Review: Charles and Emma

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith – Deborah Heiligman (12/23/08)

Charles Darwin, back from traveling the world and collecting specimens took as his next task making a list about the pros and cons of marriage.  Once deciding it was for the best, he looked to his first cousin Emma to be his bride.  They seemed a perfect match in everything except religious beliefs.  She’d turned to it after the death of her sister, and he saw no use or evidence for it.  But he knew that his views on evolution and the absence of God in the equation would be met with controversy and skepticism.  So once married to Emma, instead of allowing their differences to drive a wedge between them, Darwin used her as an editor and sounding board, knowing that her opinions would echo those of his critics.  They were in every other way well-suited and happy, even managing to thrive after the deaths of some of their many children.

I fear this book may be one that teachers and librarians love, but kids don’t notice because it doesn’t have much obvious appeal.  It’s too much a love story to be a science story and has too little conflict to be a “great” love story.  It’s wonderfully informative about Darwin and humanizes him while never downplaying his accomplishments or his brilliance.  After having finished the book, he feels like a friend.  I really enjoyed it and read it quickly, while still being bored by parts of it.

The cover is neat, and that may help it find an audience, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to sucessfully recommend it to anyone.  I’ve seen that it’s been marketed for ages 12 and up, but I think it’s really better suited to younger students who are very strong readers.

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One response to “Review: Charles and Emma

  1. I’m still really interested in reading it. I wonder what IS up with it; it is a really crazy pitch. Maybe that is the appeal? It is so wild IT JUST MIGHT WORK.

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