Between Man and Beast
An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure That Took the Victorian World by Storm
By Monte Reel
(Doubleday Books, Hardcover, 9780385534222, 331pp.)
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
List Price: $26.95*
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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.
“The gorilla’s very existence suggested—at just the time Charles Darwin was also suggesting—heretical ideas about the origin and nature of mankind. And the man chiefly responsible for bringing this animal to worldwide attention was Paul Du Chaillu, the central character and driving riddle of Monte Reel’s…tale of scientific buccaneering…Intriguing…Rattles along with fine, wacky momentum”
--The New York Times Book Review
"Engrossing....would go great with popcorn.....addresses big topics—evolution, abolition—but they remain in service of the narrative, providing context for colorful conflict."
--Wall Street Journal
"Using extensive historical research, Reel brings alive this expedition and a later one and describes what happened between the two journeys....sense of urgency compels the reader onward to find out what happened....Arresting"
--The Washington Post
"A lively and intriguing biography of the restless adventurer who first sees, studies and takes specimens of gorillas....thoroughly engrossing."
--Minneapolis Star Tribune
"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
"A supremely entertaining, enlightening and memorable read."
"Reel paints each chapter of du Chaillu's life as a vivid scene worthy of the silver screen. They range in scope from the perilous adventures taking place within the jungles of Gabon to the equally tense academic battles waged by British high society. They are all rich with detail, dialogue and atmosphere thanks to the immense work Reel has put forth in researching du Chaillu's life. At times, the mind staggers to recall that this story is a work of nonfiction."
--San Antonio Express
"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."
--The Buffalo News
"Retelling his adventures opens a wonderful window, both magical and alarming, into what he [Paul Du Chaillu] saw and, ultimately, into who we are."
--The Free Lance-Star
"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. He expertly probes the history of the enigmatic Du Chaillu, someone who purposefully shrouded his past from scrutiny....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.”
"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's Required Reading
"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."
--The Daily Beast
"Adventure, history, nature, big ideas—what more could you want?"
"Fascinating....A lively footnote to the debate between science and religion and the exploration of the African jungle in the Victorian era."
"Those unfamiliar with [Paul Du Chaillu] would do well to pick up a copy of Between 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."
“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. By weaving Du Chaillu's pursuit of the gorilla with the debate over evolution, Reel has given us a true 'missing link' that connects exploration, science, and literature. 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. While dissecting the complex motives of the first foreigner to set eyes on a gorilla—at the time believed to be humanity's closest relative—Reel plunges us into the vicious controversy his discovery unleashes in the urban jungle of London in the age of Darwin and Huxley. In so doing, 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
"Part swashbuckling jungle story, part gaslit Victorian time capsule, Monte Reel's visceral, captivating book restores a forgotten hero to his rightful place in history."
--Benjamin Wallace, author of the New York Times Bestseller THE BILLIONAIRE'S VINEGAR
"Monte Reel’s BETWEEN MAN AND BEAST is a provocative, entertaining, and original adventure narrative."
- Laurence Bergreen, New York Times bestselling author of OVER THE EDGE OF THE WORLD and COLUMBUS: THE FOUR VOYAGES