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not a spoiler a synopsis I don t care what Anyone says about this book it was phenomenal I read someone s take on the book, noting negatively that Charles Darwin doesn t put in an appearance until late in the book, but that s because this book is NOT about Charles Darwin, but rather about Robert FitzRoy, the commander of the HMS Beagle, who took on Charles Darwin as a naturalist and companion Obviously, it has to deal with Darwin, but the true story is that of FitzRoy s The book begins not a spoiler a synopsis I don t care what Anyone says about this book it was phenomenal I read someone s take on the book, noting negatively that Charles Darwin doesn t put in an appearance until late in the book, but that s because this book is NOT about Charles Darwin, but rather about Robert FitzRoy, the commander of the HMS Beagle, who took on Charles Darwin as a naturalist and companion Obviously, it has to deal with Darwin, but the true story is that of FitzRoy s The book begins with a somewhat depressing event, but one which literally laid the foundation for what was to come the suicide of one Captain Stokes, who commanded the HMS Beagle, after being marooned at the literal ends of the earth in the desolation of Patagonia Had it not been for that event, the HMS Beagle may have been consigned to the list of past British Naval ships, and Darwin s Origin of Species may never have been written But because of Stokes suicide, Robert FitzRoy, a 23 year old British naval officer, was assigned to command the Beagle, and the rest, they say, is history.This Thing of Darkness is not only a look at the events that transpired aboard the Beagle, pre and post Darwin, but at the evils of imperialism, religion, and racism all encapsulated into the time period between 1828 and 1865 It also examines the career of FitzRoy, whose main mission on the Beagle was to survey the lower areas of the South American Coast, as well as his inner self We learn a lot about FitzRoy even before the author brings in Charles Darwin, and then of course, the book focuses on the friendship between the two At first, the two were boon companions Darwin, as most people know, was studying to become a cleric at the time set off on the Beagle, and his outlook corresponded well with that of Fitzroy s regarding God s creation, the biblical flood, etc However, as Darwin explored throughout South America, the evidence of the truth behind geological processes, fossil remains, variation and separation of species etc began to make its way into creating Darwin s theories, it caused a major rift between FitzRoy and Darwin, one that would continue throughout both of their lives, as Darwin s reality conflicted with that of FitzRoy.Yet, as I noted, this book is not based solely on Charles Darwin, but takesof a look at Fitzroy and how he was caught up both personally and professionally by policies politics over which he had no control At one point after having to perform a personally dishonorable task for the British government in Tahiti, FitzRoy remarks, I was brought up to obey ordersTo do my duty But increasingly I am being given orders that do not tally with natural justice with God s justice Orders that I cannot in all conscience accord with These people should be helped to found a decent, God fearing society not plundered, as if the Royal Navy were little better than pirates 414 When he has the opportunities to make changes, they are unwelcome and lead to a slide in his career that would never be rectified I cannot do this book justice in only a few words, but I VERY HIGHLY recommend this novel Every one of its 610 pages is riveting and I could not put this book down and did so only grudgingly I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the topic of the effects of British Imperialism, exploration, Darwin and his theories, and British History It is superb and considering some of the books that made the Booker shortlist, I think the author was robbed Brilliant young naval officer Robert FitzRoy is given the captaincy of HMS Beagle, surveying the wilds of Tierra del Fuego, aged just twenty three He takes a passenger a young trainee cleric and amateur geologist named Charles Darwin This is the story of a deep friendship between two men, and the twin obsessions that tore it apart, leading one to triumph and the other to disaster Just finished this book and was so moved I went straight to Wiki to find out about all the characters When I first took up the book I thought, oh dear, first novel and a biggie at that, hope he doesn t ramble However, every page was necessary to weave this extraordinary story The prose was just beautiful reminded me of Star of the Sea.Such a tragedy that Thompson died the year of its publication at the early age of 45 His first and only novel I would have looked forward to reading much m Just finished this book and was so moved I went straight to Wiki to find out about all the characters When I first took up the book I thought, oh dear, first novel and a biggie at that, hope he doesn t ramble However, every page was necessary to weave this extraordinary story The prose was just beautiful reminded me of Star of the Sea.Such a tragedy that Thompson died the year of its publication at the early age of 45 His first and only novel I would have looked forward to reading much Though I am not part of a nation that ever succeeded in forming an empire, and which, historically, has been a victimoften than an oppressor, I am nevertheless a citizen of modern Europe and reaping the benefits of Western, Christian rooted civilisation as well as the privileges my skin colour offers I mention this because as I read Thompson s book, the overwhelming and recurring emotions were embarrassment and dismay at the destruction white man has brought upon nations of a darker ski Though I am not part of a nation that ever succeeded in forming an empire, and which, historically, has been a victimoften than an oppressor, I am nevertheless a citizen of modern Europe and reaping the benefits of Western, Christian rooted civilisation as well as the privileges my skin colour offers I mention this because as I read Thompson s book, the overwhelming and recurring emotions were embarrassment and dismay at the destruction white man has brought upon nations of a darker skin in the name of progress The ill treatment of the Irish and other white yet not quite British peoples nonwithstanding, a white non white division is appropriate for this story, as skin colour seems to be the main criteria for distinguishing a civilised man from a savage in colonial exploration Or, indeed, a man from a beast.That is the sour, painful backdrop, and told in prose, it should leave even the historically aware reader heartbroken Against this, we have the well known figure of Charles Darwin whose presence in this book was the main appeal for me , but the true protagonist is William FitzRoy, an officer of the Royal Navy and the father of meteorology a remarkable man, and a scientist in his own right Unappreciated as he was during his lifetime, he continues to be overshadowed by Darwin to this day, even though his discoveries were just as eminent, and I would hazard to say, a great dealpractical than the famed theory of evolution.The book, as life did, puts these two ingenious men in the cramped hold of the Beagle for over five years Barely in their twenties at the onset of the voyage, they grow older and wiser together, and we readers are privy to their most intimate conversations They speak of science, and they speak of God, almost exclusively for those are the two forces which set their world in motion and give it meaning Their simultaneous existence is never disputed what may come as a surprise, perhaps, to followers of the modern day creationism vs evolution brouhaha but what brings the men to their final impasse is the interpretation of their application.The reader who would seek to condemn one man s vision and praise the other s will find himself at a loss FitzRoy and Darwin s scientific knowledge complement each other Both men are believers Both make astounding discoveries and come to brilliant conclusions Both, also, make terrible mistakes In building his theory, Darwin meanders, at once rising to heights of enlightenment, then again falling into the trap of racism and white supremacy Interestingly, it is not any scientific conclusion which causes him to doubt the existence of God, but a personal tragedy which he finds too enormous to bear FitzRoy, while rejecting sound proof and logic for the literal word of the Bible, nevertheless conducts scientific research, compiles precise charts, and develops a system of weather forecasting which saves thousands of lives His Christian devotion hinders him from embracing Darwin s theory, but it leads him, also, to reject his companion s disturbing conclusion of that theory that men are not created equal, that a superior race does exist, and it must, without any doubt, prevail Yet for all his sound moral standing, FitzRoy is a tool of the colonialist machine, and his convictions do not follow those of his superiors Onthan one occasion, he finds himself torn between duty and morality a torment from which Darwin is spared, being only a passenger on the ship At great personal cost and risk, FitzRoy leads a naive quest for civilisation his discovery that he has been used to carry forth nothing but disease and decay all but destroys him I recommend this book not only to anyone interested in the story of Darwin s discoveries and the British deeds and misdeeds in the Southern Hemisphere, but most especially to those who wish to explore the challenge which scientific fact poses to the Christian faith, and vice versa In this age of snappy slogans and snarky internet memes, it s healthy to remember that no one issue is ever as simple as a clever turn of phrase I have had this book on my shelf for a few years, being quite a tome I kept putting it off However, having a week at the beach seemed like the perfect opportunity to tackle it, so I did.Wow I was in hook, line and sinker This is the story of Captain Robert Fitzroy, who at the ripe old age of 23 was made Captain of the Beagle and sent to assist with charting the coast of South America He also on one of his voyages took a young Charles Darwin with him as the ships naturalist andimporta I have had this book on my shelf for a few years, being quite a tome I kept putting it off However, having a week at the beach seemed like the perfect opportunity to tackle it, so I did.Wow I was in hook, line and sinker This is the story of Captain Robert Fitzroy, who at the ripe old age of 23 was made Captain of the Beagle and sent to assist with charting the coast of South America He also on one of his voyages took a young Charles Darwin with him as the ships naturalist andimportantly to Robert a personal companion.The book is fascinating in its detail of storms that they barely survived, the savagery of Europeans and South American natives in their dealings with each other and the mental health of the men enduring months on end of sea voyages in cramped, unhygienic ships.I really admired Robert FitzRoy, his fair command of his ship and his integrity despite corruption and temptation that surrounded him The book also provides a great insight into the formative years of Charles Darwin and how he came to write The Origin of Species.This is a great book if you like adventure, history and a bloody good story If I could give it six, seven, eight stars I would.A whopper of a book but an absolutely amazing one It s Darwin and Robert FitzRoy s life story, immaculately well researched, beautifully written and absolutely on a par with the O Brian, Barrett and you know God.Very warmly recommended. When I finished reading this book, the first statement that made it through my mind was something said by Morgan Freeman s character Detective Somerset by the end of the movie Se7en Ernest Hemingway once wrote, The world is a fine place and worth fighting for I agree with the second part This book chronicles the adventure of Captain Robert FitzRoy and the crew of HMS Beagle, joined by Charles Darwin later on as the ship s naturalist cum village idiot, as they traversed the Atlantic to the When I finished reading this book, the first statement that made it through my mind was something said by Morgan Freeman s character Detective Somerset by the end of the movie Se7en Ernest Hemingway once wrote, The world is a fine place and worth fighting for I agree with the second part This book chronicles the adventure of Captain Robert FitzRoy and the crew of HMS Beagle, joined by Charles Darwin later on as the ship s naturalist cum village idiot, as they traversed the Atlantic to the dreary and unforgiving Patagonian coasts, wherein they found momentary insanity, 3 natives turned English gentlemen and gentlewoman, bolas wielding gauchos, the wonders and enigmas of nature, and the inevitable question of nature of God between moments of hope, human nature and death.This is an engaging and thought inducing read, with the occasional humor on the side, and I can say that not a page is a waste even in the isolated scenes not truly relevant to the plot I learned loads in reading this, not just historical facts, but nautical terms as well The lesson is free of interpretation, it just states the facts, as a good historical fiction should, although it is obvious that Christianity, at that particular time at least, and Charles Darwin are not depicted in a favorable light What is undeniable from this book is the greatness of Captain FitzRoy as a captain, scientist he s one of the pioneers of meteorology, making his insightspractically valuable than that of Darwin s, I think , friend, and as a human being I am wistful however of the fact that view spoiler the friendship between him and Darwin was not ever repaired, his being driven to suicide because of the mediocrity of mind and good judgment by those who are many in the government, by his undeserving obscurity which is still until now and ridicule in the light of Charles Darwin s eminence, but, most especially, that hide spoiler I ll never get to meet this wonderful, wonderful man.This is a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READ from yours truly but be warned, the folly and the subsequent tragedy of human nature described almost outweighs that of its goodness and wisdom, the latter ones most exhibited by the hero of this book of course, that to read is a risk to faith in humanity as some of us often encounter daily One thing is for sure though If ever I have the fortune to go England, one of my places to go is a grave in Upper Norwood, London Harry Thompson s To the Edge of the World originally published as This Thing of Darkness was longlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize The 2005 winner was John Banville s The Sea the 2005 shortlist included Kazuo Ishiguro s Never Let Me Go, Ali Smith s The Accidental, and Zadie Smith s On Beauty For Booker obsessives like me, 2005 serves as an helpful and instructive corrective Having read the 2005 shortlist in its entirety and without commenting on the winner, I can comfortably say that To the Harry Thompson s To the Edge of the World originally published as This Thing of Darkness was longlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize The 2005 winner was John Banville s The Sea the 2005 shortlist included Kazuo Ishiguro s Never Let Me Go, Ali Smith s The Accidental, and Zadie Smith s On Beauty For Booker obsessives like me, 2005 serves as an helpful and instructive corrective Having read the 2005 shortlist in its entirety and without commenting on the winner, I can comfortably say that To the Edge of the World could have joined Ishiguro s and Ali Smith s and Zadie Smith s novels as worthy winners and that To the Edge of the World and Never Let Me Go stand as the most memorable.There s so much to like about To the Edge of the World It s a great sea tale, standing with Patrick O Brian s Aubrey Maturin magnificent 21 volume series I ve read only the first 20 Like O Brian s masterpiece, To the Edge of the World focuses on the nineteenth century British navy and admiralty appears to be carefully researched and immerses even those readers, like me, with no particular interest in or knowledge of the topics Unlike the O Brian masterpiece, which start in about 1800 and extend through the early 1820s and mostly included entirely fictional characters, Thompson s novel starts in 1828 and continues until 1865 and centers upon the historical figures of Charles Darwin and Robert Fitzroy, their troubled relationship, their family lives, and their scientific triumphs In To the Edge of the World, Harry Thompson tells great stories and tells them exceedingly well It s time to dust off this doorstopper of a volume and read or reread it A perfect novel to engage you during these troubled times.4.5 stars Story about the voyage of the Beagle its captain Fitzroy and its naturalist Charles Darwin.This is Thompson s first novel and last he died of cancer shortly after publication after non fiction travel books and a biography of Peter Cook.The story combined travelogue biographical detail Patrick O Brien type epic seafaring adventure which I found hard to follow and uninteresting and philosophical debates Latter is particularly and explicitly around Evolution but also about Race an Story about the voyage of the Beagle its captain Fitzroy and its naturalist Charles Darwin.This is Thompson s first novel and last he died of cancer shortly after publication after non fiction travel books and a biography of Peter Cook.The story combined travelogue biographical detail Patrick O Brien type epic seafaring adventure which I found hard to follow and uninteresting and philosophical debates Latter is particularly and explicitly around Evolution but also about Race and its interaction with survival of the fittest even Darwin s early thoughts foresee the role of Survival Colonialism culture Fitzroy s attempts to civilise natives by bringing them to England ends up as a failure At one point the to be first united Argentinean president justifies his attack on the native races by using Tony Blair s justification for the war on terror Colonialism and evangelism many of the missionaries seem to equate Christianity with being English Good evil and why a loving God permits them Progress versus tradition Fitzroy clearly struggles both with the industrialisation and conformity of modern England as well as with the new scientific scepticism Politics Fitzroy a Tory and Darwin a Whig argue about the morality or otherwise of tied farm labourers against the shop system in industry as well as the workhouse system In addition Fitzroy s career is heavily bound with politics even before he becomes an MP Science as well as debates over geology and evolution, there is storm formation and weather forecasting.The book is really a biography masked as and using the freedom of fiction The last few pages make it clear how little of the story is actually fiction A very engrossing read and one which in the 15 year history of a Book Group I belong to was easily the most universally acclaimed discovery Loved it, loved it, loved it This is by far my all time favorite book It s a 10 for sure It s very accurate and well researched account of Captain Robert Fitzroy and his voyage mapping out the South American coast, on the HMS Beagle After finding natives he returns to England with them in an effort to civilize them About a year later, he makes a second voyage returning them believing they can in turn civilize their own, with tragic results It s on this second trip he commissions a young a Loved it, loved it, loved it This is by far my all time favorite book It s a 10 for sure It s very accurate and well researched account of Captain Robert Fitzroy and his voyage mapping out the South American coast, on the HMS Beagle After finding natives he returns to England with them in an effort to civilize them About a year later, he makes a second voyage returning them believing they can in turn civilize their own, with tragic results It s on this second trip he commissions a young and budding naturalist, Charles Darwin and on this voyage and adventure, Darwin has profound insights into his theory of evolution They come back home and Darwin is a star, Fitzroy falling into his shadow getting little or no credit even though he was a major contributor and collaborator A sad and heartfelt portrait on the brilliant personage of Fitzroy and his many talents I didn t like Darwin very much in this story I didn t want this book to end and when it did, it left me utterly moved and sorrowful Thought about it for days on end It s how books should be and I learned much from it too It is on my to re read list The author, Harry Thompson, passed away shortly after completing this book, which was a double whammy to the emotions I was going through after reading the book