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This Thing Of Darkness Paperback – 16 Jan 2006


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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: 15 x 4.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,876 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

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 Feb. 2006
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 By Ivan P. Shaw on 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 By Captain Pike TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 July 2005
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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. M. BYATT on 29 Dec. 2006
Format: Paperback
Can I add anything to the previous 15 excellent reviews? They encapsulate differing aspects of this complex but enjoyable book. I just have two further points to make which haven't been explicitly put.

Firstly, I don't like 'blockbusters' - my attention span is too short. This book might appear like one at first view, but it is an easy, indeed compulsive, read! I have discarded quite a few (often much smaller) books part way through because of boredom, disaffection, or incomprehension. The style, vocabulary, pace, arrangement of plotting and sheer excitement of the adventures and occurrences within story meant that I didn't realise how much and how quickly I was reading.

Secondly, like some other reviewers, I had hoped to learn a little more about the voyage of the Beagle. I had no idea I would not only learn so much about that, but in addition about history, geography, seamanship, the development of nineteenth century scientific thought, naval and social etiquette, and also politics. I hated history at school because it was then mostly learning and regurgitating dates. This book is a fabulous history textbook, but disguised as an adventure story with characters who are largely completely plausible and individual, not just lazy caricatures or stereotypes. Like some other reviewers, I have unexpectedly been seduced into wanting to find out more about several of the characters involved, and life in the nineteenth century. In this way, for me, there were resonances with "The Lunar Men" by Jenny Uglow; an account of Darwin's grandfather and his intellectual coterie - their lives, thoughts, agreements and disagreements. Her book is a similarly clear and tempting window, but into the eighteenth century.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By David Edwards on 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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