Starred Review. When Charles Darwin set out on his voyage of discovery aboard the Beagle in 1831, he was a naïve naturalist. Upon his return to England five years later, as nature writer Haupt (Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds) capably demonstrates, he was a polished, philosophical student of nature. In fluid, lovely prose, Haupt documents this dramatic transformation, focusing on the notebooks Darwin kept during the journey. Through her selections, we see Darwin's minute observations and his understanding of the natural world, and we gain early hints of the ideas that would transform the world when he published On the Origin of Species in 1859. While Haupt presents nothing dramatically new, it is enjoyable to picture the young Darwin spending hours watching Andean condors soar and anthropomorphizing many South American birds (not just the famous finches of the Galápagos). Haupt uses Darwin's personal journey as a metaphor for our contemporary view of the natural world, expressing the hope that people today might become more attuned to their natural surroundings. Darwin, Haupt argues, reminds us "that we too are animals, connected to life, past and present.... That nothing in the natural world is beneath our notice." (Mar. 7)
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Those acquainted with Charles Darwin's biography know he boarded the Beagle in 1831 as a callow nature lover and disembarked five years later as an accomplished naturalist. Haupt ( Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds, 2001) explores Darwin's transformation through one of his writings from the voyage, Ornithological Notes. She tightly homes in on Darwin's initial observations in South America, aware that the Galapagos Islands are perceived as the stage on which Darwin came to his insights. Less arguing a case than reimagining Darwin's thoughts, Haupt interacts with the Notes, Darwin's diary, and her own experiences to produce a ruminative sensation of what Darwin was undergoing during this observational period. Though coursing through the birds Darwin collected, Haupt's style inclines toward the abstract as it explores Darwin's conversion experience, so to speak. The effect is a personal and personable comparison of Darwin's interaction with nature with the author's own, producing the strong writer-reader bond that typifies good nature writing. Gilbert Taylor
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Absolutely charming story about the era, not just about Darwin. This is a keeper.Published 3 months ago by Lorrell Louchard
A short review of this book in the 4-8-06 issue of `Science News' prompted me to order it. I'm interested in the genesis of radical new ways of viewing our world to see how it... Read morePublished on May 2, 2006 by Paul Carleton
I greatly enjoyed Haupt's first book "Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds" and ordered this one not knowing much about it. It was wonderful too! Read morePublished on April 23, 2006 by Mark R Beswick