Flashback Friday: Brazzaville Beach

Flashback Friday is my own little weekly tradition, in which I pick a book from my reading past to highlight. If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My picks for this week’s Flashback Friday:

 Brazzaville Beach

Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd

(published 1990)

From Goodreads:

In the heart of a civil war-torn African nation, primate researcher Hope Clearwater made a shocking discovery about apes and man . . .

Young, 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.

I remember exactly where I was when I read this book about six or seven years ago: on a family vacation, hiding away in an air-conditioned room, shushing everyone who dared talk to me (how rude!), and basically refusing to go act like a social creature while I still had pages left in this engrossing book. Interestingly, what I can recall most vividly about the plot of the book is not the human drama, but the animal drama. The chimpanzees at the heart of the scientific research in Brazzaville Beach are fascinating, and while the people parts were great too, it’s the chimp saga that has really stuck with me.

I’m surprised, actually, that I haven’t read more by William Boyd, despite friends who love his works and have highly recommended other of his books to me. Clearly, this is a situation I must correct! Meanwhile, I definitely recommend this book for its evocative African settings and its hard look at human — and animal — behavior.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers!

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join the Flashback Friday fun, write a blog post about a book you love and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!

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