There’s a lot out there on Darwin and his Theory of Evolution, either about the man himself or about the theory in one way or another. But this one stands out from all of them, with its intriguing approach. It’s not so much about Darwin, his history and his theory, as it is about Darwin and his relationship with his wife, Emma, and their constant tension between her belief in religion and his belief in science.
It’s a captivating story — the ebb and flow of their relationship, anchored in their love and respect for each other, as well as respect for their philosophical differences. It’s fascinating because it humanizes Darwin (he’s too often demonized!), as well as puts his evolutionary theory in context with his life and the times. The book isn’t preachy: both religion and science are given fair time, and it’s possible to see how the two could complement each other, as Charles and Emma did. Most of all, though, I think it champions free thinking, accepting differing opinions as just that: differing opinions. I think, too often, that we forget that people can still be likable, even if we disagree with them strongly. And this is a story of two people who disagreed and yet loved each other.
On top of that, the book is really very well written. It’s aimed toward a younger crowd, and so was a bit simpler and choppier in areas than I would have liked. But if it gets young people interested in Darwin, and gives them a reasonable base for the study of evolution and science, then it’s done its job. And the fact that it’s an interesting story is just an added bonus.