurers.
Things go awry when she identifies a streak of violence and cannibalism among the chimps; this challenges the research team leader and their campaigns to raise funds for study of one of man's closest relatives, assumed to be peaceful, cooperative and social.
Without being too much of a spoiler - her discoveries unmask a corrupt world of scientific competition, control and unethical conduct, and ultimately pose a risk to her life. Risk to her becomes intertwined with the internal conflict and contesting militia operating in the country.
Meticulously researched and informative, we learn about mathematics and algebra, botany and primatology, chimpanzee sexual behaviour and the most vicious of the animals - man himself.
Beautifully written we gain insights into science, discovery, and corruption, gendered violence and efforts to control the narrative...
A terrific listen - the narrator does well across the wide range of accents populating a research site in a beautiful but no longer idyllic part of Africa.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Sheila V. on 31-07-13
An absolutely brilliant book
What did you love best about Brazzaville Beach?
Its complexity with the different strands of the story, yet so easy to listen to, the story has great rhythms to it.
Which character – as performed by Harriet Walter – was your favorite?
I did like the central character Hope the most. She overcame obstacles in her professional life and in her personal life, that did not necessarily lead to a traditional happy ending in any part of the book. She was strong, fallible and likeable, Hope will continue to have an interesting life, I cannot imagine her ever settling for an office job.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
Many moments in this book moved me, quite complex. Finding out about her most recent lover, floored me. Serious read here, not for the fainthearted.
Any additional comments?
Loved, I wish there was more to read.
By Ilana on 16-03-12
My first William Boyd and certainly not my last
Hope Clearwater is a young woman who has already accumulated quite a few harrowing life experiences, and she tells the story of what has led up to her living on Brazzaville Beach in some unnamed part of Africa. First comes a marriage to a mathematician shortly after having finished her own studies as a researcher. Completely obsessed by his research into the mathematics of unpredictability, her husband displays more and more distressing signs of mental instability until Hope must face the fact that she cannot continue living with him. Then comes her work in Africa as part of a research organization that focuses on studying primates in the wild. Here again, she soon sees some disturbing behaviour on the part of the chimps under her observation, which runs contrary to the long-held belief that they are peaceful and gentle animals, and rather more like humans than anyone, including her boss, is willing to accept. Brilliantly written and filled with unexpected twists and turns, I was continually impressed with the way Boyd incorporated what must have been an incredible amount of research (into primate behaviour and advanced mathematics, among other things) into a very engaging novel. Great narrations by Harriet Walter, who does a very convincing job as Hope Clearwater.