Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure (Paperback)

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This is the best sort of travel story, set in two time frames.  Just before Julian’s nuptials put an end to his bachelor days he retraced the 1898 journey Ewart Grogan made in a bid to win the hand of fair Gertrude.  Love, adventure, and gorgeous scenery all come together in this rousing good story.

Is the name Ewart Grogan known to you?  It was not a name familiar to me until reading Julian’s book I am ashamed to say.  We should know this name, right along with Burton, Stanley, and Livingston. Grogan was a man who lived life big.  An adventurer, a soldier, a swashbuckler, a spy, a romantic, a mountain climber, and a man hugely important in the early days of Kenya, he has been neglected by history.  In 1898 he set out to make a journey no one had heretofore attempted, to go overland in Africa crossing from Cape Town to Cairo.  Grogan had fallen for Gertrude, an heiress of immense wealth.  Her step-father, Coleman, saw fortune hunter writ large all over Grogan.  He couldn’t have been more wrong.  Grogan proposed a quest to prove his worth and win his lady.  Coleman was swayed, after all the chances of Grogan surviving such a trip were not high. Grogan and Henry Sharp set out on a grand adventure.

Over a hundred years later author Julian Smith was coming up sharp on the end of his bachelor days.  Devoted to his betrothed, Laura, he was still nervous as a cat walking on hot coals.  When he came across Grogan’s story, of his adventurous trip across Africa to win his bride, it caught Julian’s attention.  It seemed just the sort of grand gesture to end his bachelor days, one last huge adventure.  He would retrace Grogan’s footsteps. 

The book does an excellent job of moving between time periods.  I can’t say I prefer the more modern conveyances of Smith’s journey to Grogan’s time.  There is something about the romance, danger, and adventure of Grogan’s journey when everything was so blessedly untouched and rife with possibility.  I rather prefer the idea of Africa wild and not yet fully humbled by the colonial yoke.  But you have to give Smith credit, his journey is invigorating.  The contrast between the two trips is tremendously interesting.

Grogan won his lady love, they settled in Nairobi Kenya where they rubbed shoulders with Elspeth Huxley, Beryl Markham, and Karen Blixen. Grogan lived into his 90’s, a vigorous man always up to something.  Gertrude was his companion until her death during WWII. 

Julian picked an admirable man to emulate.  Grogan’s won the lady and his marriage survived until death.  He was also industrious and generous, working hard and becoming very wealthy in his own right he did his bit to help the oppressed.  We wish Julian and Laura an equally rewarding union. 

— Deon Stonehouse

Description


Banff Mountain Book Awards WINNER

The spellbinding true story of retracing the extraordinary trek of Ewart "the Leopard" Grogan—the legendary British explorer who, in order to win the woman he loved, attempted to become the first person to cross Africa

In 1898 the dashing British adventurer Ewart Grogan fell head-over-heels in love—but before he could marry, he needed the approval of his beloved's skeptical, aristocratic stepfather. Grogan, seeking to prove his worth and earn his love's hand, then set out on an epic quest to become the first man to cross the entire length of Africa, from Cape Town to Cairo, "a feat hitherto thought by many explorers to be impossible" (New York Times).

A little more than a century later, American journalist Julian Smith also found himself madly in love with his girlfriend of seven years... but he was terrified by the prospect of marraige. Inspired by Grogan's story, which he discovered by chance, Smith decided to face his fears of commitment by retracing the explorer's amazing—but now forgotten—4,500-mile journey for love and glory through Africa. Crossing the Heart of Africa is the unforgettable account of these twin adventures, as Smith beautifully ineterweaves his own contemporary journey with Grogan's larger-than-life tale of cannibal attacks, charging elephants, deadly jungles, and romantic triumph.

SOCIETY OF AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITERS WESTERN WRITING AWARDS WINNER: GOLD PRIZE (TRAVEL)

BANFF MOUNTAIN BOOK COMPETITION WINNER: SPECIAL JURY MENTION

AMERICAN SOCIETY OF JOURNALISTS AND AUTHORS AWARDS BEST-BOOK WINNER: MEMOIR

About the Author


JULIAN SMITH received a Banff Mountain Book Award and a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure. The coauthor of Smokejumper: A Memoir by One of America's Most Select Airborne Firefighters, he has written for Smithsonian, National Geographic Traveler, Wired, Outside, and the Washington Post, among other publications. Julian lives in Portland, Oregon.

Praise For…


SOCIETY OF AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITERS WESTERN WRITING AWARDS WINNER: GOLD PRIZE (TRAVEL)
— No Source

BANFF MOUNTAIN BOOK COMPETITION WINNER: SPECIAL JURY MENTION
— No Source

AMERICAN SOCIETY OF JOURNALISTS AND AUTHORS AWARDS BEST-BOOK WINNER: MEMOIR
— No Source

“Grogan would have been a fitting protagonist for Shakespeare ... an insightful and often uproarious romp. ... memorable ... sheds light on Grogan’s monumental feat, which is worthy of a revisit.”
— Boston Globe

“Julian Smith, a talented travel writer, evokes Grogan, his adventures and his world with both insight and panache.”
— Washington Post

“An extraordinary love story . . . [an] absolutely fascinating adventure”
— GoNomad.com
Product Details
ISBN: 9780061873478
ISBN-10: 0061873470
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: December 7th, 2010
Pages: 344
Language: English