Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing piece of writing, 18 Mar 2008
This review is from: This Thing Of Darkness (Paperback)
Having read this book, I feel I ought to go back and re-score all the other books that I have previously reviewed, knocking them down at least one star each. Either that or I should apply for the right to give this a 6 star rating! 5-stars just doesn't do it justice.

It is epic but has a delicate touch, particularly in terms of characterisation. The minutae of detail (historic, geographic and scientific) for example, is extra-ordinary but never 'bogs you down.'

I have never come across a book like this and doubt I will again. It has it all (including - off the top of my head):-

A wonderful, sympathetic - but never sentimental - study of two contrasting, but extraordinary, Victorian characters, namely Charles Darwin and Captain Fitzroy;

A brilliant depiciton of the Victorian period (including the Crimean War, the growth of London, the height of Empire and the peak of British Colonialisation). So brilliant in fact that it has the effect of of bringing the period closer to you - so close you feel you are there;

Humourous episodes-a-plenty;

Adventures and tragedy on treacherous storm-ridden seas;

Daring naval battles and other such feats of daring-do;

Stories of individual courage;

Stories of individual weakness;

The birth of nations such as New Zealand and Argentina (and the ensuing fight over the Falklands);

The beginning of the end of ancient cultures and indigenous populations (such as the Maoris of New Zealand);

Political intrigue;

An excellent, thought-provoking, but again never sentimental, study of manic-depression;

An insight into Victorian geology;

Sociology;

Victorian anthropology;

Subtle, believable, suitably-stifled, perfectly-portrayed romances;

A study of the changing understanding of botany;

The birth of modern day metreology;

A brilliant depiction of Victorian physical geography (not to mention brilliantly evoked locations);

The struggle between religion, faith and science;

Social-geography;

and lastly, Oceanography.

Yet, despite this (by no means exhasutive) list, it manages to be a true page-turner. It never gets dull. It never loses you. It informs (and by jove how!) but doesn't patronise. It is a work of staggering genius. I cannot recommend it enough.

Reading this book has been a true pleasure and an education (in terms of the period and on how to write). It IS an astonishing piece of writing and should have won the Booker Prize; that it didn't speaks volumes of the judging panel.
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