Thursday, September 10, 2009

Charles and Emma: The Darwin's Leap of Faith-- Deborah Heiligman

So, if you've been reading this blog for a while now, you will know that I don't read much nonfiction. It's not that I don't like it... it's just that I love a good story...

I was lamenting the fact that I hadn't read a good nonfic in a while to a friend and she recommended this book to me. I'm so glad she did because it was exactly what I wanted: A Good Story.

Charles and Emma is the tale of the lives of both Charles and Emma Darwin, in a nutshell. It starts with something the reader will learn is quintessential Charles: a Ben Franklin-style list of the pros and cons of getting married. This illustrates a challenge Charles will face his whole life: should he go with his gut instinct and what his heart dictates, or should he trust logic, science, and rationality. He ends up deciding to be irrational, and marry... but it was the last irrational thing he ever did.

This book takes the reader through the happiness and struggles the scientist Charles and his religious wife Emma endure together. One of my favorite things about this book was that it illustrated how crucial and essential Emma's input, guidance, and skills were to Charles scientific publications. She was very intelligent, edited all his work, and even though she was a firm Creationist, she was happy to debate with him and further his Evolutionary discoveries. Often historical accounts tend to leave out what the wives and children do, but this book focuses on Charles's relationship with his family. They were a crucial part of who he was, and under-recognized in the world of science.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes nonfiction, memoirs, or historical romantic fiction (but be sure to be clear that this is NOT fiction and a little slower paced that fiction would be) . I can't wait to offer this to a teen who needs to read something nonfiction for school, but wants it to be "good".

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