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Charles and Emma Paperback – November 22, 2011
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“The unlikely, and happy marriage of Charles Darwin and Emma Wedgewood comes to life in Heiligman's intelligent and fast-moving book. Emma, a devout Christian but a sympathetic editor, helped make the arguments in ‘On the Origin of Species' airtight. Meanwhile readers can almost effortlessly absorb Darwin's ideas and the culture in which they developed, along with a portrait of Victorian everyday life.” ―New York Times Book Review, 2009 Notable Book
“With empathy, humor and insight, Heiligman proves the truth of the maxim that behind every great man there is indeed a great woman. There have been many Darwin-themed books published this year (which marks the 200th anniversary of his birth). This is clearly the best.” ―NPR.org
“A delightful book about the question at the heart of the Darwins' marriage.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Heiligman's writing is so good--so rooted in particulars of time, place and Darwin's scientific thought, yet so light and full of drama--that readers will care about Charles and Emma and their love story. The debate between science and religion continues, today, but the relationship of Charles and Emma Darwin demonstrates that science and religion are not incompatible.” ―Bookpage
“This is the ‘wow' biography on the Darwins - meticulously researched, richly rendered and rewarding every step of the way.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“Heiligman conveys the social order of the day, the comfort religion provided and even, yes, the evolution of Darwin's thoughts.” ―The Washington Post Book World
“There's an extraordinary sense of how persistent and vigorous Darwin's scientific thought was, and of what an unusually loving and involved parent and husband he was...Great for young readers to watch scientific work as a personal project.” ―The Chicago Tribune
“Allows readers not only to understand Darwin's ideas, but to appreciate how Emma's responses tempered them.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Heiligman has created a unique, flowing, and meticulously researched picture of the controversial scientist and the effect of his marriage on his life and work.” ―School Library Journal, starred review
“Here is a timely, relevant book that works on several levels: as a history of science, as a biography, and, last but not least, as a romance.” ―Horn Book, starred review
“This intersection between religion and science is where the book shines, but it is also an excellent portrait of what life was like during the Victorian era, a time when illness and death were ever present, and, in a way, a real-time example of the survival of the fittest.” ―Booklist, starred review
“Come for the science, stay for the love story” ―BCCB, starred review
“This rich, insightful portrait of Charles and Emma Darwin's marriage explores a dimension of the naturalist's life that has heretofore been largely ignored...readers wanting to know more will discover two brilliant thinkers whose marital dialectic will provide rich fodder for discussions of science and faith.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“A unique blend of romance, scientific observations, explanations of medical practices prevalent in the earlynineteenth century, and opportunities to examine scientific discoveries and religious beliefs in detail.” ―VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)
“The conflicts between science and religion are daunting subjects, but Deborah Heiligman's beautiful book Charles and Emma unravels all the complexity through the lives of two remarkable people. At its heart, "Charles and Emma" is a love story--but it is amazing how much you learn by the time you finish. I enjoyed every page.” ―Professor Ari L. Goldman, Columbia University, author of "The Search for God at Harvard."
“Not only among the very best [Darwin biographies], but it provides something new, which is quite an achievement in such a crowded field.” ―John Bonner, Professor Emeritus, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University
“It is magnificent and will be a much loved and read book by many people.” ―Rosemary Grant, Senior Research Biologist, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University
“I loved the book and feel strongly that it should be marketed to readers of many ages and not restricted to students.” ―Mary Lou Gleason, New York Academy of Sciences
About the Author
Deborah Heiligman has written more than twenty books for children. She graduated from Brown University, and started her writing career working for Scholastic News Explorer, the classroom magazine, but left when she wanted to be home with her children, and then she started writing her books. She is married to Jonathan Weiner, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for The Beak of the Finch.
- Lexile Measure : 1020L
- Grade Level : 8 - 12
- Item Weight : 9.1 ounces
- Paperback : 296 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0312661045
- ISBN-13 : 978-0312661045
- Product Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.81 x 8.3 inches
- Publisher : Square Fish; Reprint Edition (November 22, 2011)
- Reading level : 13 and up
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #404,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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As a fan of science writing, biography, historical settings, and young adult literature, I felt like Charles and Emma was written just for me. The religious issues along with the romantic aspects brought drama to what might have otherwise been a traditional biography. The religious and romantic elements might also move some fiction readers toward nonfiction. Many adult biographies can be academic and dry, so I enjoyed the simple language, conversational style, and topical emphasis of this book written for young adults. I don't normally think of biographies as "page turners," but the story was a really "quick read."
Heiligman wove interesting primary source materials and stories into the book. I particularly enjoyed the "to marry" and "no to marry" list. I could relate to this very analytical approach. I could also connect to his obsession with "knowing everything" about a particular topic such as his species studies.
Combining the stories of Charles and Emma made the book unique. As I read the story I wondered about the impact of spouses on other scientists. I'd like to see other books taking this approach to biography.
So much of YA literature focuses on realistic fiction (teen angst and melodrama) and fantasy (vampires, werewolves, dystopia) that it's great to see a book written for nerdy teens like I was! In publisher's quest for "high profit" books, they often forget that there's a market for engaging biographies, readable nonfiction, and quality storytelling outside traditional fiction categories. This book will never get the readership of the Twilight series, but there are teens in the world that aspire to be naturalists, scientists, and scholars that are thirsty for books like this.
One sign of an exceptional book is the degree to which I think about the book later. Darwin seems to be everywhere I look. Darwin's 200th birthday was Feb 12 2010.
I've always respected Charles Darwin for the many years he spent researching and reflecting on his theories before publishing. He truly wanted to "get it right." His approach to science and the development of arguments is a great example of critical thinking.
There are some great websites devoted to his work. You can also visit Darwin's countryside on Google Earth. For a great overview with images go to http://www.darwinday.org/learn/
Want to learn more? Go to http://www.darwinday.org/
Beyond the book...
I think it's important to introduce biography and Charles Darwin to children. For younger readers, I'd suggest the beautifully illustrated picture book "One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin" by Kathryn Lasky as a great introduction to Charles Darwin.
For teens who enjoy this book, I'd recommend moving into quality adult nonfiction such as Erick Larson's The Devil in the White City, Isaac's Storm, or Thunderstruck.
I enjoy reading about naturalists from the 1500s through the 1900s. For an engaging biography that takes place in the late 1600s, read "A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer: The Life of William Dampier" by Diana Preston.
The biographies of Linda Lear would be a great way to introduce young adults scholars to adult literature. Read Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature or Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature.
Okay, so now you know I'm a nerd. We need more nerds in the world!
The author also has a theater version of the book on her website, which was perfect for differentiation for english language learners or reading disabilities.
I came away with greater respect for Darwin most deeply because of this one thing: his care and respect for the feelings of those whose religious devotion was disturbed by his theories. When after his death, Emma edited out certain passages of his personal writings, which were not intended by him to go public, because she said she thought people would take them the wrong way, at first you may think she is trying to clean up what she doesn't agree with. But I get the feeling from what you learn about the two, that more likely she knew that Charles didn't like offending and hurting people, and was more likely to withhold a thought of his that might be taken as being disrespectful or in mean spirit to others who held contradictory cherished beliefs. Not that he didn't feel justified in his beliefs, but that he would take the utmost care that others would not perceive the slightest mean spirit or disrespect in his intent.
One thing that struck me was how being part of a distinctly upper class, the life Darwin led that enabled him to devote his time to his studies, was surely starkly different than the lives and constraints of those in the working and poorer classes. While this was not a theme brought out at all in the book (appropriately, as this was not the scope of the book), I couldn't help become aware of it while reading the account of what his daily life and home was like.
Seeing Darwin's studies in the context of his home life, and ordinary daily musings and observations of the things around him, can also be a great model for the young scientists among us.
Top reviews from other countries
Deborah Heiligman has conceived a delightfully refreshing approach. From letters and diaries, she has constructed a highly readable story of the marriage of Charles Darwin and his wife Emma, paced by the birth of their 10 children, running in parallel with the timeline of events in Charles' day job as a leading scientist of the mid 19th century. Moving back and forth between the two stories is Emma's religious expectation of an afterlife and her concern for Charles' loss of conventional Anglican faith (neither of them being biblical literalists), especially in the aftermath of the death of their favourite daughter Annie.
The very human context of Charles' scientific career as part of the life of a devoted family man has never been presented with greater clarity. I found myself crying again over the death of Annie. The role of religion in the marriage of two very devoted lovers will echo with many.
Those lucky enough to be in the small number of cities where it has been released will want to see "Creation," a film based on the same events in this book, starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly.