River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile

Books on Tape. May 2022. 10:01 hrs. ISBN 9780525524106. $95. HIST
Millard (Hero of the Empire), a former National Geographic writer, offers a colorful and exciting history of an expedition to find the headwaters of the Nile River, the world’s longest river. In 1857, two exceptional men set out on a dangerous adventure to find the source of the White Nile. John Hanning Speke, an aristocratic army officer, skilled surveyor, and passionate hunter, joined Richard Burton, an ambitious and combative army officer with scholarly interests and a facility for languages. Sidi Mubarak Bombay was their indispensable guide, who had been captured by slave traders as a child and spent 20 years enslaved in India before being freed and returning to Africa. He was one of the most experienced guides in African exploration and was crucial to the success of expeditions such as this one, Millard writes. Once in the field, however, the underfunded expedition team faced incredible hardship, battered by the climate, disease, and a death of supplies. Millard’s account shows how tensions mounted and how Burton and Speke’s frequent clashes made them into enemies. Paul Michael’s changing pace of narration complements the pacing of Millard’s text, and he effectively distinguishes the characters.
VERDICT A fascinating story of adventure and courage, expertly narrated.
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