Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman

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The Lowdown:  When Charles Darwin got back from his voyage on the Beagle, he was in his twenties and had a very important decision to make.  Marry or Not to Marry??  He made a chart and started to think about the pros and cons of each side.  Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman begins here as Charles decides that having a wife would be better than a dog....and he begins his search for a "constant companion."  He decides to get to know Emma Wedgewood.  Charles has seen and learned so much over the last few years that his ideas about life and religion, in particular, have changed.  He doesn't know if he believes in the God that most others do.  He sees the world in a different way.  Will Emma be able to understand his doubts and love him anyway?  She grew up on a "free and liberal household," but will it be enough?  Charles and Emma embark on a life-long journey of love, life, loss, and learning together.  There story keeps Charles grounded as he works on his theories.  This book is just as much science as it is love...and both work together magically.

What I Liked:
Mainly, I loved this story.  I know and think about Charles Darwin only when I think of his theories, but there's so much more to the life of this man than many people know.  I love that this book exists to show young people and all readers this side of Charles.  He truly is a fascinating character.  While my husband is a science major and lover, I have been interested to learn more about Darwin from what he reads.  I hope that this book will interest young readers especially to learn more about Darwin and the fascinating life he led.

I loved the way that Deborah Heiligman wove primary sources into her story.  Cuttings from letters, papers, and journals are seamlessly woven throughout the entire story, which made her writing historically accurate and real for me.  None of the quotes got in the way of the "story" of this book either; they all served to support what was happening and make Charles and Emma even more real to me.  I loved seeing that some of the things they wrote about seemed so real and normal for people today.  Even though they lived a long time ago in a world very different from ours, their inner feelings, thoughts, and doubts are much the same as people today experience.  We can learn a lot by looking at their story.  I was also intrigued by how their journals (Emma's especially) were very "twittery" to me.  With twitter and Facebook, we record our lives in snippets of text, just like she did.  They kept track of their journey together just as we do online...the ups and downs, the celebrations, the sadness.

I also loved that this is a very honest story full of love.  Real love...not just physical attraction or "crush" love.  But real, enduring companionship.  This love story isn't a fairy tale.  There was no crazy wedding or reception.  No dramatic engagement story....just two people working it out and making a life together by respecting and supporting each other.  I think this is a very real look into what a marriage should be:  "solid land in the tumultuous seas." 

Read This If...
You like historical stories.
You like science.
You like love.
You like biographies.
You want a story of companionship.
You want to read about lifes ups and downs.
You want to see a picture of how science and love work together.
You want to know a personal side of Charles Darwin.
You want to travel to a different time and place...the England of Jane Austen and Charles Darwin.

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