The Blue Nile

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By Alan Moorehead

Rating: 4.3

The Nile is the world’s longest river and is fed by its two main tributaries, the Blue Nile and the White Nile.  The Blue Nile is shorter though supplies over 80% of the water in the Nile.  Alan Moorehead writes an interesting and at times poetic story of the characters and events that comprise the search for the source of the blue Nile.

Beginning with a Scotsman named James Bruce he details the many European characters who braved deserts, primitive and hostile natives, and brutally hot weather to to find the elusive source of this mighty river.  I read the book several months before writing this review, so I’ve forgotten many of the details.  However I do recall that it was a well-told story, very interesting, and at times poetic.  Moorehead seemed to have good historical perspective and sensitivity to many of the extraordinary events on the Nile during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  He writes well, keep the story moving, providing just the right amount of detail and just the right amount of sharp-eyed observation.

His telling of Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt is excellent, as well as his story of the little-known Theodore, Emporer of Ethiopia (a most peculiar madman).  His depiction of the armed battle between Theodore’s army and the British army alone makes the book worthwhile, though there are many other episodes to keep the reader’s attention.