iamnothamlet’s #CBR5 Review #20: The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

Cannonball 19


After consuming Candice Millard’s best-selling Destiny of the Republic, I thought going back and reading her first book was a can’t lose prospect, especially given its subject. Less than two years after his failed bid for a third term as President, Theodore Roosevelt embarked on a dangerous, unprecedented trip to South America, where he and the valiant men in his company faced deprivation, disease, and all the dangers nature has to offer as they tried to trace an unknown river to its end. Their poor planning and misadventures nearly cost Roosevelt and the others, including his second son Kermit, their lives.

While the material is compelling, Millard pads her manuscript with often tedious examinations of plant and animal life without making a strong enough connection to the narrative of the journey. These sections can feel unnecessary and indulgent after a while. As a history buff, I was more interested in the story of the expedition   than I was in the evolutionary advantages possessed by a variety of rainforest trees.

Millard’s research is astounding in its extensiveness and comprehensiveness. From diaries and letters she has stitched together the entirety of Roosevelt’s perilous excursion. But unlike in Destiny of the Republic, she fails to establish the historical figures as lively, interesting characters in her narrative.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s