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This remarkable book brings us an intimate and moving interpretation of the life and work of Charles Darwin, by Ruth Padel, an acclaimed British poet and a direct descendant of the famous scientist.Charles Darwin, born in 1809, lost his mother at the age of eight, repressed all memory of her, and poured his passion into solitary walks, newt collecting, and shooting. His five-year voyage on H.M.S. Beagle, when he was in his twenties, changed his life. Afterward, he began publishing his findings and working privately on groundbreaking theories about the development of animal species, including human beings, and he made a nervous proposal to his cousin Emma.Padel's poems sparkle with nuance and feeling as she shows us the marriage that ensued, and the rich, creative atmosphere the Darwins provided for their ten children. Charles and Emma were happy in each other, but both were painfully aware of the gulf between her deep Christian faith and his increasing religious doubt. The death of three of their children accentuated this gulf. For Darwin, death and extinction were nature's way of developing new species: the survival of the fittest; for Emma, death was a prelude to the afterlife.These marvelous poems--enriched by helpful marginal notes and by Padel's ability to move among multiple viewpoints, always keeping Darwin at the center--bring to life the great scientist as well as the private man and tender father. This is a biography in rare form, with an unquantifiable depth of family intimacy and warmth.
"Life began with migration." In a magnificent tapestry of life on the move, Ruth Padel weaves poems and prose, science and religion, wild nature and human history, to conjure a world created and sustained by migration.'We're all from somewhere else,' she begins. "Migration builds civilization but also causes displacement." From the Holy Family's Flight into Egypt, the Lost Colony on Roanoke and the famous photograph 'Migrant Mother', she turns to John James Audubon's journey from Haiti and France, heirlooms carried through Ellis Island, Kennedy's "society of immigrants" and Casa del Migrante on the Mexican border.But she reaches the human story through the millennia-old journeys of cells in our bodies, trees in the Ice Age, Monarch butterflies travelling from Alaska to Mexico. As warblers battle hurricanes over the Caribbean and wildebeest brave a river filled with the largest crocodiles in Africa, she shows that the purpose of migration for both humans and animals is survival.