Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Darwin Conspiracy - Book Review

The Darwin Conspiracy
By John Darnton
Anchor Books 2006

This is a novel involving two conspiracies. One regarding Darwin's voyage on the Beagle and his theory of evolution. Was it really his idea? The other about a member of Darwin's own family. This novel is written in 3 different timelines. One is the Voyage of the Beagle, the second is a Journal written by one of Darwin's daughters and the third is the search for these journals in the present day.

The novel starts off with Hugh and Beth both looking for a new research angle on Darwin - something different that nobody else has published before. While Hugh is perusing the Darwin papers at the Manuscripts Room at the Cambridge University Library, he comes across a small accounts book with what looks like a journal written on the back pages.

Hugh "borrows" the journal and eventually discovers that it was written by Elizabeth Darwin, one of Charles's daughters. A daughter about whom very little is known, other than she never married and had no children.

Beth was raised with a family tradition that said she was descended from Charles Darwin. She wants to know exactly how she was descended from them.

The historical narratives in this novel consist of excerpts of Lizzie's journal and the Beagle voyage. Mixed in with these narratives are two very interesting and shocking secrets.

The real characters from the Beagle crew are used in the novel, except one. The surgeon in this novel is named Robert McCormick. According to Charles Darwin's book "Voyage of the Beagle" the real surgeon on board the Beagle was named Mr. Bynoe.

I enjoyed this book very much. There is a lot of infomation on the Darwin family and on the Beagle voyage.


Michael D. Barton, FCD said...

I thought thw book was good too... Robert McCormick left the voyage in Brazil after seeing Darwin succeed with his natural history collecting and friendship with Fitzroy develop.... Bynoe replaced McCormick.

See 1832 June 6 here:

Historia said...

Thank you for that information. I did see Bynoe listed as "acting surgeon" but was not sure what that meant. Now it makes sense.