Click here to read reviewer Barbara Bamberger's take on The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey.
Earthís most vivid and daring explorers are lost! To time, that is.
Theodore Roosevelt, Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Roald Amundsen, George Cherrie, Robert Scott, Robert Peary, and others - these were the men who spanned the globe in search of adventure and who risked their physical, emotional, and even spiritual health to gain knowledge and understanding of territories previously unexplored by the Anglo race. They made headlines around the world, pushing themselves to extremes of human endurance, all the while broadening humanityís body of knowledge and promoting scientific understanding. Through their lifetimes of achievement, hundreds of thousands of species of plants, animals, and insects - not to mention facts about the countless friendly and hostile native Indian tribes they encountered - came to be recorded for the first time. And, when these turn-of-the-century explorers passed beyond the gates of this temporal world, they left a legacy for future generations: a strong attraction to adventure and an almost child-like wonder of the world around them. Having touched nearly every corner of the globe, all that remains to be explored on Earth, beyond the Earthís inner core, are the characters of the men themselves, and Candice Millard has made an admirable start.
Theodore Roosevelt is best known for his presidency of the United States and his role in the Rough Riders, but these comprise only a small span of time when considering the breadth of his journey through life. There, too, those undertakings give but a glimpse of the tremendous spirit and character of the man. Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt: Theodore Rooseveltís Darkest Journey, has recovered from the archives the story of Rooseveltís most harrowing journey, one that resulted in the mapping of a thousand-mile waterway previously unnoted on any map of South America. It was a journey that brought out the best in him and many of his companions, as well as bringing out the worst in others. The trip nearly cost him his life and the lives of those who shared in the adventure.
Millardís accounting gives readers a deeper perspective and appreciation of Theodore Roosevelt by extracting the facts of the journey from the explorersí personal journals, private correspondence, newspaper reports, lectures, biographies, and Rooseveltís own articles. Through the authorís eyes, we see more clearly Roosevelt the man, one of strong will and an iron determination, uncommon sensibility, and a man who gave as much as he expected of others. As Millard makes clear, these are prerequisites for a journey along a river as dangerous as the River of Doubt, and they are the fundamental characteristics that enabled Roosevelt and his co-commander, Candido Rondon, to make the difficult decisions necessary to ensure the survival of their expeditionary force.
The River of Doubt is the type of writing from which good films are sometimes made. The story has a nice steady pace about it, making it a pleasure to read. Additionally, the story serves up a great deal of adventure, and Millardís writing style engages the imagination. The book is highly descriptive and provides just enough backstory on Roosevelt's companions and the overall culture, but the author has obviously been careful not to overdo it. It will be interesting to see if any of our modern-day filmmakers have the gumption to tackle The River of Doubt and give theatergoers the same taste of adventure that Millard has done through the written page.