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Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer Paperback – October 28, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; NULL edition (October 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300142234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300142235
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Winner of the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography
(National Book Critics Circle Award National Book Critics Circle 2008-03-06)

"A magnificent new life . . . . [Jeal] demonstrates in a way that makes [this] a superb adventure story as well as a feat of advocacy [that] Stanley was probably the greatest explorer ever to set foot in Africa. . . . There have been many biographies of Stanley, but Jeal's is the most felicitous, the best informed, the most complete and readable and exhaustive, profiting from his access to an immense new trove of Stanley material."—Paul Theroux, front page, New York Times Book Review
(Paul Theroux New York Times Book Review 2007-09-30)

"Tim Jeal has written a great book—shrewd, perceptive and engaging."—Jane Ridley, Sunday Telegraph
(Jane Ridley Sunday Telegraph 2007-03-01)

"Tim Jeal’s book is not just an absorbing, sometimes horrifying biography but a feat of advocacy—an ardent, intricate defence of a man history has damned. . . . His subject could not be more topical. . . . For the question at the core of the book is do we have the right to force our idea of civilization on people’s whose culture is abhorrent to us?"—John Carey,  Sunday Times
 
(John Carey Sunday Times 2007-03-01)

"This powerful and meticulously researched biography. . . . Assisted by a treasure trove of  previously inaccessible letters and diaries, Tim Jeal presents the most cogent argument for years in favour of a radical reassessment of the Welsh-born American bastard. . . . This magnificent book is a stirring riposte to his many critics and a blow struck for a more distinguished posterity."—Justin Marozzi , Evening Standard
 
(Justin Marozzi Evening Standard 2007-03-01)

"[An] important book."—Giles Foden (Author the Last King of Scotland) Irish Times
                                                                                       
(Giles Foden Irish Times 2007-03-01)

"[A] gripping and scrupulously researched biography . . . unpicks Stanley’s public lies to reveal the . . . injustice of the damage they have done his reputation. . . . As Jeal authoritatively demonstrates, Stanley remained stalwartly humanitarian, ever true to his men."—Tom Stacey, The Spectator  
(Tom Stacey The Spectator 2007-03-01)

"Everything I thought I knew about Henry Morton Stanley was wrong. It is put right in this major biography. . . . Stanley’s life was 'impossible' in the sense that you cannot believe how much he crammed into it. . . . Stanley’s three great expeditions to the interior are at the heart of the book. There were caravans numbering 200 bearers, armed guards, women and children, half of whom might never reach their destination. . . . His reputation still lies in the shadow of Livingstone’s. But if anything will rescue it, this newly researched, rich, perceptive life may do the trick."—Peter Lewis,  Daily Mail (Critic’s Choice)
 
 
(Peter Lewis Daily Mail 2007-03-01)

"Masterly. . . . Tim Jeal handles each of the great expeditions, including the formidable trans-African journey of 1874-7 in which Stanley navigated lethal Congo rapids in the tinpot steamer Lady Alice between close encounters with cannibals, with a panache and momentousness worthy of Kipling or Conrad."—Jonathan Keates, The First Post
 
(Jonathan Keates The First Post 2007-03-01)

‘In this stunningly comprehensive biography Stanley himself is run to earth as a figure far more complex, contradictory and chameleon-like than was previously suspected. . . . A rollicking read as well as a moving, incisive study of one man’s restless, evolving character and ambitions. . . . The relationship with Livingstone is brilliantly brought to life, while the later Congo debacle is mapped as never before. . . . [Stanley’s] life seems tailor made for the full-blown Hollywood treatment."—Tom Adair, The Scotsman
 
(Tom Adair The Scotsman 2007-03-01)

"It is a wonderful story almost epic in scope. . . . What a biopic it would make!"—Sara Wheeler, The Times
 

(Sara Wheeler The Times 2007-03-01)

"[An] exciting and extraordinary tale."—Ann Wroe, Daily Telegraph



(Ann Wroe Daily Telegraph 2007-03-01)

"Tim Jeal is a biographer as fearless in his genre as Stanley in the jungle. . . . His exhilerating book overturns much of the negative orthodoxy about the man he unhesitatingly calls Africa’s greatest explorer. . . . This is a page-turner. Jeal is a compelling storyteller, and his prose sweeps the reader along on a river of revelations."—Julie Davidson,  Sunday Herald
(Julie Davidson Sunday Herald 2007-03-01)

 "Tim Jeal’s absorbing biography . . . impresses for its scope, depth and ambition."—The Herald
(The Herald 2007-03-01)

 “Jeal’s book is a stunning and provocative work, an awesome piece of scholarship executed with page-turning brio. . . . A remarkable reassessment that will send shivers through historians and writers on Africa.”—Kevin Rushby, The Guardian
(Kevin Rushby The Guardian)

"Of the many biographies of Henry Morton Stanley, Jeal's ,which profits from an immense new trove of material, is the most complete and readable."—New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
(New York Times Book Review 2007-10-07)

Read the entire New York Times Sunday Book Review of <i>Stanley</i>.
(http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/30/books/review/Theroux-t.html)

"[A] meticulous biography. . . . Besides rescuing Stanley from an unfair but accepted caricature, Jeal skillfully illuminates Stanley's work and its morality and separates him from King Leopold's exploitation and oppression of the Congo. This excellent reassessment of Stanley's life is essential for all libraries.—Library Journal
(Library Journal 2007-10-09)

"There have been many biographies of Stanley, but Jeal's is the most felicitous, the best informed, the most complete and readable and exhaustive. . . In its progress from workhouse to mud hut to baronial mansion, it is like the most vivid sort of Victorian novel. . ."—Paul Theroux, front page, New York Times Book Review
(Paul Theroux New York Times Book Review 2007-09-30)

<p>Listen to Tim Jeal's interview on WILL AM, Focus 580 with David Inge. Download the program with <a href="http://willmedia.will.uiuc.edu/ramgen/archives/focus071018b.rm/>Real Player</a> or <a href="http://www.will.uiuc.edu/media/focus071018b.mp3/">Windows Media Player</a>.
(http://www.will.uiuc.edu/am/focus/default.htm)

Named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2007 by The New York Times Book Review
(Notable Book of the Year New York Times Book Review 2007-11-20)

"[An] impressive, revealing, and well written biography. . . . Tim Jeal has had both the good fortune to see [Stanley's] papers and the skill to construct a new interpretation around them. He recognizes Stanley's feats and views them in the context of his age rather than ours. Moreover, he adds new layers to his subject's character."—David Gilmour, New York Review of Books
(David Gilmour New York Review of Books 2007-12-06)

"Jeal takes an already-fascinating story to new levels. . . . Jeal's biography is an unalloyed triumph, not only because it is painstakingly researched and eminently readable, but because it never loses sight of the abandoned child in the man, driving him forward, 'able to frighten, able to suffer, but also to command love and obedience.' Such a personality, Jeal notes, is 'an extinct species, and all the more remarkable for that.'"—Jason Roberts, Washington Post Book World
(Jason Roberts Washington Post Book World 2007-12-23)

"[T]his commanding, definitive biography . . . is an unalloyed triumph."—Jason Roberts, Washington Post Book World
(Jason Roberts Washington Post Book World 2007-12-23)

"[An] impressive, revealing, and well written biography. . . . [Jeal] adds new layers to his subject's character."—David Gilmour, New York Review of Books
(David Gilmour New York Review of Books 2007-12-06)

"By uncovering the truth behind the myth, Jeal paints a sympathetic portrait of the ultimate self-made man."—Rebecca A. Clay, Wilson Quarterly
(Rebecca A. Clay Wilson Quarterly 2008-11-01)

Nominated for the 2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the Biography category
(Los Angeles Times Book Prize Los Angeles Times 2008-02-28)

"A meticulously detailed, thoroughly documented, definitive biography of Henry Stanley. . . . Despite immense fame and extensive writings by and about Stanley, this biography repudiates the conventional perceptions about the explorer. . . . Jeal's fascinating biography will not be last word on Stanley, but it should be the starting place for years to come. Highly recommended."—Choice
(Choice 2008-03-01)

“Sympathetic yet balanced, perceptive and full of perspective, this is biography at its best.” —Ross Leckie, The Times (London)
(Ross Leckie The Times (London) 2008-04-18)

Silver medal winner of the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Award in the category of Biography.
(Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY Awards) Independent Publisher 2008-05-12)

Click here to view videos from the 2006 National Book Critics Circle <a href="
http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=-6886440795162079895&hl=en" target="_blank">Finalist Readings</a> and <a href="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=-6886440795162079895&hl=en" target="_blank">Awards Ceremony</a>.
 
(http://tinyurl.com/6rwuhc)

Click here to <a href="http://mediasearch.wnyc.org/m/19280512/the_great_adventures_of_sir_henry.htm" target="_blank">listen</a> to the author sort out legend from the truth on The Leonard Lopate Show: "The Great Adventures of Sir Henry Morton Stanley."
(http://tinyurl.com/6aex9l)

Read the entire New York Times Sunday Book Review of Stanley here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/30/books/review/Theroux-t.html.
.
(New York Times Book Review)

Selected as a 2008 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.
(Best Book of the Year Selection Association of American University Presses (AAUP) 2008-07-09)

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title from 2008.
(Outstanding Academic Title Choice 2008-11-03)

Selected as one of the best books of 2008 by the Washington Post in the Biography category 
(Washington Post 2008-12-01)

"Given the great amount of material Jeal used, his book is to be commended for the writing style, which draws the reader in and sustains interest throughout the duration of the narrative."—Steven Fabian, Journal of Historical Biography
(Steven Fabian Journal of Historical Biography)

About the Author

Tim Jeal is also the biographer of Henry Morton Stanley (National Book Critics' Circle Award in Biography and Sunday Times Biography of the Year 2007), and Robert Baden-Powell, which (like Livingstone) was chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times and the Washington Post. In 2011 his Explorers of the Nile was a New York Times Editor's Choice and a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week.


More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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25
4 star
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See all 36 customer reviews
Great depth and balance.
Elizabeth
His reputation has suffered the most by his agreement to work in the Congo for the duplicitous King Leopold of Belgium.
R. Hardy
Jeal does an excellent job in uncovering the truth of Stanley's childnood/early adulthood.
Bruddy Dahl

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 72 people found the following review helpful By D. Huston on August 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This artfully written biography of Henry Morton Stanley, the brave and tireless African explorer best known for finding Livingstone, has important implications for today's pleasure-oriented society, though the reader may not realize it until he has completed the book and read the Afterword. Stanley cannot be understood or fully appreciated outside of the Victorian age in whch he lived, and Tim Jeal does a masterful job of placing him squarely into this context and then telling the adventure story of the century (think of Lewis and Clark multiplied by four). This book could not have been written until now due to the unavailability of many Stanley letters and archives, which were only recently made public and which, by their adsence, have distorted the perceptions of previous biographers. Having this material in hand, the author has now been able to present a more three-dimensional portrait of Stanley showing the depth of his humanity and his great love for Africa and its inhabitants. I became absorbed from the very beginning and found myself anguishing over and over as I read the tragic-heroic tale of Africa's greatest explorer. Thank you Tim Jeal for this excellent read!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Newton Munnow on January 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The most interesting biographies are those that break new ground, either through new access to information or with new opinion. Jeal's is a good combination of the two, providing a well argued case for why Stanley should be rescued from the same part of history that holds darker characters like Mosely and put on a new pedestal. Ok, so Stanley still won't win any awards for sainthood, but Jeal points out that not even Livingstone was a saint. Saints wouldn't have survived 19th century central Africa. Jeal does a tremendous job of putting his finger on the anxious search for approval that drove Stanley throughout his life and his refusal to ever acknowledge his birth as the bastard son of Wales, raised in a workhouse. Strangely, since Jeal seems so determined to polish Stanley's reputation, he takes poorly aimed shots at those who shared the stage in England. Burton is repeatedly and wrongly dismissed as a racist. Does Jeal stop to ask himself how many racists would have enough respect for other cultures to speak 28 languages or spend years incognito in foreign lands? Despite these unnecessary diversions, this book is well worth the read, as much a physcoanalysis as an adventure.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By S. Green on November 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Stanley's life is epic in scale and Tim Jeal's moving, page-turning biography gives us the whole amazing story - his abandonment by his parents, his years in a Welsh workhouse, the decade in America that saved him, his journalism, his death-defying and terrifying African journeys, his romantic attachments and his troubled marriage. Stanley's deep personal wounds made him hide his true identity and claim to be American-born for most of his life. He wrote that his "real self" was "darkly encased", but thanks to scores of new documents, Jeal reveals behind the armour a generous-hearted, vulnerable man, who pretended to be the hard man of Africa, and yet solved more of the "Dark Continent's" secrets than any other explorer. An exciting, inspiring and at times agonizing story.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume," was a catchphrase in its time, and it is this phrase that is remembered, if anyone remembers anything about Livingstone or Henry Morton Stanley who coined it. He coined it, but he did not utter it upon discovering David Livingstone in deepest Africa. In fact, Stanley lied about the phrase, and it cost him some of his reputation, and he was untruthful, too, about his bastard origins, which cost him more, and helped make him controversial in his own time. Tim Jeal thirty years ago wrote a revisionist biography of Livingstone which revealed the explorer and missionary to be decidedly unsaintly. Now he has written _Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer_ (Yale University Press), which takes revisionism in the other direction. Stanley has been scapegoated as being partly responsible for the unscrupulous European conquest of Africa, especially King Leopold's horrors within the Belgian Congo. He has been depicted as a racist, and as a brute. Jeal convincingly shows such concepts to be wrong and unfair. Unlike any previous biographer, Jeal has had access to Stanley's private papers and does a superb job of detection to shed new light on an extraordinary man whose greatest flaws were his scars from rejection as a child and his resultant insecurity, flaws that lay a foundation for his lies and exaggerations which would come back to haunt his legacy.

Stanley was born John Rowlands in Wales in 1841, and was abandoned by his promiscuous teenaged mother; his father is not known. He had a workhouse upbringing, changing his name after shipping to New Orleans.
Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J.D. VINE VOICE on March 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the finest biography that I have read in some time. The writing is superb and it is based upon the most thorough research on its subject yet. The author is uniquely qualified to write this book as he has also written the definitive book on Stanley's counterpart, Dr. Livingstone. What makes this book so compelling is the subject himself. He was abandoned by his mother and never knew his father. The kind grandfather who took care of him died suddenly when Stanley was five years old and his mother's family had him placed in a workhouse. There he stayed for ten years when he left at age fifteen. His life became an odyssey which took him to America back to England and then to Africa where he achieved fame. Despite his accomplishments as discoverer and author, his personal life was full of disappointment. His attempt to hide his illegitimacy had led him to lie about his background. This coverup came close to unraveling on numerous occasions. Years after his career had ended he returned to New Orleans incognito where he walked the cemeteries looking for a "Stanley" tombstone that would give him a name to use in documenting his story. The irony was that one of the world's greatest discoverers could never find himself. An excellent book about a fascinating subject.
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