For anyone with an interest in natural history, the Victorian era and the enigma of Darwin this book cannot fail to please. Revealed within its more than 600 pages of narrative (the rest of the book is index / bibliography) is the dramatic and fascinating story of how evolution travelled from heresy to accepted wisdom in the space of a single generation. Far from being a matter of purely scientific interest, evolution and natural selection went to the very heart of a country riven with conflict over the place of man in the scheme of things. The ruling classes and the wealthy clergy could not allow the idea of evolution to take hold - to accept that we are all descendants of apes is to accept that there is no fundamental difference between men of different classes and no overriding need for the Established Church (a mere invention of man).
Thus we see that Darwin was torn throughout his life between loyalty to his class (landed gentry) and loyalty to his science. Other men went to prison for denying the truths of Christianity but Darwin was no martyr. His approach was rather one of stealth - gradually pursuing his research and publishing only when the time was right, often many years after his discoveries were made.
A weak man physically we see a man of inner strength and possessing a determination to see the truth prevail.
From first to last this book is a masterpiece of its genre.