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Darwin's theories have been under attack since he first published The Origin of Species in 1859, but this grandly ambitious novel goes a few steps further to intimate that he was a fraud—and a murderer. Told by turns from three perspectives, the story opens in the present on a volcanic outcrop off the coast of Ecuador where Hugh Kellem, a British field researcher, while tracing Darwin's research path, meets Beth Dulcimer, a beautiful scientist rumored to be distantly related to Darwin. A quick shift shows an ambitious young Darwin about to embark on the Beagle. A little further on, Darwin's youngest daughter, Lizzie, enters via her journal entries, written in the 1870s, decades after Darwin's famous five-year voyage. As the three perspectives unfold, Hugh and Beth find themselves trying to solve the same mystery that intrigued Lizzie 130 years earlier: what happened on the "nuit de feu," the night that transformed the confident, robust Darwin into a haunted near-invalid for his remaining years? Stilted dialogue, perfunctory romance and expendable subplots make for a rough voyage, but Darnton (Neanderthal) puts real passion into his historical imaginings and recreations: the revelation of the "true" origin of the theory of evolution is particularly inspired and more than enough to sustain another Darntonian bestseller.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Darnton's latest novel on scientific themes follows Hugh Kellem, an anthropologist whose study of Darwin's finches leads him to Cambridge, where, listlessly searching through Darwin's papers for a thesis topic, he stumbles upon a secret diary kept by Darwin's second daughter, Lizzie. Darnton interweaves Hugh's investigation with excerpts from Lizzie's writings and with flashbacks to Darwin's voyage aboard the Beagle. Both Darwin's daughter and the modern researcher become obsessed with the twenty-two-year gestation period between the voyage and Darwin's publication of his theory. The solution to the mystery manages to be not only fussily elaborate but fundamentally simplistic, and it involves too many dark hints and convenient coincidences. Still, Darnton has a good feel for both the Victorian era and the modern scientific milieu.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Historical perspective turned on its heels. What if this instead of that?! A most intriguing premise from which to conjur extreme, but possible, indeed nearly probable, alternative... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Anthony George Collura
A clever attack on the arrogance of whoever thinks his is the right god, and his religion is the only truth.Published 18 months ago by Sassy Gramy
Overall a good book..however kind of a drag..especially regarding the details on the American Indians and the character Jemmy Button.Published 22 months ago by meme
In The Darwin Conspiracy, Darnton has exploited holes and inconsistencies in Darwin's life story/mythos to craft a historical pastiche that more or less delivers the goods. Read morePublished on March 21, 2013 by Jeanette Thomas
I just finished this book and have to say I found it quite disappointing. I expected a fun story about scholars on the trail of a historical mystery--a la A.S. Read morePublished on June 26, 2012 by Jeanne
Have read several Darnton tales and only recently realized they were all from the same author, a page turner and gives you goose bumpsPublished on May 2, 2012 by Radio Davio
I found this to be a well-written and interesting historical novel that gives windows into the time and lives of the characters. Read morePublished on February 1, 2012 by goodfaith
My definition of historical fiction is a work that takes key pieces of a very real history while expanding and filling in the gaps of the unknown to create a more fully fleshed... Read morePublished on December 21, 2011 by Jason Golomb
This is a historical novel with a twist of alternative history. When two scientists locked in a rivalry over Charles Darwin come across some papers of Darwin's daughter's, they are... Read morePublished on November 17, 2011 by Clif