Between Man and Beast (Reel)

Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure that Took the Victorian World by Storm
Monte Reel, 2013
Knopf Doubleday
352 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780385534222

The unbelievably riveting adventure of an unlikely young explorer who emerged from the jungles of Africa with evidence of a mysterious, still mythical beast—the gorilla—only to stumble straight into the center of the biggest debate of the day: Darwin's theory of evolution

In 1856 Paul Du Chaillu marched into the equatorial wilderness of West Africa determined to bag an animal that, according to legend, was nothing short of a monster. When he emerged three years later, the summation of his efforts only hinted at what he'd experienced in one of the most dangerous regions on earth.

Armed with an astonishing collection of zoological specimens, Du Chaillu leapt from the physical challenges of the jungle straight into the center of the biggest issues of the time—the evolution debate, racial discourse, the growth of Christian fundamentalism—and helped push each to unprecedented intensities. He experienced instant celebrity, but with that fame came whispers—about his past, his credibility, and his very identity—which would haunt the young man.

Grand in scope, immediate in detail, and propulsively readable, Between Man and Beast brilliantly combines Du Chaillu's personal journey with the epic tale of a world hovering on the sharp edge of transformation. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Monte Reel is a former South America correspondent for the Washington Post, and he also reported for the newspaper in Washington and Iraq. His first book, The Last of the Tribe (2010), chronicles the story of the last surviving member of an indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest. After spending seven years in Argentina, he recently moved to the Chicago area, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He is originally from Mattoon, Illinois. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
(Required reading.) 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

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

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."
Buffalo News

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."
Daily Beast

Paul Du Chaillu was one of the Victorian era’s most famous explorers. He was the person who brought the gorilla to the attention of Europeans. In response to his fame, he was attacked mercilessly by competitors who claimed he was a fraud.... Reel (The Last of the Tribe) 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.... 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

In 1856, explorer and amateur naturalist Paul du Chaillu undertook a treacherous expedition through West Africa, after which he brought back to England the first known specimens of the African gorilla ever seen there. Reel...examines the colorful life and times of du du Chaillu's hugely popular expedition chronicle...ignited a storm of interest and controversy in the scientific circles of Victorian England. While Reel clearly admires his subject, he is also willing to address and evaluate du Chaillu's errors and exaggerations.... Today's readers may find du Chaillu's penchant for killing gorillas repugnant, although he followed the standard scientific practice of the time. —Ingrid Levin, Salve Regina Univ. Lib., Newport, RI
Library Journal

Those unfamiliar with [Paul Du Chaillu] would do well to pick up a copy of Beatween 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.

Former Washington Post reporter Reel (The Last of the Tribe: The Epic Quest to Save a Lone Man in the Amazon, 2010) offers a fascinating sidelight on the perennial debate of man's origins. In the decade before the publication of Darwin's On the Origins of Species, evolution was already a hotly debated topic.... Reel weaves together the fierce contentions about the theory of evolution among leading Victorian scientists and the story of young African explorer Paul Du Chaillu.... In 1861, after writing a book about his exploits...his book was published and he became an overnight celebrity, for a time overshadowing Darwin in the popular imagination. Ultimately, Du Chaillu was accused of embellishing his account. A lively footnote to the debate between science and religion and the exploration of the African jungle in the Victorian era.
Kirkus Reviews

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