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72 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A loving and detailed account of a difficult journey
Is there anyplace wild enough to lift the weight that Occidental culture has placed on our shoulders? Africa, where the first man walked erect, may be the last place where man can feel awed enough by Nature to try and remember that he, also, is just another among the millions of other species that populate the planet. Paul Bowles, Bruce Chatwin, Doris Lessing, Isaak...
Published on June 27, 2000

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Be Patient
Peter Mathieson's The Snow Leopard struck a chord with me. He skillfully wove his personal trials and tribulations into the fabric of an adventure story, looking for an endangered cat in remote parts of Nepal, and his study of Buddhism. The Tree Where Man Was Born falls far short of the standards he created. We learn lots about the anthropology, history, and natural...
Published on September 18, 2008 by Do Dad


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72 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A loving and detailed account of a difficult journey, June 27, 2000
By A Customer
Is there anyplace wild enough to lift the weight that Occidental culture has placed on our shoulders? Africa, where the first man walked erect, may be the last place where man can feel awed enough by Nature to try and remember that he, also, is just another among the millions of other species that populate the planet. Paul Bowles, Bruce Chatwin, Doris Lessing, Isaak Dinesen and Peter Mattieshen found that answer, and shared the experience. In Mattieshen's poetic account, the tragic and fabulous beauty of a continent that has been devastated by greed and war is revealed, as the impossibility of traveling Africa and not falling in love with it and being changed by it forever.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good combination of natural atmosphere and history, July 18, 2001
By 
Frances C. Morrier (North Oxford, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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I wasn't certain what to expect when I got this book. I was a bit concerned that since it was written about experiences in the 1960's that it would feel a bit dated. Although the 1960's view of the future of East Africa's peoples and wildlife is not entirely accurate, I am finding the book to be an excellent way to prepare for a trip to Tanzania--for someone wanting a combination of background on the peoples, landscape and wildlife. Matthiessen's usual subdued, to me, dry style seems leavened a bit by his awe. And the account of the elephant researcher who's 'close encounter' approach puts Matthiessen off his feed, was really enjoyable to me--a departure from his usual, very dry approach. I recommend this one to anyone interested in the peoples and wildlife of Eastern Africa.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transcendent Prose, February 8, 2007
By 
ESH (Pacific Northwest) - See all my reviews
This is one my very favorite of Matthiessen's impressive canon, ranking easily with Far Tortuga and The Snow Leopard. Indeed, I think some of the passages in The Tree Where Man Was Born might surpass the stunning Himalaya descriptions in the latter book. Matthiessen's eye for landscapes is unparalleled, and his lyric evocations of beast and horizon have an otherworldly quality. A prime example, and one to look out for, is his account of finding rhinoceros tracks on the high volcanic slopes of Mt. Lengai. Another highlight are his crystalline observations of ecological moments during a vigil atop an East African kopje.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His respect for the land and people fills every observation, October 20, 2010
By 
J. Murray (Laguna Hills, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tree Where Man Was Born (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
The Tree Where Man Was Born (Classic, Nature, Penguin)The Tree Where Man Was Born

by Peter Matthiessen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book before I knew who Peter Matthiessen was, namely, one of the greatest nature writers of all time. Because of the book's title, I thought the author would tie present day East Africa to a by-gone era when man was primitive and evolving and nature ruled. I read the first one-hundred fifty pages and put it down for five years before returning to it. At that time, I was lost in my passion for the life and times of early man and not so interested in anything that rhymed with 'present day'.

Then, after finishing that portion of my writing, I returned to what might be Matthiessen's greatest nature book (well, there is Snow Leopard and At Play in the Fields of the Lord. Hard to pick). When I picked it up the second time, I couldn't put it down. His descriptions of nature, the depth of understanding he voices for the people of the land, his vivid descriptions of what happens around him are like no one else. Here are a few of my favorites:

* Soon vegetation crowded the road, which was crossed at dusk by a band of bush-pig, neat-footed and burly, neck bristles erect, as if intent on punching holes right through the truck
* Soft hills inset with outcrops of elephant-colored boulders rose beyond a bright stretch of blue river
* Kamande Gatora is a contained person with the watchfulness of the near-blind; he had taken the Mau-Mau oath and been imprisoned, in the years after his mistress had gone home to Denmark, despite 'the kind deeds I was receiving from her untold and the old life we stayed with her
* Marsabit in June: great elephants and volcanoes, lark song and bright butterflies and far below, pale desert wastes that vanish in the sands.
* By morning the wind was blowing up in sandstorms. Flights of sand grouse, seeking water, hurtled back and forth over the cracking palms, and a train of camels etched a slow crack into the desert to the south.
* Inland, black boulders climb to far-off ridges that rise in turn to the Kulal Mountains, in Rendille Land.
* ...because the heat is dry and because the wind is never still for more than a few hours.
* Since gnu are ever willing to stampede, the crossing is a hazard for the calves, and one morning of early winter more than six hundred drowned.
* By late afternoon, when the predators become restless, raising their heads out of the grass to sniff the wind, those calves would already be running.

I'm only to pg. 127... Does it take your breath away, too?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL BOOK, February 5, 2011
If you have always wanted to go to Africa, when you read this book, you will feel that you must go. If you have not wanted to go, you will feel that you have gone. The prose is sheer poetry, if that is possible, and the pictures drawn with words bring joy. It is raw, real, deadly, lovely, soft and gentle...all the things that I imagine Africa was and still is. A great read for pleasure or knowledge. I recommend it highly.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Be Patient, September 18, 2008
By 
Do Dad "Do" (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
Peter Mathieson's The Snow Leopard struck a chord with me. He skillfully wove his personal trials and tribulations into the fabric of an adventure story, looking for an endangered cat in remote parts of Nepal, and his study of Buddhism. The Tree Where Man Was Born falls far short of the standards he created. We learn lots about the anthropology, history, and natural environment of East Africa but little or nothing about the author. The book starts slowly and the reader waits in vain for a story. Once you realize its a travelogue, its pretty good with lots of interesting tidbits about critters and folks in this region of the world. It is by no means a nature classic as billed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tough Read, January 21, 2014
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This review is from: The Tree Where Man Was Born (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
The first half reads like some scholarly botanical report, with words from multiple languages and dialects thrown in for additional distraction. The last 100 pages are a fair read but never make up for that first 150. The book covers trips over a ten year period and sometimes it's tough following the when and where.

It's not a bad book, just not my cup of tea.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Tree Where Man Was Born (Penguin Classics), October 1, 2012
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This review is from: The Tree Where Man Was Born (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Typically beautiful description of the East African area. Would have liked more detail of the tribes living in the area. Peter Matthiessen is well known for painting glorious word pictures of all the locals he has been to. I have read most of the books he has written and am always enchanted by his love for and understanding of the lands he travel in.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Met my needs, May 13, 2010
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I recently visited Tanzania. The cover photo of the baobab tree brings me back to the Serengeti. The book covers much of the same area we visited. Very appropriate commentary, including historical perspective. By the way, my friend kept telling me about the pictures in her book of the same title. I couldn't understand it until she brought it over -- same text with magnificent photos: a coffee table book. Available as a used book from Amazon: same title with photos by Eliot Porter, titled "The African Experience." Of course, I bought it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Essence of Africa, April 18, 2012
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This review is from: The Tree Where Man Was Born (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I purchased this book in anticipation of a journey to Africa. This chronicle is nonfiction, but it reads with the depth and intensity of poetry. Even though this book was written about the author's experience and impressions of Africa on a series of trips in the 1960's his insights remain timeless. The politics of Africa are convulsive and the boundaries of countries dynamic, but much of Tanzania and Kenya lands have been preserved and remain essentially the same as when Matthiessen visited 50 years ago. His descriptions of natural occurrences like the systematic attack of wild dogs on a new born zebra made me want to beg him to stop. But, he gives life to the landscape and all the animals that dwell there with same brilliant mastery of the language and pulls the reader forward. He does speak of mans beginnings as the title suggests, "Baboons in silhouette looked like early hominids hurling wild manic howling at my head." Even though the information about the descent of mankind is fascinating, for me it is Matthiessen's incredible descriptive powers that give magic to a land that is often harsh and unforgiving to man and beast. Speaking about Kilimanjaro he said, "The glacier glistens. A distant snow peak scours the mind, but a snow peak in the tropics draws the heart o a fine shimmering painful point of joy."
I will read this book again when I return from Africa to compare notes and take lessons from a truly gifted writer.
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The Tree Where Man Was Born (Penguin Classics)
The Tree Where Man Was Born (Penguin Classics) by Peter Matthiessen (Paperback - August 31, 2010)
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