Frank McLynn

Not Enough Selection

Darwin

By

Michael Joseph 771pp £20 order from our bookshop

Some scholarly biographies can bridge the gulf between an academic audience and the general reader. Whether this one will make it is uncertain; our conclusion would have to be, à la Goldwyn, ‘a definite maybe’. The first thing to be said about this book is that the authors and publisher have given too many hostages to fortune and provided a rod for their own backs by their grandiloquent claims. ‘Previous biographies have been curiously bloodless affairs. They have broken little new ground and made no contact with the inflammatory issues and events of his day’ (authors); ‘the most far-reaching and evocative biography of Charles Darwin this century’ (publishers). The book therefore needs to be, nay, cries out to be judged by the severest standards. Let it be said, first, that this volume is a considerable achievement. Pace the timid received opinion of British publishing, a decent biography of a significant historical figure cannot be accomplished in 100,000 words; it is therefore good to see Michael Joseph being sensible on this issue and letting its authors breathe and take their time.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,