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Tanya Lunn (Bahrain)
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This Thing Of Darkness
This Thing Of Darkness
by Harry Thompson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing story, wonderfully re-told, 25 July 2009
This review is from: This Thing Of Darkness (Paperback)
Brilliant! My favourite book (fiction) for a long time. Historical novel based on actual events in the lives of Captain Robert FitzRoy, captain of HMS 'Beagle', and Charles Darwin. Researched to the nth degree by the author, who travelled to all the locations in the narrative, including remote corners of Patagonia and the Falkland Islands. He meticulously researched all the other aspects of the book as well so that, as he put it, "When a character pulls on his trousers or gets into a coach, it's the right one." At the same time, it's a real ripping yarn, a page-turner of the highest calibre, by turns hilarious, tragic and terrifying. Such a shame that the author died, aged 45, shortly after publication of this, his first novel. I am now reading 'Fossils, Finches and Fuegians' by Richard Darwin Keynes, Charles Darwin's great-grandson, which bears out some of the stories related in 'This Thing of Darkness' and includes many prints and photographs of sketches made at the time (including FitzRoy's sketches of natives of Tierra del Fuego) - fascinating as a companion book and for comparison of facts.


A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby
A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby
by Mary S. Lovell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not 'Scandalous' as much as 'Scandal-ridden', 25 July 2009
I first heard of Jane Digby while visiting Damascus last year and was immediately intrigued by her story so, having enjoyed an earlier work by Mary S. Lovell, I eagerly ordered 'A Scandalous Life' which was recommended by a friend - and I was not disappointed. Like 'Straight on Till Morning", the author's biography of Beryl Markham, this is a thoroughly-researched, entertaining and compelling portrait of a woman who lived an extraordinary (for her time) life. The book also contains a number of interesting black and white photographs and portraits of the people and places that featured prominently in the subject's life. It made me want to travel the 'Jane Digby trail' from her childhood haunt of Holkham Hall in Norfolk to Paris, Munich, Weinheim and Athens where she followed the succession of men who in turn captured her heart; on to Beirut and at last to Damascus and Palmyra where she finally found lasting happiness with her Bedouin sheikh, Medjuel el Mezrab. In later life she exchanged adventures in the bedroom for adventures in the desert among Medjuel's people, for whom she cared and provided generously. She learned to ride and care for camels as expertly as she did horses - seeming at times possess more love for her animals than for most of the numerous children she bore (her last - beloved - child died tragically young). The author hints that after she settled in Syria, Jane Digby may have regretted abandoning her surviving offspring along the way as she did and to me, that speaks of a constant youthful yearning for 'something more' (she was married off for the first time at just 18 years of age to a man considerably older than she). We should bear in mind that 19th century gentlewomen were not nearly as involved with the day-to-day upbringing of children as are modern women. The Victorian age provided the wealthy with wonderful opportunities for adventure and exploration though it was not generally expected that these opportunities would be grabbed by women. Originally seeking lasting love rather than adventure, Jane eventually found both and must have been a remarkable woman (and a talented artist). I would like to have met her!


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