This is an epic novel of sea-faring adventure set in the 19th century charting the life of Robert Fitzroy, the captain of `The Beagle` and his passenger Charles Darwin. It combines adventrure, emotion, ideas, humour and tragedy as well as illuminating the history of the 19th century. Fitzroy, the Christian Tory aristocrat, believed in the sanctity of the individual, but his beliefs destroyed his career and he committed suicide. Darwin, the liberal minor cleric doubts the truth of the Bible and develops his theory of evolution which is brutal and unforgiving in human terms. The two friends became bitter enemies as Darwin destroyed everything Fitzroy stood for.
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Best book I've ever read.
I have amended my review for this book because I wrote the last one having just finished reading it. Now, 6 months later I have just finished reading it again and feel it necessary to elaborate on why this is the finest piece of literature I have ever read.
I bought this book on the recommendation of my dad. I was in Argentina and about to board at 26 hour bus to Patagonia, the setting for much of the book. The vivid description of the landscape in the book matched my own experience and provided the perfect companion for my trip. I was as sad to finish it as I was to leave Patagonia. This Thing Of Darkness is tremendously exciting and brilliantly clever. Furthermore I have never been so moved by a book, not only because of the tragedy of Fitzroy's life and the fact that he is not held in the esteem that he should be by the British public, but because of the fact that it proved to be Harry Thompson's last work. He died of cancer shortly after finishing it. Thankfully the book, in my opinion at least, is the work he can be most proud of (despite the fact that Thompson produced have I got news for you and monkey dust among other great shows) . It is fantastic. Please, please buy it and read it. The copy of the book I found in a little bookshop in Tierra del Fuego is one of my most prized possessions. And for good reason.
This thing of darkness
One fabulous book, read it you won't be disappointed.
This Thing of Darkness
A stylish fictional account of the life of Robert Fitzroy, the Captain of The Beagle. Too often portrayed as the villain to Darwin's hero, this is a nuanced and sympathetic portrayal of their friendship, later falling out and Fitzroy's final years.
The title refers to the depression which afflicted Fitzroy throughout his life. That life was a series of overlapping struggles, including, to map uncharted territories, to keep his crew alive, to do the right thing by the native Americans he brought back to England and against the mental illness that killed him.
Most of all, Fitzroy deserves to be memorialised as the pioneer of accurate weather forecasting. The lives of countless sailors and travellers were saved as a result.
Ultimately Fitzroy's life was a tragedy, but this superb first novel portrays a man in the round, which will be read and enjoyed by anyone interested in a deeper understanding of the human condition.