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Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith…

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith (original 2009; edition 2011)

by Deborah Heiligman

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66110514,534 (3.93)27
Title:Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith
Authors:Deborah Heiligman
Info:Square Fish (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Non-fiction, Biography, Darwin, Evolution

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Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman (2009)



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When Charles Darwin was a young man, he created a list of pros and cons - to marry or not to marry. Though he courted one woman before his trip to the Galapagos islands, and gained the interest of another family with unmarried daughters, he surprised many people by marrying his cousin, Emma Wedgewood. Charles had already started questioning the role of God in the creation of species, and was upfront with his bride-to-be about his doubts. Despite the fact that she was religious, they had a long and happy marriage.

Heiligman takes a unique approach to a biography of Charles Darwin and his coming to conclusions about natural selection and writing The Origin of Species by focusing on all through the lens of his marriage and home life. The beginning was painstaking in going through letters between Charles and Emma and showing the way in which he came to believe in evolution but worried about how his theory would be perceived. After their marriage and children come into the picture, the narrative picks up and I really enjoyed the unusual picture of a Victorian home where children were very much a part of their parents' lives and would run in and out of Charles' study while he was working. Having this focus really made both Charles and Emma come to life as regular human beings instead of larger-than-life historical figures. I was a little disappointed with the fact that as detailed as Charles' doubts and thoughts were, Emma's religious beliefs came down to the simple fact that she wanted to believe in life after death when her sister died. It could be that this is all there was in the historical record, but I wished that her convictions could have been given the same level of scrutiny that her husband's were. Though geared towards teens, the biography is a great introduction for adults as well, and has won many accolades, including a Printz Honor and National Book Award finalist. ( )
  bell7 | Oct 20, 2016 |
Tells the story of Darwin and his science in a way that is fun for kids.
  CharliePipes | Sep 12, 2016 |
Somehow I had the impression this was a story based on facts, and for adults. No, it's straight non-fiction, and for ages 12-13 up. Fascinating, though. A tiny bit long on 'this happened and then this happened' and a tiny bit short on the dilemma of the marriage of religion & science, but still an enlightening joy to read.

ETA - forgot to mention the frequent deaths and chronic illnesses. Interesting how each dealt with all the challenges. Apparently Charles was sick with migraines, I've learned since I've read this. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
All I really knew about Darwin was evolution, the Beagle, and controversy. This very enjoyable work focuses on the relationship of Charles Darwin and his wife Emma. While he developed his theory of evolution, a radical concept for the time, his very religious wife Emma feared she would not see him in heaven when they died because of his religious doubts. Yet they shared a loving marriage and were openminded to each other's ideas and in the raising of their children. Neither quite convinced the other and yet somehow they were able to balance their differences...agree to disagree, perhaps? Author Heiligman pulls together an appealing portrait of a loving couple through existing works and their correspondence, all cited in the Source Notes. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
When I first started reading this book I just couldn't get it into it. I felt like the author was talking down to me, and I had already read other books about Darwin so I kept finding myself being annoyed. Then (right around the time it started getting awards) I finally got to the part where the Darwin's finally got married and started their family. This was the part where the book started picking up for me. Finally it was getting interesting. ( )
  Rosa.Mill | Nov 21, 2015 |
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... she [Emma] wrote, "The sincerity of showing yourself as you really are.  The real good it would do the world not to have artificial sins." (163)
Charles had written in one of his notebooks, "Definition of happiness the number of pleasant ideas passing through mind in given time."  Now he found happiness not just in his mind; he found it in real life. (93)
They borrowed some novels from the library, starting a lifelong tradition of reading together--usually Emma read to Charles while he rested from his work.  Charles liked novels with happy endings, and he once wrote, "I often bless all novelists.  A surprising number have been read aloud to me... and I like all if moderately good, and passed.  A novel, according to my taste, does not come into the first class unless it contains some person whom one can thoroughly love, and if it be a pretty woman all the better." (91)
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Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma, were deeply in love and very supportive of each other, but their opinions often clashed. Emma was extremely religious, and Charles questioned God's very existence.

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