Darwin's Armada: Four Voyagers to the Southern Oceans and Their Battle for the Theory of Evolution by Iain McCalman

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Darwin's Armada: Four Voyagers to the Southern Oceans and Their Battle for the Theory of Evolution by Iain McCalman

Category: Biography
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath
Summary: A look at Darwin's journey on The Beagle, as well as journeys by Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley and Alfred Wallace. Darwin's Armada provides a broad overview that strikes a different tone to other books in a crowded market. Casual readers who usually steer clear of non-fiction will enjoy it.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 432 Date: April 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1847372666

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Darwin's Armada looks beyond the groundbreaking contributions Darwin made, to include his fellow naturalists Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley and Alfred Wallace. It tells the story of each of their voyages, from Darwin setting sail in 1831 to Wallace returning from South America and Asia in 1866. It then looks at the battle for evolution to become an accepted theory.

In case you hadn't noticed, it's 200 years since Charles Darwin was born, and there are a myriad of books celebrating his achievements. Iain McCalman's offering takes a broader view than most, which is both its strength and its weakness. It offers something that the alternatives don't, and makes it a worthy addition to the bookshelf of any Darwin afficionado. However, for the casual reader picking their way through a crowded marketplace, there are more closely focused looks at Darwin and his achievements, that should be their first port of call.

Judged strictly on its own merits, Darwin's Armada is well worth taking a look at. For anyone looking for a gentle read, but with some substance, it's a great choice. It's more historical travelogue, rather than popular science - Iain McCalman's writing has a lyrical quality to it that makes it particularly easy to read. It will really appeal to people who tend to steer clear of non-fiction, but feel they ought to know a bit more about Charles Darwin. If you let your mind wander for a couple of pages, you would be forgiven for thinking you were reading a historical novel.

Darwin's Armada will strike a real chord with its target audience, but that target audience wasn't me. Going for a wider overview is obviously the whole point of the book, but condensing Darwin's 5 year journey on the Beagle to a little over 60 pages made it feel unnecessarily light. A 400 page book shouldn't feel like just a taster - you should come away with a much deeper understanding of the men, their life and their works. Whilst it achieves everything it aims to do, with so many Darwin books on the market, readers should pick the one that's perfect for them. For people who are devouring everything they can about Darwin, or for casual readers who tend to steer clear of non-fiction, Darwin's Armada will be perfect for them.

My thanks to the publisher for sending it to Bookbag.

Booklists.jpg Darwin's Armada: Four Voyagers to the Southern Oceans and Their Battle for the Theory of Evolution by Iain McCalman is in the List Of Books To Celebrate Charles Darwin's 200th Anniversary.


Buy Darwin's Armada: Four Voyagers to the Southern Oceans and Their Battle for the Theory of Evolution by Iain McCalman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Darwin's Armada: Four Voyagers to the Southern Oceans and Their Battle for the Theory of Evolution by Iain McCalman at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Darwin's Armada: Four Voyagers to the Southern Oceans and Their Battle for the Theory of Evolution by Iain McCalman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Darwin's Armada: Four Voyagers to the Southern Oceans and Their Battle for the Theory of Evolution by Iain McCalman at Amazon.com.


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