Harrowing, real-life adventure with far-reaching influence,
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This review is from: Sufferings in Africa: The Incredible True Story of a Shipwreck, Enslavement, and Survival on the Sahara (Paperback)This is a review of the Kindle version of this edition of the book, which both my husband and I read and thoroughly enjoyed.
If you're considering opting for one of the free digital versions available online - which is what I did to begin with, not knowing then about this version - go for this instead, which is good value. It's based on a 1960s edition, and it is much superior in that there are no funny OCR errors that are so frequent in the free versions as to make them almost unreadable.
There's a lot that can be said about this book. The reader can - depending on his or her orientation - admire it as an example of (1) fortitude in the face of despair and impossible conditions; (2) justification for a belief in Divine providence; (3) the possibility of brotherhood between men of very different origins, religion and expectations; (4) loyalty among peers, etc.
One of the things for which the book is best-known is that it made Abraham Lincoln's list of most-influential books because its description of slavery from the perspective of Christian, once-free men is so vivid.
Like other readers, we are fascinated, of course, by the sheer endurance manifested by Riley and most of his men and Riley's perceptivity in recognizing the essential goodness and reliability of the master who was ultimately responsible for his rescue. For us, however, the main interest lies in Riley's description of the landscape where he found himself and the shipwreck that put him there. Even today, the Sahara can hardly be described as over-explored or -explained, and Riley is excellent at this.
The reader wishes he'd said more about himself and his men (apart from their starvation and dehydration, which he describes in uncomfortable detail), but in the midst of this narrative, that's not a huge criticism.
Riley is a sea captain, not a literary stylist, so don't expect fine language or extended imagery. On the other hand, if you want a fast-moving adventure story with a highly positive, but realistic, outcome, you'll probably like this book.
Also, if you're thinking of buying the DVD of this story instead of reading this book, our advice is: don't. It lacks much of what makes the book unique.