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This Thing Of Darkness [Paperback]

Harry Thompson
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 6.29 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

16 Jan 2006

In 1831 Charles Darwin set off in HMS Beagle under the command of Captain Robert Fitzroy on a voyage that would change the world. Tory aristocrat Fitzroy was a staunch Christian who believed in the sanctity of the individual in a world created by God: Darwin the liberal cleric and natural historian went on to develop a theory of evolution that would cast doubt on the truth of the Bible and the descent of man. The friendship forged during their epic expeditions on land and sea turned into bitter enmity as Darwin's theories threatened to destroy everything Fitzroy stood for ...


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Product details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review; New Ed edition (16 Jan 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755302818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755302819
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Adventure, discovery and a heaped spoonful of learning are all here in this highly enjoyable and rewarding read' -- David Roche, Product Director, Waterstones

Perhaps the best historical novel I have read…A stunning achievement of imagination and story-telling. A masterpiece. -- Bernard Cornwell, author of The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, and the Richard Sharpe series

Book Description

Packed full of action, vivid characters, ideas and explorations of science and religion, this brilliant historical novel was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2005


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting read 1 Feb 2006
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This Thing of Darkness is an engrossing account of two protagonists, Robert Fitzroy and Charles Darwin from their early days together on The Beagle, spanning over thirty years. Harry Thompson has created a fascinating book that evokes the spirit of their adventures, their regular debates and philosophy that led them to develop their scientific thinking further in their careers and the history of the people they encountered. Based on historical fact, the conversation and description is effectively blended in to make an enthralling read. I was amused to note the authors postcript on how he used words from Tony Blair in a monologue by an Argentinian dictator.
It's not a dry, boring biography but completely fascinating. I was enthralled from start to finish.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read 14 Aug 2005
Format:Hardcover
This is a wondeful book tracing the intertwining lives of Charles Darwin and Robert FitzRoy. It has everything. FitzRoy was the brilliant captain of the Beagle, who shared a cabin with Darwin for 5 years whilst his ship was charting out new maps of the South Atlantic for the Admiralty. Darwin's "discoveries" and heretical views challenged everything that Fitzroy believed in. The book covers religious arguments and bigotry. It tells of racial experiments when natives were brought to England to be "civilised" and then sent back. It also describes the effects of depression. At the end of his career Fitzroy studied weather patterns and was the father of modern metereology. His storm forecasts saved thousands of lives. A taste of things to come - Britain conceived the idea but the Americans actually took it up and developed it.
Altogether a great read. I could not put the book down on holiday. Friends who have also bought the book have been similarly enthused.
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Triumph 25 July 2005
By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
This is one of the few books that I would read again. At first glance, Harry Thompson may not seem the obvious choice to write a novel about Charles Darwin and Robert FitzRoy - his c.v. reads more like a Who's Who of British television comedy of the 1990's (he produced 'Have I Got News For You' Harry Enfield etc...). However this meticulously researched novel is both entertaining and intellectually satisfying. Thompson not only gives a faithful and utterly compelling account of the lives of FitzRoy and Darwin, but also tackles the biggest issue of all.
This is not just a novel of ideas, but also one of action in which the narrative is driven forward by the extraordinary events experienced by the crew of the HMS Beagle. My favourite aspect of this novel is the wonderful sense of place. Apparently Harry Thompson travelled to all of the places described in this novel and it shows. His descriptions of the desolate landscape of Tierra del Fuego are incredibly evocative.
This is a wonderful novel, but don't just take my word for it. I've met several people who have read this book and they all loved it.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Towering Achievement 18 Nov 2005
Format:Paperback
This is a STUPENDOUS book.
It was longlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize but didn’t make it to the short list. I can’t understand why. True, there’s the occasional lapse of authorial concentration. At one point a character “nearly jumps out of his skin” and elsewhere two dishevelled sailors in an elegant street “stick out like a sore thumb”. On page 110 there’s a jarring, juddering, shuddering anachronism that nearly shook me off my chair and there’s a similar one on page 580. So the blemishes I found in 610 pages can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
These isolated infelicities are far outweighed by writing which will excite and stimulate your intelligence, throw you into the middle of terrifying storms at sea, move your heart and, at times amuse you, the description of a pompous prig on page 459 is a demolition job of Austenesque wit. And if, like me, it was an interest in Darwin that brought you to the book, there’s the self-satisfaction of witnessing the early signs of features that you know already will characterise his later life and work. How, for example, youthful, athletic vigour drained into reclusive valetudinarianism and how, although convinced that “any species was re-shaped to an extraordinary degree”, it was years before he published because “how he did not know”, there seemed “no mechanism to explain it”. We are smugly aware that he is to spend the next twenty years developing the theory of natural selection to explain it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Brilliant 28 Oct 2005
Format:Hardcover
Putting it bluntly this is just one of the best books I have ever read. The author has managed to move an enormous subject along at "thriller-like" velocity. He cleverly utilises a number of stimulating debates between Darwin and Fitzroy to bring home just how radical the thinking of Darwin et al was at that time whilst using real life episodes to highlight the capability of Fitzroy. It is a touch long, but then Fitzroy did a hell of a lot and the author is keen to impress on us that Fitzroy was not just "the Captain of the ship that carried Darwin."
This is entertaining reading for anyone looking for something outside of the normal novel. However, if you are interested in the characters and history in a passive way you'll appreciate it even more, as there is quite a lot of background knowledge taken for granted by the author. If you have read and enjoyed "An Incident at the Fingerpost" by Ian Peers then this is definately the book for you.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
GOOD
Published 12 days ago by sharon king
5.0 out of 5 stars A hidden gem
A true hidden gem. An excellent read.
Published 12 days ago by Dr. M. R. Mcintyre
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book
This is an AMAZING novel. The story is pacey, the characters are so well developed that you feel you know their personalities and the historical research that must have gone into... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Biologyman
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent.
I've read this several times now. Historians aren't keen on this "novelisation" of Darwin's Beagle voyage, but it does make it accessible. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Ade
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb read
Beautifully written and interesting book about Fitzroy and Darwin aboard The Beagle. A must read
Published 26 days ago by E Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars when history is this gripping, who needs fiction
Whilst I knew a bit about Darwin, the achievements of the cast of characters around him were unknown to me. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Freeths
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Not a bad read
Published 1 month ago by Edward Elcock
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Excellent book - depth of detail well balanced with a well constructed storyline and good characters. Would highly recommend this book.
Published 2 months ago by Avidreader
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read
I bought the book as a replacement as my original, loaned to a friend, has not returned and I wanted to reread it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Alison Thurgood
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing historical storytelling
This quite simply is an incredible and totally engrossing book. It tells the life history of Robert Fitzroy who was most famous for his captaining of the Beagle on it's voyages of... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Peter Richards
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