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ePUB Brazzaville Beach By William Boyd – Blockdiagramwiring.co

In The Heart Of A Civil War Torn African Nation, Primate Researcher Hope Clearwater Made A Shocking Discovery About Apes And ManYoung, Alone, And Far From Her Family In Britain, Hope Clearwater Contemplates The Extraordinary Events That Left Her Washed Up Like Driftwood On Brazzaville Beach It Is Here, On The Distant, Lonely Outskirts Of Africa, Where She Must Come To Terms With The Perplexing And Troubling Circumstances Of Her Recent Past For Hope Is A Survivor Of The Devastating Cruelities Of Apes And Humans Alike And To Move Forward, She Must First Grasp Some Hard And Elusive Truths About Marriage And Madness, About The Greed And Savagery Of Charlatan Science And About What Compels Seemingly Benign Creatures To Kill For Pleasure Alone


10 thoughts on “Brazzaville Beach

  1. says:

    I delighted in this book because it tells a compelling human story with a rich framework of ideas that appeal to me The tale is of a woman, Hope Clearwater, reflecting back on her work and marriage in England to a mathematician and her work and life studying chimp behavior in the Republic of Congo, both of which ended in disaster She is unable to move forward without making some sense out of the wisdom vs stupidities in her role in the disasters As quoted from Socrates in the epilogue and close of the book, An unexamined life is not worth living Boyd alternates the narrative of Hope s life in Africa, told in first person, with that of her life in England, rendered in third person The contrast between these two parts of her life, as well as Western and African cultures, represents a central challenge for Hope and thus Boyd to integrate Each section is introduced with a segment from mathematical or biological sciences, which reflect on work concerns of her mathematician husband or herself I love how Boyd has Hope trying to use analogies from academic advances to provide structure for her efforts to understand her life s journey For example, her husband John makes a lot of progress in areas of turbulence and catastrophe theory, which fuels her efforts to account for sudden discontinuities in her own life as John s own psychological instability leads him to focus instead on invariance of forms in the field of topology, she looks to how other people differ from her ultimately in only in minor ways She also learns a lot about the relativism of frames of reference, which she relates her own mood influencing her levels of optimism or pessimism To me Boyd isn t making a heavy philosophical stretch here, but he is illustrating very well how people link abstract ideas to their personal lives and outlook.In the case of Hope s work at the research station, the parallels between primate and human behavior represent a substantive analogy For decades, Jane Goodall s work on chimps in their natural environment captivated the world with a vision of largely peaceful, almost Edenic, society, which we, as their closest evolutionary relatives, might somehow aspire to regain The shock of discovery that chimps in some circumstances engage in infanticide, cannibalism, and lethal territorial warfare put an end to such simplistic thinking As this work was widely publicized, it is not much of a spoiler to reveal that the plot of this book deals with Hope making discoveries of such violence and encountering conflicts and resistance in acceptance of her findings I thought Boyd s portrayal of conflicts between scientific objectivity and human biases and emotions to be quite plausible, although I am sure the scientists involved in this work would be offended over the dramatic fiction.The book includes a segment where the unstable politics of the Congo intrude dangerously on the lives of the scientists in the form of actions by a revolutionary faction Compared to the murder of gorilla researcher Dian Fossey in Rwanda, the events included in this narrative are restrained, but frighteningly realistic The charming rebel leader featured, Dr Amilcar, deflates Hope s sense of the importance of her scientific work by exclaiming You value a monkey than a human and by concluding You think that if you know everything you can escape from the world But you can t Hope is a fully realized character that I admired both as a strong woman hero and as a very human scientist As made clear at the start, she survives the cataclysmic climaxes of both threads of her life revealed at the end As she walks the beach at the end, as in interludes elsewhere in the book, the theme of permanence despite perpetual change is realized Like life itself, a simple story of powerful events linked to a few choices resonates with many universal themes.


  2. says:

    Oh my, this book is hard to explain First of all, it IS engaging I didn t want to stop listening It is full of information It keeps you thinking, and it doesn t necessarily provide answers Definitely four stars It starts and ends with the line The unexamined life is not worth living I guess you would have to classify this as a cerebral novel, but also the parts set in Africa are dramatic one thing happens after another a civil war and infanticide and aggression and cannibalism and murder Not one, but several Murder of chimpanzees, but they are so similar to human beings that these too must be seen as murders Chimpanzees and bonobos are the closest living relatives to human beings Chimpanzees are aggressive than bonobos.There are three threads which flip back and forth This is, until you get the knack of it, confusing One thread is years ago when Hope is in England then married to John, a mathematician Another thread is in the Republic of the Congo at a chimpanzee game reserve, a research center Hope is both an ecologist and an ethologist The African setting occurs later in time, after her marriage has dissolved A third thread is when she later looks back on her experiences with her husband and then in Africa She is trying to figure out what went wrong, and why and if she was guilty and what could have been changed She is an ethologist She wants to understand.just as her husband had been a mathematician and he too wanted to understand, to simplify life, to get it into a formula, something to put on a paper in black and white Isn t life for observing and for trying to understand Do we ever understand Maybe that is the whole point of the book Life is a wondrous puzzle that we must try to understand, even if we never will understand I am not sure, but reading this will keep you thinking That I guarantee I would have appreciated an author s note to place the years of the civil war of the Republic of the Congo Congo Brazzaville I call it the little Congo, the one on the ocean, not the big one that is called Democratic but isn t I needed to know I NEVER found an answer and that too is so typical for this book The book is published in 1990 and the only civil war I could find for this country was from 1997 1999 I sent a question to the author c o the publisher Will I get an answer What is important is that the author has experienced civil wars in Africa, The Biafran War, so the war episodes feel pitch perfect We know for sure is that the Biafran War is over and that ended in 1970.The author superbly looks at our closest relative and makes us think about human behavior There is abundant sex, and it is physical, but human sex IS physical, just as it is with chimps I think the sex is well done It might bother some Not me There is discord and aggression and manipulation The parallels are intriguing I told you it was cerebral Continually you are comparing chimps and humans and mathematical axioms.I really liked the narration by Harriet Walter There is not much she can do to alert the reader to the changes of setting in both time and place You just have to pay attention The audio format is challenging but I enjoyed it tremendously You get help with the setting changes from the point of view used The African thread is told in first person and the English setting is in third person There are also short quotes concerning mathematical theories Sounds complicated It is, but it is still very, very good A puzzle to be solved, just like life.ETA This I forgot Recognition, people want and need recognition, but to what degree I saw a difference here between John and Hope John s need of recognition acclaim was monumental Hope s less so I look at Hope and I admire her She is the central character She is s modern woman She is strong and wise and loving and she doesn t expect as much as John She doesn t demand as much recognition Who is happier


  3. says:

    Many years before Brazzaville Beach was ever published, William Blake published this well known poem as part of his Songs of Experience Tyger, tyger burning bright In the forests of the night What immortal hand or eye Could flame thy fearful symmetry Blake, who was overwhelmed by the beauty and horrors of the natural world, saw nature as a place for our own growth, in preparation for the beginning of our lives.Why the longish preface about Blake Brazzaville Beach is, to some degree, about tasting the fruits of knowledge and losing one s innocence The main character, Hope Clearwater, will be told later on, the pursuit of knowledge is the road to hell You think that if you know everything you can escape from the world There are two Hopes in this book the long ago Hope who lived in England written in third person and the current Hope, who lived within an African country written in the immediate first person Both Hopes are quite literally dashed as she pursues elusive and forbidden knowledge.Here s the plot in a nutshell Hope, a brilliant scientist in her own right, marries a mercurial and highly intellectual mathematician, who increasingly begins to go insane as he pursues an elusive game theory on turbulence Intertwined with that story is the African Hope, who goes to work for another brilliant man named Mallabar, who is about to publish a renowned book on the peaceful chimps Her observations belie his premise the chimps are cannibalizing each other Yet Mallabar will not even entertain that idea he, too, is losing it as he holds on to the tendrils of knowledge that he has accumulated.And Hope Will she, too, be destroyed as she pursues knowledge or will Hope endure That is the question that is at the core of this very clever book.William Boyd, in my opinion, is a brilliant writer who keeps getting better and better and this is one of his earlier books published in 1990 As an allegory, it works beautifully There are, however, some perceived flaws.For one thing, I never bought that a woman of Hope s brilliance, single mindedness and beauty would be attracted to her husband, John Clearwater His character is somewhat underdeveloped certainly, the attraction is not amply explored Admittedly, I am not a math person , but the many explorations of game theory, turbulance, catastrophe theory, divergence syndromes and other chaos theory components sometimes left me shaking my head They seemed just a little too clever.Secondly, there is a long subsection about the African freedom fighters and Hope s unwilling adventure with them As a reader, I get it the brutish fighting among various human forces equates to the dissonance among the chimps guerilla leaders and a little stretch gorilla leaders are not all that different Yet I kept wanting the action to return to the ape colony, which to me was fascinating.Those two caveats aside, I found Brazzaville Beach to be compelling Hope reflects about herself She reshaped the haphazard explicable twists turns o her life into an order that she approved of, where the controlling hand o her authorship could be read clearly, like a signature Ultimately, she is the creator of her own destiny and her fall from Eden is preordained.


  4. says:

    Brazzaville Beach is a well plotted novel about science, war and ideas, following the adventures of Hope Clearwater in England and the Congo.


  5. says:

    Like his 2012 book, WAITING FOR SUNRISE, Boyd employed a complex structure in this 1990 novel about science and discord, both marital and professional Structure and the sciences are the glue for connecting the themes and metaphors of his overall story, a device for annexing separate compartments of the narrative and cohering it into a whole Once you let that be, or let it go, and stop worrying if you are comprehending all the pieces while reading it, you can enjoy this compelling piece of fiction.It takes place primarily in the continent of Boyd s birth, Africa he was raised in Ghana , somewhere in the Congo Civil wars are raging, with the federal government fighting factions, and guerilla warfare ongoing You don t need to even know exactly where it takes place, or when He doesn t tell us.Hope Clearwater is the feisty heroine, a young PhD in plant and animal ethology who was married to an obsessive mathematician, until she wasn t Right now, as the story opens, she is living on Brazzaville Beach in Africa, narrating the events that led to where she is now, and taking stock of her life Over the course of the book, Hope shares the events and casualties that led to her living alone on this beach.Her most recent post was in the Congo, with the established and respected scholar, Eugene Mallobar, a PhD and author of several books on primates, who has studied them for 30 years Although Hope had no experience in working with chimpanzees, she works diligently, with regard and respect She makes a daily rendezvous to study them in the wild Her assignment is to observe and track the movements of a southern faction of apes that broke off from the northerners.Hope makes a harrowing discovery about the two groups of chimps the northerners and the southerner group that split off When she shares it with Mallobar, he becomes threatened he also has a new research book coming out He tries to deny the accuracy of Hope s observation skills The civil wars of the Congo both overshadow and parallel the events at the Grosso Arvore Research Center, the chimps, and the behavior of some of the scientists.Each new titled section or chapter of the novel begins in italics, often presenting the various divergence and chaos theories of her ex husband s research, and giving room for the reader to tie in concepts of uncertainty in Hope s existence There are parallels to dominion and sex, aggression, and the need to find clear and determined answers.During her marital separation, Hope worked on an ancient English estate, dating and describing hedgerows, with detailed specific answers available for her to ponder However, when her estranged husband comes to visit, her life feels in flux again He barrages her with his anxiety and failed research attempts.There are a lot of trajectories to this book, including Hope s relationship with a Mig 15 mercenary pilot, an Egyptian named Usman Shoukry, who meticulously constructs for his amusement tiny, detailed airplanes made out of tissue and attached to horseflies Hope sees Usman when she makes provision runs for the reserve.Like his 2012 book, Waiting for Sunrise, Boyd employed a complex structure in this 1990 novel about science and discord, both marital and professional Structure and the sciences are the glue for connecting the themes and metaphors of his overall story, a device for annexing separate compartments of the narrative and cohering it into a whole Once you let that be, or let it go, and stop worrying if you are comprehending all the pieces while reading it, you can enjoy this compelling piece of fiction.It takes place primarily in the continent of Boyd s birth, Africa he was raised in Ghana , somewhere in the Congo Civil wars are raging, with the federal government fighting factions, and guerilla warfare ongoing You don t need to even know exactly where it takes place, or when He doesn t tell us.Hope Clearwater is the feisty heroine, a young PhD in plant and animal ethology who was married to an obsessive mathematician, until she wasn t Right now, as the story opens, she is living on Brazzaville Beach in Africa, narrating the events that led to where she is now, and taking stock of her life Over the course of the book, Hope shares the events and casualties that led to her living alone on this beach.Her most recent post was in the Congo, with the established and respected scholar, Eugene Mallobar, a PhD and author of several books on primates, who has studied them for 30 years Although Hope had no experience in working with chimpanzees, she works diligently, with regard and respect She makes a daily rendezvous to study them in the wild Her assignment is to observe and track the movements of a southern faction of apes that broke off from the northerners.Hope makes a harrowing discovery about the two groups of chimps the northerners and the southerner group that split off When she shares it with Mallobar, he becomes threatened he also has a new research book coming out He tries to deny the accuracy of Hope s observation skills The civil wars of the Congo both overshadow and parallel the events at the Grosso Arvore Research Center, the chimps, and the behavior of some of the scientists.Each new titled section or chapter of the novel begins in italics, often presenting the various divergence and chaos theories of her ex husband s research, and giving room for the reader to tie in concepts of uncertainty in Hope s existence There are parallels to dominion and sex, aggression, and the need to find clear and determined answers.During her marital separation, Hope worked on an ancient English estate, dating and describing hedgerows, with detailed specific answers available for her to ponder However, when her estranged husband comes to visit, her life feels in flux again He barrages her with his anxiety and failed research attempts.There are a lot of trajectories to this book, including Hope s relationship with a Mig 15 mercenary pilot, an Egyptian named Usman Shoukry, who meticulously constructs for his amusement tiny, detailed airplanes made out of tissue and attached to horseflies Hope sees Usman when she makes provision runs for the reserve.Admittedly, I haven t unraveled every thread of this book sufficiently to articulate a review with any authority It is a book to cogitate on, closely, and possibly from an aerial distance The chimps DNA is only a fraction off from humans they act human sometimes People act like apes periodically At the center is Hope, twining the different narrative threads, keeping the reader suspended in the turbulent whirlpool of humanity.


  6. says:

    Of chimps and humansAs Hope Clearwater sits on the beach outside her home in the Republic of the Congo, she looks back over the circumstances of her life that have brought her here her marriage to mathematician John Clearwater, and her later work at Grosso Arvore, a chimpanzee research project run by the world famous primate expert, Eugene Mallabar The two stories, though separate, have the common theme of the pursuit of scientific fame and the toll that can take on those who fail There are other themes too the war that rumbles on in the Congo, the evolutionary and genetic links between human and chimp and a third story, of Hope s love affair with Usman Shoukry, an Egyptian mercenary pilot fighting on the pro government side in the war, though this strand has less weight than the other two.While each strand is told linearly in time, the book cuts between them so that the reader is following them all simultaneously Hope s marriage to John is happy at first She is contentedly working as an ecologist mapping ancient hedgerows, while John is immersed in the study of chaos theory a subject Hope can t even pretend to understand but she does understand John s passion for it Gradually though, as John repeatedly fails to achieve his own goal to make a unique contribution to the subject, his mental health begins to show the strain Jumping from one mathematical discipline to another, alternating between heavy drinking and total abstention, John s behaviour becomes progressively erratic and their marriage comes under ever greater strain.The reader knows from the second strand, at Grosso Arvore, that the marriage ended, but doesn t know how or what was the final straw until towards the end of the book But we see Hope, still young, now researching chimp behaviour in Africa Her task is to observe a small group of chimps who have broken away from the main group Eugene Mallabar is about to publish what will be his magnum opus the last word on chimpanzees and his reputation is what brings in the grants and donations that make the research possible But Hope begins to see behaviour in her chimp group that doesn t tie in with Mallabar s research At first, she tells him about this but he dismisses her he doesn t want his research threatened So she begins to conduct her own research and is increasingly disturbed by what she discovers.Hope sees Usman whenever she goes to the nearby town for supplies for the project But on one trip, she and a colleague are taken captive by a group of rebels Although this is a fairly small part of the overall story, it s one of the most powerful Boyd gives a compelling picture of the chaos of this kind of indeterminate warfare which is so commonplace on the African continent.This is a book that could easily be read on two levels The ideas in it about scientific ambition and evolution may not be particularly original, but they are very well presented, and Boyd even manages to make the maths discussions comprehensible and interesting, with something to say about the wider world But put all the ideas and themes to one side, and the book becomes a simple but compelling story of Hope s life She is an exceptionally well drawn character, a strong, intelligent, independent woman, self reliant sometimes to the point of coldness, but I found it easy to empathise with her nonetheless While I found the stories of Hope s marriage and her later relationship with Usman absorbing and emotionally credible, what made the book stand out for me was the story of the chimp research in Grosso Arvore For those particularly sensitive to animal stories, I will say that Boyd pulls no punches he shows us nature in all its gore, sometimes graphically But this is all animal to animal interaction there is no suggestion of human cruelty towards the chimps and I therefore found it quite bearable, like watching a wildlife documentary Hope is professional in her approach so that the chimps are never anthropomorphised, but clear parallels are drawn between the behaviour of the chimps and the war going on in the human world And because the chimps are such close relatives to humans, they gradually develop personalities of their own that we care about as much as if they were human The other aspect of the chimp story is Mallabar s reaction to the threat to his life s work, and I found this equally well executed and believable.For me, this is Boyd at his best The book sprawls across time and geographic location, bringing each to life and never allowing the reader to become lost Each separate strand is interesting and engrossing and they are well enough linked that they feel like a satisfying whole The writing and storytelling are of course excellent when is Boyd ever anything less I listened to it on audio, perfectly narrated by Harriet Walter I found it took me ages to get through mainly because I tend to listen while cooking and eating, and frankly a lot of the chimp stuff just wasn t suited to that activity but I remained totally absorbed in each strand, never having that irritating feeling of wishing he would hurry up and get back to the other storyline It feels perfectly balanced, a story about chimps that has much to say about humanity, and says it beautifully Highly recommended.www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com


  7. says:

    When the novel opens, Hope Clearwater is living in a house on Brazzaville Beach that she owns as a result of her Egyptian lover s death in the civil war in the Congo She is reflecting on the complexities of her life over the last two years and recuperating from being taken hostage by the rebels Hope is trying to figure out all that s happened to her, both in England with her husband and the events that caused her to flee to a new job in Africa, and the challenges she s faced since then How much of what has happened is due to her actions and how much is just random events The author allows us to follow her thoughts by dividing her narration of them into two voices, one told in the first person and one told in the third This has the effect of making them both seem immediate as if they were taking place at the same time She also dwells on mathematics a lot Her husband was a mathematician, trying to develop a formula or algorithm around turbulence, all of which is difficult for Hope to understand It s also causing problems for her husband who eventually goes insane with predictably disruptive results.This is how Hope finds herself in a Primate Study Group in the Congo during the civil war Although she s just completed her Ph.D in ecology, this is the first time she has worked with chimps and now she is working for the world s expert in the field When some bizarre and frightening things begin to happen in the field, Dr Mallabar finds Hope threatening to his work and reputation.Brazzaville Beach is a complex and cleverly told tale of human beings and their interactions under pressure, both personal and from outside the group Everything is dovetailed to fit neatly together philosophically although this doesn t become obvious until it s all over The story is interesting enough so that you don t get hit over the head with the allegorical nature but are able to appreciate how well done it is.


  8. says:

    Brazzaville Beach tells the stories of Hope Clearwater It covers two periods, telling them in parallel although one follows the other chronologically Each period comes to a dramatic conclusion The book builds to deliver both conclusions as close together as the narrative allows There are themes that recur in Hope s experiences There is anger, violence, madness, conspiracy There is violence instigated by academics, and tenderness provided by soldiers.So far I ve described a complex structure The structure is there to be recognised and admired if you want to analyse The story needs no analysis, and the structure doesn t get in the way of a brilliantly engaging novel Her supervisor tells Hope The tide is either coming in or it s going out Hope s fortunes ebb and flow, and keep the pages turning.This is my clear favourite among the books by William Boyd that I ve read I read it soon after it was published It didn t disappoint when I read it again It s one of the very few books that I will revisit again.


  9. says:

    A touching and wrenching tale of a woman s experiences in her personal life and career, with a backstory set in Africa Hope Clearwater faces many challenges with her work as a scientist much of the time observing chimpanzees near a remote, academic camp in Africa, as well as the emotional upheavals in her marriage to an eccentric mathematician With a wide variety of settings, quirkiness, and unsettling events, the reader is given a unique glimpse into Hope s unfailingly human reactions to the tumult, and her steadfastness in keeping true to herself and not what others want her to be for their self interests.The author has created such an honest and sympathetic character in Hope that it seemed as if each time I began reading it was like spending time with a friend an honest friend who isn t afraid to share her feelings I didn t want to rush through this book but it was unavoidable for me to put it down for long I feel that I will be thinking about this story, and about Hope, for quite a while.


  10. says:

    Hope Clearwater, the protagonist of William Boyd s novel, Brazzaville Beach is a young English ethologist who s come to the Grosso Arvore Research Center in central Africa to make a study of chimpanzees and to forget her broken marriage to a brilliant mathematician back home In this engrossing book, Boyd very deftly braids three story strands Hope s present day life on Brazzaville Beach Hope s former life in England with her husband John and Hope s recent experiences at Grosso Arvore, and her experiences with the chimps Boyd tells Hope s English story in the third person, while he tells her African story in the first person Boyd has written about Africa before, though his previous novels set on the Dark Continent, were darkly comedic A Good Man In Africa was set in West Africa, while An Ice Cream War was set in East Africa Brazzaville Beach, a book written in a serious tone and seems to be set in the Congo or in Angola, probably Angola, however, closer to the center of Africa, and, while there is a real Brazzaville in the Congo, this book doesn t seem to be set there despite its title.The head honcho of Grosso Arvore is Eugene Mallabar, its founder and director Mallabar, who s studied chimps in the wild for decades, reportedly knows about them and their habits than anyone else in the world He s the author of two highly acclaimed books on chimpanzee behavior, The Peaceful Primate and Primate s Progress, both catalysts for millions of dollars in grants for further study at Grosso Arvore As the book opens, Mallabar is just putting the finishing touches on another book that should prove to be the definitive word on the primates he finds incapable of aggressive behavior, and Grosso Arvore, which was very quickly running out of money, has just been given another grant that will allow it to function for another two years at least There s only one problem, and that one problem is Hope Clearwater.Heeding the good advice to start a novel on a day that s different, Boyd, who knows how to tell an excellent story, begins the Congolese Angolan thread of his story on the day Hope discovers that one group of chimps they ve split into two groups and are in the midst of territorial wars has turned to cannibalism, infanticide, organized aggression, and overt brutality, acts usually reserved for human beings, and something Mallabar s work has shown chimps simply do not do Hope, though, knows what she saw, so Mallabar sets out to persuade her that she s mistaken, and that he s the one who s right After all, he has to be right if he wants his newest book to succeed and the funding to keep flowing in The problem is, Hope Clearwater is not going to be easily persuaded She isn t persuaded when her tent goes up in flames, destroying her field notes She isn t persuaded when a large dislodged rock narrowly misses hitting her, while she s following a bad tempered band of chimps She isn t persuaded when the other scientists begin to freeze her out In fact, she goes so far as to lure Mallabar, himself, into the field so he can witness several chimps stomping a rival to death And still, he doesn t believe, or at least he says he doesn t, and Hope, who narrowly escapes, finally realizes that she needs to stop trying to convince Mallabar that she saw what she did Complicating matters is the fact that guerrilla warfare is going on in the country at the time, making movement dangerous The guerrilla leader of one of the factions, the volleyball playing Atomique Boum, Dr Amilcar, might possibly be the most likable character is this book He s certainly well drawn and one of the most interesting At any rate, Hope s story eventually intersects with that of the guerrillas, giving the novel added tension and momentum.Another thread of Brazzaville Beach is set in England, in the past, during the early days of Hope s marriage to John Clearwater, a brilliant mathematician Though Hope was relaxed and almost lethargic after finishing her PhD work and marrying John Clearwater, John, himself was searching for fame and always looking for the next mathematical problem to solve He wanted a mathematical theorem named after him, like Fermat, and what he failed to realize is that even geniuses are often forgotten by society at large the important thing is to be happy with yourself, and to be important to those who love you While Hope, who doesn t seem to have as much trouble finding contentment, is working on cataloging and dating hedgerows and coppices at a large estate in Dorset in southwest England in order to remain close to home, John is suffering the first symptoms of a mental and emotional breakdown, fearful that someone else will make the discoveries he longs to make The reader knows John is headed for a crash, and we wonder what will become of the Clearwater marriage once that crash happens Will it be over forever, or is Hope s sojourn in Africa just a reprieve from the trials at home And what happened at Grosso Arvore to send Hope to Brazzaville Beach Braided narratives or in this case, a double helix narrative are always a bit difficult to pull off, and they all carry the inherent risk that one braid will overwhelm the others Although all the braids in this book are extremely well done, I think the one set in Africa and revolving around the chimpanzees is by far the interesting Frankly, when I bought this book I was under the impression I was buying a book that took place solely in Africa, and I was surprised to find the story thread in England was included It was a fine story thread, and John Clearwater was an extremely interesting character, but frankly, I think he deserves his own book I could have done without that braid, and John s story is interesting enough to warrant being set apart from Hope s I think the book might have been stronger had Boyd concentrated entirely on Hope s time in Africa, with only minimal backstory regarding her life in England and her marriage But, that might be just me I do think the African story wasn t affected much by the addition of the one in England and vice versa, and it s my opinion, at least, that braided narratives should impact each other than these two did Some people aren t going to like the crosscutting or the jump from first person Africa to third person England , but Boyd is extremely skillful And, the story threads are joined, so to speak with some arcane aspect of biology, anthropology, or math presented right before each chapter and printed in italics, things like algorithms, lemmas, turbulence theory, Fermat s Last Theorem, divergence syndromes, etc I found these interesting, but unnecessary, and sometimes a bit too clever, and I really hate to read italics I know plenty of readers who would have skipped the italicized parts, though, just as they skipped the poetry in A.S Byatt s Possession, though I certainly wasn t one, and they shouldn t be skipped because this is primarily where Boyd develops his thread regarding Hope s current life on Brazzaville Beach.I thought Hope, and all the main characters, really, were fully realized, three dimensional characters I read a review in which one reviewer said he or she thought Hope was like a man than a woman I didn t find that to be true at all She wasn t ultra feminine, to be sure, but that wouldn t have fit her character She was living in Africa, in rather primitive conditions Had she been fussy and finicky, her character wouldn t ring true I liked Hope immensely I thought she was plucky and quite realistic, characteristics I like, and I enjoyed spending time with her I actually missed her once I d finished the book, something that rarely happens with fictional characters and me.Like them or not, and I do, very much, the chimps are the real stars of this book When I was reading the chapters about Hope and John in England, no matter how interesting I thought they were, I was anxious to return to the African story and learn how the chimps were faring Even before I read this book, I knew that at least some of Boyd s research was drawn from the studies in Tanzania of famed primatologist Jane Goodall, who discovered that chimpanzees are not always peaceful vegetarians, but can be aggressive and manipulative, and will resort to cannibalism if they feel it s in the best interests of the troop Chimps live in groups called troops The chimpanzee wars are the most compelling part of Brazzaville Beach, though they are terribly, terribly sad.Chimps, who share ninety eight percent of their DNA with humans the Angolans even call them mockmen often function as a symbol of the inhumanity man is capable of, of the fact that at its center, man s heart truly is dark If man goes to war, killing innocent women and children, how can we expect better behavior from chimps Yet, somehow, we do.Besides being an excellent storyteller, William Boyd is an excellent writer, though he s no prose stylist in the manner of say, Sebastian Barry or Edna O Brien But Boyd s writing reflects an extraordinarily intelligent man who s learned his craft extremely well In fact, every time I read a book written by William Boyd, I m struck by how well and how intelligently it s written This book is no exception, though I did catch a few minor missteps I would have thought Boyd s editor should have discovered Early in the book, John Clearwater announces to Hope that he s given up alcohol, though just a few pages later, he s drinking again, and even Hope doesn t seem to notice Hope, herself, seems to be drinking and , though this fact is simply never elaborated on by anyone There are biblical references, references to Greek mythology, and even references to Shakespeare that are never mentioned again A few times, Boyd repeats information he s already given us a page or two before It did make me wonder if Boyd was hurrying with this novel, or if his publisher was putting pressure on him to deliver faster Boyd is not usually a sloppy writer On the contrary, I ve found him to be very meticulous.I thought Brazzaville Beach was a thoroughly engrossing book I loved reading it as much as any book I can remember in the last two years or so I hated to put it aside even to sleep It s not perfect, though, and my small quibbles are the only reason I didn t rate it 5 5.4.5 5Recommended Yes.