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Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure that Took the Victorian World by Storm Hardcover – Deckle Edge

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (March 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385534221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385534222
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #416,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2013: When Paul Du Chaillu set out to bag the gorilla in the name of science (and as a shortcut to academic credibility), it was still the quasi-mythical njena of the Western imagination: a savage, bloodthirsty beast deep in the forests of equatorial Africa, seen only by the tribes that dwelled within. He got his animal--he got many, by way of his rifle--but when he eventually made his way to England, he and his stuffed specimens became unlikely pawns at the center of the burgeoning debate over evolution in the wake of Darwin’s insurgent hypothesis. While jealous explorers questioned his bona fides and jaded scientists glibly dismissed his methods and observations, Du Chaillu's reputation as a death-defying killer of monsters granted him celebrity status, lifting the often bewildered hero to rarified levels of London society. With the unlikeliest of heroes at its center, Between Man and Beast is a fast-paced and fun blend of adventure and history. --Jon Foro


“The gorilla’s very existence suggested—at just the time Charles Darwin was also suggesting—heretical ideas about the origin and nature of mankind. And the man chiefly responsible for bringing this animal to worldwide attention was Paul Du Chaillu, the central character and driving riddle of Monte Reel’s…tale of scientific buccaneering…Intriguing…Rattles along with fine, wacky momentum”
--The New York Times Book Review

"Engrossing....would go great with popcorn.....addresses big topics—evolution, abolition—but they remain in service of the narrative, providing context for colorful conflict."
--Wall Street Journal

"Using extensive historical research, Reel brings alive this expedition and a later one and describes what happened between the two journeys....sense of urgency compels the reader onward to find out what happened....Arresting"
--The Washington Post

"Gripping....Intellectually satisfying....Exciting"

"A lively and intriguing biography of the restless adventurer who first sees, studies and takes specimens of gorillas....thoroughly engrossing."
--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Entertaining and provocative story of the life and adventures of explorer Paul Du Chaillu....[Reel] does a superb job of telling the engrossing story of Du Chaillu and tying it into the events and thoughts of the time, from the intense debate over racial differences in light of the theory of evolution to the habit of Abraham Lincoln’s political enemies of referring to him as a 'gorilla'....scrupulous in adhering to the facts....At the same time, it has the narrative flow and evocative language of a fine historical novel."
--St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A supremely entertaining, enlightening and memorable read."

"Reel paints each chapter of du Chaillu's life as a vivid scene worthy of the silver screen. They range in scope from the perilous adventures taking place within the jungles of Gabon to the equally tense academic battles waged by British high society. They are all rich with detail, dialogue and atmosphere thanks to the immense work Reel has put forth in researching du Chaillu's life. At times, the mind staggers to recall that this story is a work of nonfiction."
--San Antonio Express

"An admirable book for those who like epic tales of exploration.... Fascinating.... highlights once again the big issues that seem endlessly interesting to new generations of Americans, 'the evolution debate, racial discourse, the growth of Christian fundamentalism' in careful historical context and with a fine hand for thoughtful exposition."
--The Buffalo News

"Retelling his adventures opens a wonderful window, both magical and alarming, into what he [Paul Du Chaillu] saw and, ultimately, into who we are."
--The Free Lance-Star

"Reel provides a robust intellectual history by embedding Du Chaillu’s story within the debate over evolution, the relationship among the human races, the rise of Christian fundamentalism, and the nasty backbiting that was common in the scientific arena of the time. He expertly probes the history of the enigmatic Du Chaillu, someone who purposefully shrouded his past from scrutiny....In Reel’s hands, Du Chaillu’s adventures in Africa, including his discovery of Pygmies and his part in a smallpox epidemic, were no less harrowing than his interactions with many of the world’s leading scientists and explorers.”
--Publishers Weekly

"You’d half expect a Bela Lugosi mad scientist or a Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan to pop up in this Victorian-era drama, which travels from the London of Darwin and Dickens to unexplored Africa to Civil War-ravaged America."
--New York Post's Required Reading

"Before there was Jane Goodall, or even Tarzan and King Kong, the gorilla was a creature of mystery....Reel retraces his life and work with the spirit of curiosity and adventure that drove du Chaillu in the first place. What results is a celebration of accomplishments too far-reaching to be understood in their time."
--The Daily Beast

"Adventure, history, nature, big ideas—what more could you want?"
--Library Journal

"Fascinating....A lively footnote to the debate between science and religion and the exploration of the African jungle in the Victorian era."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Those unfamiliar with [Paul Du Chaillu] would do well to pick up a copy of Between Man and Beast, Monte Reel's new book about Du Chaillu's life and adventures in pursuit of this fierce creature... Although Du Chaillu's checkered life story is the bedrock of this book, Reel builds upon it fascinating sketches of England's leading intellectuals, explorers and freelance eccentrics of the day, detailing not only their personal achievements but their professional jealousies as well."
--Book Page 

“Monte Reel's BETWEEN MAN AND BEAST contains all the elements of an enthralling adventure story. But it is more than just a riveting tale; it is also a brilliant exploration of ideas that illuminate the very nature of humankind.”
--David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of THE LOST CITY OF Z and THE DEVIL AND SHERLOCK HOLMES

“From the moment explorer Paul du Chaillu had his first, fleeting glimpse of a gorilla, human understanding of this extraordinary animal began to change in a fundamental, irrevocable way. Reel tells du Chaillu’s story—a fascinating, wide-ranging tale that involves everyone from Charles Darwin to Thomas Huxley to even Abraham Lincoln—with a vividness that brings long forgotten events to startling life.”
 --Candice Millard, New York Times bestselling author of DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC and THE RIVER OF DOUBT
"Between Man and Beast is a rip-snorting adventure story, shot through with intrigue and absorbing intellectual history. Monte Reel is a wonderful writer, and he makes an expert guide to Paul Du Chaillu's groundbreaking travels in the wilds of Africa and his equally treacherous journey through the scientific salons of 19th century London. By weaving Du Chaillu's pursuit of the gorilla with the debate over evolution, Reel has given us a true 'missing link' that connects exploration, science, and literature. Readers will embrace Du Chaillu and root for him every step of the way/"
-- Mitchell Zuckoff, New York Times bestselling author of LOST IN SHANGRI-LA

“Monte Reel has revived not only a lost world and a forgotten adventurer but a misunderstood monster.  While dissecting the complex motives of the first foreigner to set eyes on a gorilla—at the time believed to be humanity's closest relative—Reel plunges us into the vicious controversy his discovery unleashes in the urban jungle of London in the age of Darwin and Huxley.  In so doing, Reel has not only produced a page-turner filled with surprising details, connections and insights, but he has also forged the missing link between the perennially contentious Theory of Evolution and our equally durable fascination with King Kong.”
--John Vaillant, bestselling author of THE TIGER

"Part swashbuckling jungle story, part gaslit Victorian time capsule, Monte Reel's visceral, captivating book restores a forgotten hero to his rightful place in history."
--Benjamin Wallace, author of the New York Times Bestseller THE BILLIONAIRE'S VINEGAR

"Monte Reel’s BETWEEN MAN AND BEAST is a provocative, entertaining, and original adventure narrative."
- Laurence Bergreen, New York Times bestselling author of OVER THE EDGE OF THE WORLD and COLUMBUS: THE FOUR VOYAGES

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 125 customer reviews
Very interesting book; I highly recommend it.
Marty Spatz
An excellent adventure biography of Paul Du Chaillu, the explorer who "discovered" the gorilla in Gabon in mid 19th century.
Reel's book is very readable, and the story he tells is interesting.
Avid reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 69 people found the following review helpful By J. Hundley VINE VOICE on January 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Terrific popular history, this. Like a great many others, I suspect, I had never hear of Paul Du Chaillu prior to picking this up. This could be due to my spotty education, though it is more so (I flatter myself) that Du Chaillu seems virtually unknown today, at least in his adopted US. Mores the pity, but it does point out the hole to be filled by this very entertaining and enjoyable volume about this explorer /adventurer who gave the outside world it first glimpse of the mysterious beast, the gorilla.

Shrouded in myth and mystery, when Du Chaillu set out from the coast of Gabon to search the interior of equitorial Africa in 1856, gorillas had rarely, if ever, been so much as glimpsed by anyone other than local tribes who tended to steer clear of them and fabulate incredible stories to help explain why they did. When Du Chaillu emerged with their bodies and presented them to the outside world he set off a storm of celebrity, controversy and consternation. And this is where the story really takes off.

Well researched and extensively noted, Reel's book is not an academic history or a full-fledged biography, though it is likely as close to the latter as we are likely to get since Du Chaillu's origins are both poorly documented and, for reasons that become clear, he did a wonderful job of keeping them hidden during his lifetime. But it is also more than a jolly-good yarn, too. Reel does a fine job of putting the man, his acts and actions, into historical context, where he and his gorillas stepped out of "darkest" Africa right into the middle of the initial controversies over evolution and "man's relationship to beast".

But it is, too, a jolly-good yarn and an absorbing read. If I might have liked to delve a little deeper here and there, well, that's why there are OTHER books on the era and the histories of science, thought and exploration. This is written for a popular audience and it delivers. Very much recommended.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Mitchell VINE VOICE on January 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The main theme of this book is the biography of Paul du Chaillu, who is credited as being the first white man to see, kill and capture a gorilla. Were that the end, the story would be a mere twenty pages. There is much more to the story and Mr. Reel captures it.

Du Chaillu was one of the explorers of the Victorian Age who were worshiped in theory, but not in practice. With echoes of today's world, it seemed the scientific community and the public loved to pump these explorers up and then relish in trashing and destroying them. Du Chaillu returned from Gabon having explored areas of Africa never seen by white men before. He brought back skins and skulls of gorillas, samples of hundreds of other birds and animals never before seen as well as stuffed gorillas. Since he was young and inexperienced, he did not have the scientific proof necessary in some people's eyes. Therefore they tore him down accusing him of never traveling inland and fabricating his stories of bravery. A second trip, taken after he learned his scientific lessons, vindicated him and his reputation was resurrected.

The story is bigger than that, however. Our hero's travels occurred at the same time that Darwin's evolution theory was being spread. The gorilla played right into the burgeoning vitriolic debate between evolutionists and creationists (as they are now known). The storm enveloped du Chaillu's finds and the debates often turned personal. Thus, the discovery of the gorilla developed into much bigger questions such as: Was the gorilla man's previous step in evolution? Was the gorilla half a step below blacks?

Mr. Reel's account is very readable. He does well integrating the biography of an interesting yet forgotten historical character into the times and scientific debates of the times.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By turtleXings VINE VOICE on February 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the last year or so I've been struggling to broaden my literary tastes by dabbling in nonfiction. Authors like Monte Reel make me forget that I am reading historical accounts because the characters are very much alive and real. I wrongly assumed that this book might be a dry dictation singularly about Paul Du Chaillu. Instead, Reel weaves a tapestry, introducing us to historical figures who we would likely never have heard of but were frequently quite renowned in their heyday.

"Between Man and Beast" exceeded my hopes for all that nonfiction can be. I felt more than a passing interest in the topic, I was genuinely engaged. I gained a much greater understanding of the era and the people and was even made to laugh by their antics more than 150 years later. The vibrant passion, curiosity, and dedication demonstrated by so many people all brought to life by Reel's exceptional storytelling make this one a book not to miss.

Why couldn't all of my history lessons have been so fascinating?
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By London Fog on March 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
What is in actuality the biography of 19th century naturalist Paul Du Chaillu (whose discovery of the gorilla has, in the wake of Darwin's more famous contributions to science, been somewhat obscured by history) was presented here in the format of a best selling page turner. Albeit, this can be credited with far more substance. The Victorian surge in the study of the material world has always been a source of fascination for me, and while there have been many lively resources on the topic, it is usually in fiction where my tastes for science and adventure are satiated. What makes 'Between Man and beast' incomparable to most works of its genre is the pains this extremely talented author takes not to tell us with the enumeration of facts, but to show us in elegant detail, to richly recreates those lives that would be intertwined by a remarkable skull in the jungles of Africa.

We are there along with Du Chaillu, experiencing his defeats as he struggles for acknowledgement in the scientific community, as those ongoing debates of race, religion and evolution are brought into the fray. Even his very credibility is called into question. It is taken for granted what this great man of science paved the way for, yet the explorer whom time has neglected is finally given fair credit here. It is not often a work of non-fiction can achieve its goal of establishing something beyond a passing interest in the subject matter, but this one is sure to spark the imagination and light a fire of curiosity long after the final page is read. An excellent book, and the best I have had the pleasure of reading this year.
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