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Redmond O'Hanlon

Congo Journey

Category: Miscellaneous | Published: 1996 | Review Added: 15-09-2010 | Updated: 20-12-2012

Rating: 4 - A top read

Redmond O'Hanlon, accompanied by Lary Shaffer, heads into the Congo jungle in search of some mythical lake monster. As usual, his ostensible mission is really a pretext for throwing himself into extreme situations and, incidentally, studying the local flora and fauna.

This is a long book, more slowly paced than Into the Heart of Borneo, and as such it requires a fair commitment from the reader. But it is worth it. Humour is less to the fore than in the early book, replaced by detailed description and - not what one expects in an explorer's yarn - great psychological and philosophical depth. The portrayal of all the characters - O'Hanlon himself, Shaffer, and the trio of Congolese men who guide them on their journey - is exceptionally vivid, giving the book more the flavour of a novel than of a typical travel book. There is a real sense of suspense, with characters slowly being revealed as the team heads into the Congo's own "heart of darkness". In the final part of the book, the border between courage and insanity becomes blurred, and the ending is fitting and subtly dramatic.

So well-structured is the narrative, and so vivid is the dialogue, that one wonders whether O'Hanlon embroidered his story to make it more readable. If he did, I don't think it matters: the sense of the place and of the people is too strong for one not to feel that the book is truthful in its essence. One finishes it feeling that light has been shed on fundamental aspects of the human condition. A unique, quirky and powerful read.

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