Synopses & Reviews
The amazing true story of Julian Smith, who retraced the journey of legendary British explorer Ewart "The Leopard" Grogan, the first man to cross the length of Africa, in hopes of also winning the heart of the woman he loved.
In 1898, the dashing young British explorer Ewart "the Leopard" Grogan was in love. In order to prove his mettle to his beloved — and her aristocratic stepfather — he set out on a quest to become the first person to walk across Africa, a feat hitherto thought by many explorers to be impossible (New York Times, 1900).
In 2007, thirty-five-year-old American journalist Julian Smith faced a similar problem with his girlfriend of six years... and decided to address it in the same way Grogan had more than a hundred years before: he was going to retrace the Leopard's 4,500-mile journey for love and glory through the lakes, volcanoes, savannas, and crowded modern cities of Africa.
Smith interweaves both adventures into a seamless narrative in Crossing the Heart of Africa: the story of two explorers, a century apart, who both traversed the length of Africa to prove themselves... and came back changed men.
"Smith, who writes for Outside and National Geographic, offers a perilous saga of commitment and cannibals in this travel memoir. Saying farewell to his bachelorhood, Smith prepares for his trip to the altar with a trip through Africa, retracing a little-known 4,500-mile route from the Cape of Good Hope to Cairo first traveled on foot in 1899 by explorer Ewart Scott Grogan. In Grogan, Smith sees a man who tackled the arduous for love and fortune, one with answers for his own self doubt; in Smith, readers find a thoughtful, observant commitment-phobe who uses Grogan's adventures as both reference and inspiration for a picturesque narrative. In Malawi, just south of where Grogan hired intrepid Watonga helpers, Smith finds Madonna and adoption the hot topic. Grogan knew isolation; Smith has a cellphone. Integral but less compelling is Smith's romance with his girlfriend, Laura. His happy moral — "compared to making a marriage work, crossing Africa is easy" — may seem more a reprieve than a revelation." (Jan.) Publishers Weekly Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
"Grogan's adventures in Africa are carefully researched....Smith, an award-winning journalist, tells his own story nearly a century later, as well as revealing a modern continent going through constant change." Booklist
"This is two stories, of an explorer and of the author's search for him, and both are compelling. Recommended for travel readers and anyone who has ever been or wants to go on a quest." Library Journal
"Smith provides an engrossing story that runs parallel to Grogan's history. Most impressive is the author's stark honesty....Smoothly written chronicle that's part travelogue, part contemporary relationship commentary, and all heart." Kirkus Reviews
"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
In the 19th century, a British explorer named Ewart Grogan (nicknamed "The Leopard") became the first man to walk across the length of Africa. Amazingly, he did it to win the hand of the woman he loved. In 2007, Smith was inspired to repeat the journey to win his own girlfriend's heart.
About the Author
Julian Smith is an award-winning travel writer whose work has appeared in Outside, National Geographic Adventure, National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian, Wired, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications. He is the author of guidebooks to El Salvador, Ecuador, Virginia, and the southwestern United States, and he has been honored by the Society of American Travel Writers for writing the best guidebook of the year. He lives with his wife and daughter in Portland, Oregon.