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Brazzaville Beach Paperback – August 1, 1995

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (August 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380780496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380780495
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,805,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After leaving her estranged husband, a British woman moves to a beach on the coast of Africa to study chimpanzees, only to discover cruel similarities between man and ape.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Hope Clearwater lives alone in a beach house in an unnamed African country, trying to patch together her shattered life. An ecologist, she had come to Africa to participate in primate research and to heal the deep wounds of her marriage to a brilliant English mathematician; but she soon found herself plunged into another crisis, one that threatened not only her career but also her life. In a book packed with scientific and mathematical metaphors, Boyd explores how people create, defend, ignore, or subvert the belief systems that govern their lives. If on one level this is an intellectual thriller, on another it is very much an exciting and riveting adventure story, and on yet another a subtle examination of the power grid of personal relationships. Highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/91.
- Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

William Boyd is the author of ten novels, including A Good Man in Africa, winner of the Whitbread Award and the Somerset Maugham Award; An Ice-Cream War, winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Brazzaville Beach, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; Any Human Heart, winner of the Prix Jean Monnet; and Restless, winner of the Costa Novel of the Year.

Customer Reviews

You'll have to read this book to believe it.
Debbie Lee Wesselmann
This makes the story very personal, and brings you close to Hope's character in an empathic way.
The story is gripping throughout and the style is that of a master at his art.
Rosa L

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
I adored this book from start to finish. Hope Clearwater is in worn-torn Africa observing chimpanzee behavior when she notices a startling trend that conflicts with everything her boss and mentor believes. Her integrity - and perhaps much more - is threatened when everyone at the camp seems to turn against her. Interwoven with flashbacks to her previous life in England with her bizarre but brilliant mathematician husband and the story of her Egyptian mercenary lover who flies a Mig for one side of the civil war, the story draws powerful parallels between the two primate societies, human and chimp.
How can a novel that discusses the difference between turbulence and topology in mathematics be a page turner? You'll have to read this book to believe it. Other than the name of Hope Clearwater - a bit too much in this otherwise subtle tale - Boyd writes deftly and passionately, sometimes with horrifying precision as he describes what is happening among the chimps.
This suspenseful and intelligent novel deserves a wide readership. I only wish I had learned of it sooner!
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on June 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
Hope Clearwater sits on Brazzaville Beach, contemplates her past, and narrates the events of this novel. One strain of the story concerns her failed marriage to a mathematician whose unquenched thirst for revolutionary discoveries and their attendant fame drove him to madness. The second strain concerns the animal research that Hope had fled to Africa to participate in. Grosso Arvore Research Center is run by the renowned chimpanzee expert Eugene Mallabar, who was just putting the finishing touches on his master work, describing the peaceful ways of our close animal relatives, when Hope's own observations seemed to indicate that all was not quite as idyllic as had previously been supposed among these primates. But the evidence of aggression that she finds between two competing colonies of chimps threatens the carefully constructed image that Mallabar has built up over the years, and, most importantly, threatens to make the animals less attractive to charitable organizations which fund the project. Meanwhile, thrumming in the background is a guerilla war which threatens to swamp this African nation at any moment.
William Boyd takes these various threads and weaves them together, along with a variety of brief comments on scientific and mathematical ideas and issues, into an exciting and intellectually compelling novel. With its Edenic setting and themes of Man's search for knowledge--and the madness the search can bring--the book taps into our primordial myths and some of the core questions of our existence. If it sometimes seems to be almost too consciously striving to be a serious novel of ideas, that ambition is justified, if not always realized, and the philosophical failures are more than offset by the good old-fashioned African adventure story that unfolds simultaneously.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
Once again Boyd brings together unrelated topics, interesting settings, and full characters to create a story that's utterly absorbing and hard to pigeonhole. Narrated by Hope Clearwater (an unfortunately clunky name for a protagonist), the story looks back at two traumatic times in her life, as she attempts to make sense of them. One of these storylines begins with the completion of her dissertation and her subsequent marriage to a brilliant but troubled mathematician. The other storyline concerns her work some years later at a chimpanzee research center in an unnamed African country (presumably Congo). Both of these threads revolve around the quest for knowledge and the mania that quest can result in, and both are compelling. The latter is especially gripping, containing elements of a thriller within its arc, and the backdrop of civil war. Boyd consulted extensively with Jane Goodall in his research for the book, and the result is a vividly realistic portrait of a tiny international scientific community, complete with petty jealousies and massive egos.
It's difficult to write about this book and do it proper justice. So much of it is about Hope's internal struggles about her life, and the difficulties of being married to someone who is greatly flawed. She makes a good feminist character, strong but not pushy, intelligent but not snobby, often conflicted about what the best course of action is, and sometimes mistaken. Her struggle for respect in both the personal and professional realms is at the heart of the book, and is a theme with wide resonance. It's one of the best cases of a man writing in a woman's voice I can recollect. All the characters that surround Hope, even the most insignificant, are carefully crafted and rich in texture.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on September 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
William Boyd's Brazzaville Beach is a dramatic suspenseful novel that quickly pulls readers into the story of scientist Hope Clearwater's experiences in Africa where she's been studying chimps. Alongside her delving into brutal events and grotesque facts that she has witnessed, we also follow the story of Hope's failed marriage. That the characters of the primates in this book are nearly as well-developed as the humans is due to the fact that Boyd received assistance from Jane Goodall, the famed primate researcher.
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