I thought Candice Millard s other book Destiny of the Republic was one of the most fascinating books I ve ever read, so I thought I should go back and read this, her first book I must say River of Doubt may be even better, if not for her writing but for the absolutely amazing story she tells Teddy Rosevelt s exepedition in the heart of the jungle may be a footnote in history, but Millard brings it to life as one of the most compelling adventure tales I ve ever read Millard does take her time building up the background here, as most good historians would, but when the journey gets under way, the book becomes difficult to put down Millard relates these events with a brisk pace, tense suspense and copious detail Not only do we learn about Rossevelt s personality and character we also learn much about the s ecosystem, infectious diseases, and the myriad of dangerous creatures that inhabit the jungle This book is both highly informative and hugely entertaining Whether you re a reader of non fiction or not, I recommend this to anyone interested in reading a great ripping yarn. This is one of those books that I both loved and hated I loved it because it s an exciting outdoor adventure, it s interesting history, and it s an impressive survival tale.But at times I also hated it because the disaster story is so frustrating I got really irritated with Teddy Roosevelt I mean, the guy was a stubborn, egotistical ass and I repeatedly wished I could travel back in time just to yell at him to GIVE IT UP AND GO HOME Not that he would have listened.A quick summary After Teddy Roosevelt left the American presidency in 1909, he went on an African safari In 1912, he tried to run for president again, but he lost the nomination Frustrated at home, he was looking for a new adventure and seized on an idea to cruise down the River And this is where the problems started First, Roosevelt did none of the planning for the trip He left that to an incompetent priest, Father Zahm, who then farmed out the task to a store clerk named Anthony Fiala, who had never been to the and who was also famous for a disastrous North Pole expedition.So, right from the start, the expedition was not prepared to head to the When they landed in South America, they had way too much baggage, much of it ill suited for the rainforest And then, Teddy Roosevelt got the terrible idea that instead of taking a pleasant boat trip down the River, which was a known route, it would be much exciting to explore an unknown area, such as the River of Doubt.The arrogance The ignorance The na vet I could exhaust a thesaurus describing how stupid this plan was There were too many men, not enough proper supplies and not enough proper boats The entire expedition was doomed to be a failure the moment Roosevelt changed his mind.The book follows the group s overland march through the jungle to the River of Doubt, and then their slow and dangerous river descent It s one of those stories where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong There were some truly terrifying descriptions of the different ways the jungle can kill a person, such as malaria, poisonous snakes and insects, piranhas, and a hundred other predators And don t forget the indigenous tribes of the region, who knew how to survive in the jungle and could have easily attacked and killed Roosevelt s group One of the Brazilians guiding the expedition, Rondon, left peace offerings for the tribes whenever possible, which the author thinks is why the expedition was allowed to pass through the region relatively unharmed So, did Roosevelt make it out of the jungle alive Yes, but barely He was injured and diseased, and he was so weakened by the journey that he died just a few years later The book has a good epilogue, explaining that after everything Roosevelt had been through in the jungle, few believed his story when he got home I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure, survival stories or the history of the There are also some great stories about what a manly man Roosevelt was, and even though he comes across as an ass, I can understand why he was so admired and revered But I wouldn t follow him into the jungle I don t have a death wish.Funniest Line If you are shot by a man because he is afraid of you it is almost as unpleasant as if he shot you because he disliked you Theodore RooseveltFavorite Quote Within such an intricate world of resourcefulness, skill, and ruthless self interest, refined over hundreds of millions of years, Roosevelt and his men were, for all their own experience and knowledge, vulnerable outsiders Most of the men were veteran outdoorsmen, and many of them considered themselves masters of nature They were stealthy hunters, crack shots, and experienced survivalists, and, given the right tools, they believed that they would never find themselves in a situation in the wild that they could not control But as they struggled to make their way along the River of Doubt, any basis for such confidence was quickly slipping away Compared with the creatures of the , including the Indians whose territory they were invading, they were all from the lowliest comrade to the former president of the United States clumsy, conspicuous prey. At Once An Incredible Adventure Narrative And A Penetrating Biographical Portrait, The River Of Doubt Is The True Story Of Theodore Roosevelt S Harrowing Exploration Of One Of The Most Dangerous Rivers On EarthThe River Of Doubt It Is A Black, Uncharted Tributary Of The That Snakes Through One Of The Most Treacherous Jungles In The World Indians Armed With Poison Tipped Arrows Haunt Its Shadows Piranhas Glide Through Its Waters Boulder Strewn Rapids Turn The River Into A Roiling CauldronAfter His Humiliating Election Defeat In , Roosevelt Set His Sights On The Most Punishing Physical Challenge He Could Find, The First Descent Of An Unmapped, Rapids Choked Tributary Of The Together With His Son Kermit And Brazil S Most Famous Explorer, C Ndido Mariano Da Silva Rondon, Roosevelt Accomplished A Feat So Great That Many At The Time Refused To Believe It In The Process, He Changed The Map Of The Western Hemisphere ForeverAlong The Way, Roosevelt And His Men Faced An Unbelievable Series Of Hardships, Losing Their Canoes And Supplies To Punishing Whitewater Rapids, And Enduring Starvation, Indian Attack, Disease, Drowning, And A Murder Within Their Own Ranks Three Men Died, And Roosevelt Was Brought To The Brink Of Suicide The River Of Doubt Brings Alive These Extraordinary Events In A Powerful Nonfiction Narrative Thriller That Happens To Feature One Of The Most Famous Americans Who Ever LivedFrom The Soaring Beauty Of The Rain Forest To The Darkest Night Of Theodore Roosevelt S Life, Here Is Candice Millard S Dazzling Debut From The Trade Paperback Edition What a wonderful, adventurous journey Candice Millard takes us on with Teddy Roosevelt s amazing and disastrous expedition down an uncharted ian river called the River of Doubt Troubled by his defeat in 1912 s election, the 55 year old Teddy needed a victory, and what better way but a new expedition this time taking him through the rain forest Joined by his son, Kermit, Teddy sets out to explore a charted Brazilian river, but gets talked into trying the River of Doubt by his co lead in the expedition Disorganized and poorly planned from the start, the team runs into piranha, Indians, treacherous white water rapids, dense jungle, insects, infection and disease, and starvation Amazing that any of them came out alive.Highly recommend this book and Candice Millard s Destiny of the Republic A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President.4.5 out of 5 stars Teddy Roosevelt is a MAN I was a big TR fan before and an even bigger one now which is a nice surprise considering that I wasn t expecting much from this book.There is one scene that I think sums up how impressive TR was It comes when they are slightly than half way through their journey, although the exploration party has no way of knowing that TR has an infected leg, a fever, and has already stated that he should be left behind for certain death because he is a burden on the others He s been giving most of his rations, which were already below sustenance levels to the native porters because they needed the nutrients than he did And with all this going on, not to mention the bugs, he s borrowed a book of French poetry from his son Kermit because he already read everything he bought and he is complaining about the book but nothing else because he doesn t like French This is a great book for illustrating really how much of the world was still unexplored even up to a 100 years ago. I had read Roosevelt s Beast by Louis Bayard, which is a fictionalization of Theodore Roosevelt s expedition to the River of Doubt in the I didn t love that book, but it intrigued me enough to want to read the true account minus the mythical creature I was not disappointed by River of Doubt It was an excellent adventure story and history lesson After losing his bid for a third presidential term, Roosevelt was looking for distraction As originally planned, his trip to South America was going to be pretty tame and was sponsored by the Museum of Natural History However, the trip morphed into a dangerous expedition to map the River of Doubt and explore the surrounding territory Both the preparation for, and the organization of, this expedition were flawed, to say the least They had to split off some of the original intended explorers, losing both their expertise and a share of the provisions An elderly priest who had planned the original trip was shunted off when he decided that he would explore from the comfort of a sedan chair The remaining group of just over 20 men included Roosevelt, one of his sons Kermit, Brazilian soldiers, indians and others Some were experienced explorers, but not always successful ones They had to lighten their load in order to get to the river, so much of their food had to go A lot of it was impractical anyway Really, you need a crate of mustard or applesauce Unfortunately, their boats had to go too, leaving them to forage for makeshift, leaky canoes once they reached the river I was really surprised to learn that they brought their pet dogs and books with them The actual river part of the trip took about 2 months, but I m sure it felt like longer to them Both of the Roosevelts were adventurers and daredevils, but they had not had to cope with the number of adversities that plagued them in the , including gruesome parasites, venomous snakes, insects, accidents, diseases, hostile indians, impassable rapids and murder This was a really fascinating story and very well written. This book tells of a chapter of Theodore Roosevelt s life that was not widely known these days, at least before this book was published After the failure of his Bull Moose party to carry him to a third term as president, T.R went looking for adventure probably in an effort to ward off depression One thing led to another until he very nearly got himself, his son and others killed in the heart of the River basin The dangers of the rain forest are so thoroughly described in this book that I m convinced that the reader is aware of the danger and trouble TR s party was in than the actual participants Eventually their predicament is so bad that the reader can t see how they can possibly survive Readers familiar with history will know that it s not yet time for TR to die Nevertheless, the mystery finally presented by this book is, how in the world are they going to get out this fix alive The real hero of this book, in my opinion, is C ndido Rondon the Brazilian who was the real leader of the group Roosevelt was famous, but Rondon was the one who made it happen He was and continued to be known for his lifelong support of the Brazilian indigenous populations He believed it important not to kill the native peoples It was an attitude not widely shared then in Brazil, and thus he was ahead of his time with his enlightened beliefs.One indication of the difficulties experienced by the expedition was that TR lost a quarter of his body weight 220 lbs to 165 lbs in a two month time span He was only 5 8 tall, so 165 lbs sounds like a good weight to me But physically he ended up in a very weak condition and close to death due to an infection antibiotics didn t exist yet.I found Theodore Roosevelt s own version of the expedition at the following web address The on line text is from the book Through the Brazilian Wilderness by Roosevelt published in 1914.http www.bartleby.com 174 Here s a link to an excerpt from the The River of Doubt TR has always been one of the interesting historical figures for me and I have read several books about him I knew about his failed bid for a third term as President running as a candidate on the Progressive Party a.k.a Bull Moose Party ticket I did not know what happened after he lost the election At least not the details Roosevelt received an invitation to speak in Buenos Aires, Argentina and since his son Kermit lived in South America it seemed liked an ideal opportunity to visit his son, explore the River basin, and forget about his political humilation Initially the planned trip was for relatively safe and known rivers when when Brazil s minister of foreign affairs told Roosevelt about an unknown river worth exploring Rio da Duvida, the River of Doubt Roosevelt and his team joined forces with Brazil s most famous explorer, Candido Rondon The trip quickly went from tour to survival contest.Roosevelt was in this 50 s at the time He had survived an assassination attempt and one leg was permanently damaged when the carriage he was riding in was hit by a trolley He had been a rancher in the Badlands and led his men up San Juan Hill during a climatic battle of the Spanish American war While a student at Harvard he had taken up boxing There is no disputing the fact that Roosevelt was tough but this trip nearly killed him The Roosevelt Rondon Scientific Expedition as it was officially known endured insects, disease, fevers, wounds, hostile Indians, lost boats and supplies Reading what the members of the expedition endured I was left amazed that Roosevelt made it home.This was a fascinating story about a chapter in history that is little known While I admire Teddy Roosevelt I sometimes am left to wonder The original plan had been for a trip over known rivers When someone suggested a trip down an unknown river instead his response was Bully The expedition was unprepared for such a trip and it is a miracle that any of them survived Overall a fascinating story The ordinary traveler, who never goes off the beaten route and who on this beaten route is carried by others, without himself doing anything or risking anything, does not need to show much initiative and intelligence than an express package He does nothing others do all the work, show all the foresight, take all the risk and are entitled to all the credit Theodore RooseveltThis is the trip that Teddy Roosevelt deserved Candice Millard s The River of Doubt is about TR getting exactly what he wished for in the most Confucian sense Theodore Roosevelt is a person that I totally admire and respect and also kind of hate He makes me feel the most intense kind of inadequacy that a modern person can experience Teddy chased outlaws and roped cattle and killed a Spaniard and won a Nobel Peace Prize and once delivered a speech with a fresh bullet in his body He was an exceptional man The irritating thing, though, is that he truly believed that everyone who was less exceptional than him was lacking in some vital moral fiber His smug assurance that all a person had to do was say bully and press on to victory gets a little grating.It also in my opinion makes him less interesting than a lot of other historical figures Teddy lacks nuance, subtlety, and vulnerability He swaggers across the pages of history Except in The River of Doubt In the The River of Doubt he poops all over himself More than anything else, Millard s account of Teddy s misbegotten vacation brings a titanic figure down to human dimensions This is not the puffed chest Roosevelt who, at the Sorbonne, elegantly sneered at the critic who does not enter the arena, who is a cold and timid soul who knows not victory nor defeat Instead, this is a Roosevelt starving and wracked with fever and dysentery, lying in a sweltering jungle, contemplating suicide The River of Doubt recounts Roosevelt s 1913 14 expedition down an unexplored South American river the titular River of Doubt The thousand mile river, preceded by a months long overland journey, was fraught with dangers Indians, snakes, rapids, piranhas, insects, disease and starvation All this was compounded by poor planning, dubious food selection, faulty assumptions that, for one, the expedition would be able to supplement its rations by hunting , and unwieldy dugout canoes The environment these men entered was almost impossibly lethal Even a scrape on the leg could lead to a life threatening infection The heat, the rains, the mud the exhausting portages the lingering malaria the gross bugs the incessant mosquitoes Every step in the journey was like every scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.Teddy s expedition was borne out of his disappointing electoral defeat in 1912, when he d run as a third party candidate against William Howard Taft his former mentee and Woodrow Wilson As Millard points out, Roosevelt s prescription for crushing personal setbacks was vigorous physical activity As I intimated above, he was not the kind of man who could simply talk about his feelings Three months after handing the keys of the White House over to Wilson, Roosevelt was invited to give a series of lectures in Argentina He used this trip as an opportunity to indulge his passion for naturalism With the help of the American Museum of Natural History, Teddy put together a modest trip This was to be a chance to put some bugs in a jar, blast away at unsuspecting wildlife with a shotgun, and sit beneath the stars However, once Roosevelt arrived, his plans changed Instead of poking around the , Teddy and his expedition would attempt to be the first white people to descend the unmapped River of Doubt.Traveling with Roosevelt was his son, Kermit, a lovesick young man of exceptional energy and endurance Father Zahm, a racist old priest who wanted the porters to carry him along the trail George Cherrie, an explorer and naturalist and Colonel C ndido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Brazil s most famous explorer, a man so devoted to peace between Brazilians and Indians that he refused to let his men defend themselves if attacked Of these characters, we learn the most about Kermit This is due to his prolific writing, especially his lovesick letters to his fianc , Belle Unlike his father, Kermit wasn t stingy about expressing his feelings in the most maudlin manner possible Kermit had had a challenging childhood Teddy Roosevelt was something of a Tiger Mother, except instead of forcing his son to play the piano, he made Kermit endure various wilderness challenges without complaint Millard does a fine job shading Kermit, and showing his many sides the Kermit who wrote silly love notes the Kermit who carefully watched over his father and the darker Kermit who caused a man s drowning without batting an eye We learn a bit less of Roosevelt himself, whose own personal writings were about the landscape than his interior monologue Roosevelt s arc is mostly seen secondhand, by the other men in the expedition In the spirit of transparency, I will acknowledge feeling a bit of satisfaction at seeing the blustering Roosevelt brought to his knees and forced to accept that some of life s challenges require than a can do attitude Colonel Rondon, the co leader of the expedition, shares the stage with Roosevelt for most of the trip He is a colorful character in his own right and my favorite part of The River of Doubt iron willed, supremely disciplined, thoughtful and driven Teddy Roosevelt is a pretty interesting guy, and it means something to say that Rondon does not wilt in Roosevelt s shadow The real character, though, and let me just slip into my clich pants is South America s fatal environment In Millard s telling, the whole of the jungle is a living creature, each thing each plant, tree, insect, and blade of grass engaged in an epic battle for survival Millard spends a lot of time describing the symbiotic relationships that web the South American jungle She also devotes ample time to all the terrifying beasts that awaited the expedition Wild boar Jaguar Coral snake And a tiny transparent catfish called the candiru When it comes to parasitizing people, a very rare occurrence, the candiru s modus operandi is to enter through an orifice from a vagina to an anus The potential danger for the men on the River of Doubt came not just when they swam in the river but even when they urinated in its shallow waters Instances of candirus parasitizing people are rare, but in the one case in which a doctor fully documented his removal of a candiru from a young man, the victim s explanation of how the fish had entered his urethra was nearly as shocking as the fact that it was there at all In this case the victim reported that, just before the attack, he had been standing in a river urinating, but the water had reached only his upper thighs, and his penis had not even touched the river, much less been submerged in it The candiru, he claimed, had abruptly leapt out of the water, shimmied up his urine stream, and disappeared into his urethra.To which I might add OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW Millard is a brisk, engaging writer who has carved herself a nice niche with moderately sized narrative histories about moderately unknown events She has a journalist s ability to explain and describe with utmost clarity, and to highlight interesting factoids Her greatest achievement is melding the main story of the expedition with the many secondary and tertiary topics such as ferocious fish, lurking cannibals, Brazilian history, and of course, candiru slipping into bodily orifices For the most part, she manages to insert these illuminating, fascinating, sometimes gross discussions into the main narrative, without slowing things down, or making you feel like you re reading filler Obviously you know, or should know, that Teddy Roosevelt doesn t die alongside the River of Doubt Yet Millard maintains a thriller s tension, so that you are flipping pages as fast as you can read The surprise isn t who lives or dies, but how these men were able to survive at all Millard mostly avoids the temptation to paint Roosevelt s expedition as some exalted event Yes, he mapped an unmapped river, and did so at great personal risk however, in the scope of Roosevelt s life not to mention the sweep of history this is a footnote Of course, it say a lot about Teddy that this journey is only one of the top ten things he did Just a few years later, following the death of his son Quentin in World War I, and with his health broken from the River of Doubt, Roosevelt died in bed I don t know if Roosevelt drew any lessons from his time on the river In spirit, he was the same man after that he was before When World War I broke out, he even pestered Woodrow Wilson to give him a combat command Still, the journey down the River of Doubt a metaphor so obvious is doesn t need explanation must have given him some inkling that life was a precarious balance, and he could not strut along it forever But who can really say Even if Teddy didn t learn anything, I sure did I learned about survival, endurance, and humanity And I learned one big fat lesson about not canoeing down an unmapped South American river infested with piranhas and transparent catfish that can end up in your urethra. What an astounding man Theodore Roosevelt was After reading a review by my amazing GR friend, LeAnne, I decided this was a book I needed to read sooner instead of later I knew quite a bit about Mr Roosevelt, including a bit about this final adventure in the All my information came from a PBS special I saw a few years back on Theodore and Eleanor and Franklin It was definitely enough to peek my interest in this American icon He was far from anything we would expect to find in the White House these days He was an adventurer who took his outdoor skills seriously, set standards very difficult to live up to, and held himself to a standard above anything he would have expected of anyone else.The trip down the is described in enough detail to make you squirm in your seat and wonder how anyone came out the other side, let alone a man of Roosevelt s age and physical condition He managed to make an exploration that garnered the admiration of explorers of the caliber of Robert Peary, the first man to reach the North Pole, and to exit the jungle with the respect and goodwill of all the men who made the trip with him.In tribute to him, these are the words of Cherrie, a famed naturalist who was with Roosevelt on his trip down the River of DoubtI have always thought it strange, Cherrie said quietly, since I had the opportunity to know him and know him intimately because I feel that I did know him very intimately how any man could be brought in close contact with Colonel Roosevelt without loving the manWhat a statement that makes about the character of Roosevelt, that he could win the heart of such a man when the both of them must have been at their worst humor and suffering from hunger, illness and unimaginable discomforts.I couldn t help thinking how much we need a man of his conviction and confidence today I don t think you would have worried about insincerity, or indecision, or dishonesty, or a president engulfed in fear, when Roosevelt was at the wheel I m guessing that even in a state of peril, Roosevelt would have made you feel safe He was larger than life, because he was not afraid of it final thought I tried to imagine a modern day president taking an assassin s bullet and standing up with the bullet still in him and making a speech, or any of our current former presidents heading off on such a dangerous adventure without having their security details in tow to clear the paths through the jungle for them Nope can t do it.
Candice Millard is a former writer and editor for National Geographic magazine Her first book, The River of Doubt Theodore Roosevelt s Darkest Journey, was a New York Times bestseller and was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, and Kansas City Star The River of Doubt was a Barnes Noble Discover
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- The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
- Candice Millard
- 19 November 2019 Candice Millard