Charles and Emma
The Darwins' Leap of Faith
Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, his revolutionary tract on evolution and the fundamental ideas involved, in 1859. Nearly 150 years later, the theory of evolution continues to create tension between the scientific and religious communities. Challenges about teaching the theory of evolution in schools occur annually all over the country. This same debate raged within Darwin himself, and played an important part in his marriage: his wife, Emma, was quite religious, and her faith gave Charles a lot to think about as he worked on a theory that continues to spark intense debates.
Deborah Heiligman's new biography of Charles Darwin is a thought-provoking account of the man behind evolutionary theory: how his personal life affected his work and vice versa. The end result is an engaging exploration of history, science, and religion for young readers.
Charles and Emma is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.
This rewarding biography of Charles Darwin investigates his marriage to his cousin Emma Wedgwood. Heiligman (the Holidays Around the World series) has good reason for this unusual approach: as deeply as they loved each other, Emma believed in God, and Charles believed in reason. Embracing the paradoxes in her subjects' personalities, the author unfolds a sympathetic and illuminating account, bolstered by quotations from their personal writings as well as significant research into the historical context. We meet Charles as he weighs the pros and cons of wedded life but then seeks his father's advice (Darwin p re urges him to conceal his religious doubts); Emma becomes a more fervent believer after the death of her favorite (and more religious) sister. Heiligman writes for motivated readers, and her style can be discursive (mention of a letter can introduce a few sentences on the British postal system). Her book allows readers not only to understand Darwin's ideas, but to appreciate how Emma's responses tempered them. Eight pages of photos, not seen by PW. Ages 12 up.