Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book Review: The Man-Eaters of Tsavo by J. H. Patterson

The Man-Eaters of Tsavo, by J H Patterson, is the classic, true, story of how an English engineer tracked and killed two man eating lions that had been preying upon the workers attempting to construct a railway in Kenya. Over one hundred Indian labourers were eaten by the pair of lions and having arrived to build a bridge, the author was obliged to hunt down the two man-eaters while at the same time trying to protect an increasingly mutinous workforce.

Whilst the story of dealing with the man eaters is quite an amazing one, the author does not seem to have the gift of being a storyteller, and the facts, which would have made for a riveting tale had they been relayed in style, are simply retold in a brief, descriptive fashion typical of a Victorian civil servant. In other words this reads as an administrative report rather then the ripping yarn that it should be.

Indeed, so briefly is the story told that in fact the tale of the man eaters is over before the reader has got halfway through the book. In the remainder of this book the author goes on to recount hunting anecdotes from his stay in Africa and simply retells how large numbers of animals were shot. Even taking into consideration the different attitudes of the times, this blood-lust becomes rather hard to take and, quite frankly, rather boring reading. At its worst reading about the slaughter of animals such as rhinos which are now critically endangered is sickening and in current times really only serves to shine a light on the environmental vandalism dealt out by people such as the author.

Unfortunately, although the potential for this to be an exciting tale is high, the delivery of the story is poor and the follow up is quite dull. However, the first part of the book is worth reading for the details of the audacious predators raiding well-protected camps on a nightly basis.

I would only recommend this to those who have an interest in Africa, colonialism or the environment.

Score: 6/10

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