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I did not know what to expect - I took a chance here.
Surprisingly (for me), I think this book inspired all subsequent high-adventure novels that feature an intellectual hero. Darwin rode with South American cowboys (gaucho's and huaso's), South American indians, encountered native islanders, savages, thieves, post-revolution states, Spanish nobility (the Spanish had been there 300 years already), indian miners, indian guides, high plains, deserts, snowy mountain passes, wide rocky wastelands, jungles, insects, wild animals, storms, earthquakes (and he hadn’t even gotten to the Galapagos yet)…
I had envisioned a meek botanist not straying too far from the boat, but no – he still had his youthful spirit (I had to remind myself that he was still in his early twenties). His account was mainly deep-land oriented. For example, at one point, he had a choice – to sail with the ship 480 miles south from Valparaiso, Chile, to the next port, or go by land. He went by mule with a couple of indian guides. Having found the coast insufficiently interesting, he then ventured high inland through the deserts and mountains of Chile, probably feeling it was his duty to explore (not to mention being up to the adventure).
What Darwin did was not only collect scientific data on geology, paleontology, meteorology, zoology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, botany, and any other branch of early science he could turn his attention to, he offered informed speculations whenever they came (in the effort to forward potentially-worthy hypotheses for future investigation); and not only that – he collected anecdotes of the many various peoples he encountered (which contributed to the 'high adventure' aspect of the book. As for the informed speculations – he demonstrate the preferred (and enjoyable) method that early scientists tried to use – divining reality through pure deduction and reasoning (rather than pure empiricism) – that is, piecing together pieces of knowledge like scientific Sherlock Holmes’s putting together a puzzling case.
What was most curious for me (besides the unexpected high adventure) was his perspective – what did people know on the science front back in 1832? Darwin was well-educated and well-read by then, and he covered a lot of scientific ground - it appears that one was expected to be well-versed in all the branches of science back then, and he must have continued expanding his education and readings while writing the book. You can see his thoughts on evolution germinating here, aided by Lyell's book and the previous works and theories of others. Some of the terms and notions were curious (‘infusia’ was a good one that he leaned on many times - a blanket term for whatever was too small to see). It was entertaining to see him speculate on things that we know a lot more about today, such as the effects of glaciers and the nature of volcanoes.
This was one of the later editions, because in several places he referred us to further scientific details in an ‘earlier edition’. I’m sure Darwin wanted to write a serious scientific journal, but I suspect the publisher noticed all the high adventure, and decided that it would make a good scaled-down book in itself (which it was).
The narrator had a fitting British accent, and handled the French footnotes and Spanish dialog well.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This was a very good book to listen to as it brought you to a time where things were remote but not as remote as you would tend to believe. Enjoyed the various descriptions of the peoples that they came across.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I'm a devoted fan of non-fiction (both audiobooks and paper editions). This is a classic that is beautifully-written and full of interesting stories, keen and insightful observations, vivid and excellent descriptions. The narrator, Barnaby Edwards, is especially commendable. Unlike many other narrators who read non-fiction like boring newsreaders, Barnaby narrates the The Voyage of the Beagle exactly the way it should be narrated! Listening to his narration, you feel he is not reading but rather telling you the story face-to-face. I think he will do an equally great job if he reads (he really should!) The Origin of Species and other classics by the same author. Thank you, Barnaby, for having done such a great job!
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about this story?
This really brings Darwin alive. Through his own words, we discover that he's not an ancient Victorian coot in a beard, but was an intelligent and adventurous young man who recounts his scientific and real adventures in a cool and calm manner, interspacing interesting accounts of life in South America with cool descriptions of the fauna and flora he encountered.
What does Barnaby Edwards bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
He brings it.... alive
10 of 10 people found this review helpful