Between Man and Beast: Book summary and reviews of Between Man and Beast by Monte Reel

Between Man and Beast

An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure that Took the Victorian World by Storm

by Monte Reel

Between Man and Beast

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Reel 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, and the nasty backbiting that was common in the scientific arena of the time." - Publishers Weekly

"Adventure, history, nature, big ideas—what more could you want?" - Library Journal

"Fascinating....A lively footnote to the debate between science and religion and the exploration of the African jungle in the Victorian era." - Kirkus

"Monte Reel's Between Man and Beast contains all the elements of an enthralling adventure story. But it is more than just a riveting tale; it is also a brilliant exploration of ideas that illuminate the very nature of humankind." - David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost City of Z and The Devil and Sherlock Holmes

"From the moment explorer Paul du Chaillu had his first, fleeting glimpse of a gorilla, human understanding of this extraordinary animal began to change in a fundamental, irrevocable way. Reel tells du Chaillu's story - a fascinating, wide-ranging tale that involves everyone from Charles Darwin to Thomas Huxley to even Abraham Lincoln - with a vividness that brings long forgotten events to startling life." - Candice Millard, New York Times bestselling author of Destiny Of The Republic and The River of Doubt

"Between Man and Beast is a rip-snorting adventure story, shot through with intrigue and absorbing intellectual history. Monte Reel is a wonderful writer, and he makes an expert guide to Paul Du Chaillu's groundbreaking travels in the wilds of Africa and his equally treacherous journey through the scientific salons of 19th century London...Readers will embrace Du Chaillu and root for him every step of the way/" - Mitchell Zuckoff, New York Times bestselling author of Lost In Shangri-La

"Monte Reel has revived not only a lost world and a forgotten adventurer but a misunderstood monster ... Reel has not only produced a page-turner filled with surprising details, connections and insights, but he has also forged the missing link between the perennially contentious Theory of Evolution and our equally durable fascination with King Kong." - John Vaillant, bestselling author of The Tiger

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Reader Reviews

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Rick Waltonsmith

Good book, bad title
This is a biography of an important but obscure explorer named Paul Du Chaillu. In the mid-nineteenth century, the era of Darwin, Livingstone and African exploration, Du Chaillu introduced the gorilla to British eyes and ears with his daring exploration of Gabon in western equatorial Africa. It reads like a novel, and covers his 2 African adventures; but not his later delving into Nordic countries and cultures. The biography is a vehicle to discuss the racial biases at the core of European values, the justifications for slavery; and how Darwin's theories were used to support those values.

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More Information

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A former reporter for The Washington Post, Reel is the author of the critically acclaimed The Last of the Tribe.

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